Feedback: How to Ask for Input to Improve Your Podcast and not Cringe

How to ask for feedback on your podcast

The thought of asking for feedback on something we’ve created strikes fear in the hearts of many us. We’re asking people to critique something we’ve poured our heart and soul into, and this puts us in a very vulnerable position. We anticipate the worst and often feel like feedback is a critique of us and our worth.  We shrink up a little, preparing ourselves for the blow.

But we need to get over this and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Because, as cliche as it sounds, feedback really is a gift. It helps us grow personally and professionally and it takes our creative work, like our podcasts, to the next level.

In episode 7 of Podcasting Step by Step, I share how to ask for feedback that will improve your podcast. And how to feel more comfortable receiving it.

Get feedback from episode 1

I have heard some new podcasters say they’ve recorded 30 or more episodes and they still haven’t shared them with anyone yet. This is a huge missed opportunity to improve your show before you launch. Think about it -- would you rather make your show better before it goes out into the world, or would you rather have potential subscribers hear your first draft?

I’d share your very first episode with a group of people who will give you honest feedback on how you can improve. People who you know can give you thoughtful commentary. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, go into a Facebook Group like She Podcasts or Podcast Movement and say you’re brand new and would like some feedback on your show. More than likely, someone will be willing to help you out.

Get excited about feedback

Imagine how good you feel when you’re in your best creative space while working on your show. The ideas are flowing. You just did a great interview. Keep that positive energy when you share your episode with others. Let them know how excited you are about your podcast and why you’re doing it. When you ask them to review it, let them know it’s because you trust them and value their opinion. They’re going to be flattered and happy to be part of something that means so much to you. They want to help you shine.

I worked at Apple for a few years and one of the most important lessons I took away from that experience was to always assume positive intent. That’s one of the core employee values.

When people offer feedback on what you’re doing, whether you asked for it or not, assume that they’re trying to help you. That might not always be the case, some people are just the worst, but more often than not, they’re looking out for you. So we need to shift our mindset and get excited about feedback rather than defensive.

Questions to ask your feedback squad

When you ask people for their critiques, give them the ‘why’ behind your show. Who is it for? Tell them what they should listen for and what they don’t need to worry about. Don’t insert your opinion on what you think can be improved; let them work from a clean slate without any bias.

After I recorded my first podcast interview, I asked a handful of friends and former colleagues if they would listen to and give me feedback on it. Here’s exactly what I said in the email I sent to them, along with a link to the audio:

Thank you so much for listening to this first interview and giving me feedback!! There’s still time to edit, so let me know what you think can be cut out or improved for next time if you think I missed a trick.

[dropbox link]

Some things to keep in mind:

  • This is the raw, unedited file — the finished product will sound much better!

  • This is a weekly travel podcast featuring people who’ve moved across the world and are enjoying their adopted cities to the fullest. The format of the show: hear a little about the guests and their journey re starting a new life in a new place, then get their travel tips on where they’re living.

  • The purpose of the podcast is 1) to inspire people who are considering such a move by providing real case studies, and 2) provide useful information to a wider audience of people who like to travel.  

  • I’m recording the intro and outro separately (with lively music — woo!) and will give a proper intro to the guest there. So I’ll likely jump into this recording at 1:17 where I say, “So tell me…”

  • You can start and stop listening at 1:17 and 40:25 (the rest is just chat that won’t be part of the episode).

Some questions I have when you finish listening:

  • Did the content of this interview achieve its intended purpose?

  • What would you cut and/or change?

  • What can I do better next time?

  • Do you think the format is ok? What would you change to make it more engaging?

  • What did you like best about the interview?

  • Any other thoughts — go crazy with the feedback!!

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts!! I appreciate this so much. PS: Cringe!! Forcing yourself to sit down and listen to yourself is so weird. xoxoxo

I’ve actually gotten over the weirdness of listening to my own voice. It doesn’t bother me at all anymore, and this will hopefully happen to you, too, after you edit a few episodes.

But back to the feedback. Even though I believe feedback is a gift and I work on staying in the right mindset, let’s be real: For many of us, including me, there’s always going to be a tiny twinge of nervousness when we share our work for review. A fleeting fear of looking dumb and a secret wish that the only feedback we’ll get is, “This is perfect, don’t change a thing!” But of course, everything can be improved.

Here are a few things that my reviewers said:

  • “I loved the conversational back and forth you had with the guest. Some people might be more interested in hearing about the travel tips rather than the expat story. Maybe have a clearer line in the podcast where you transition from one section to another. My favorite podcasts include a fire round of questions toward the end.”

  • “She seemed a bit nervous at the beginning and really opened up toward the end. Ask a few questions upfront not meant to be on the podcast to get the guest feeling comfortable and you can edit them out later.”

  • “Before jumping into the podcast, reiterate the format and flow, even if you mentioned this via email, to get the guest comfortable.”

Those are helpful, concrete tips and I implemented all that feedback, including the lightning round at the end of Postcard Academy, my travel podcast.

Listener feedback

Once you start building an audience, you can get listener feedback on what they like about the show, what they’d like to see more of, what topics they’d like you to cover. You can ask for that feedback a number of ways: during your podcast, on social media, in your newsletter. You can ask people to email you or send you an audio message via a tool like SpeakPipe.

There are many ways to get feedback. It’s easiest to get people to respond to questions if you ask them to answer something very specific, or to fill out a survey with a few questions.

When you start hearing from listeners, that’s when things get really exciting!

To sum all this up, always assume positive intent. Don’t be afraid of feedback. It makes us stronger. It makes our shows better, and this makes us more confident and excited behind the mic, and when we hit publish on our epidodes.