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By: Tallie Gabriel on March 27th, 2020

Podcast Format Possibilities: Unscripted Co-hosted

You don’t just want to make another branded interview podcast (and believe us — we don’t want you to, either). But if your podcast doesn’t follow the interview format, what are your other options? In this series, we’ll examine other types of engaging, entertaining podcast formats, so you can choose the right one for your show.

Welcome back to MSR’s latest series, Podcast Format Possibilities! (And yes, I am aware that I’ve started introducing written pieces as if they were an audio show.) In our last installment of Podcast Format Possibilities, we took a look at the Unscripted Monologue option, in which one singular host carries the show without scripting it (though while certainly still planning it out).

Today, we’ll add another host to the mix as we continue our dive into the unscripted concept. As someone who loves talking to people, and loves listening to other people talk to one another (it’s not weird, I promise), the Unscripted Co-Hosted show is my personal favorite show format. Why do I love it so much? What are its pros and cons? When it works, why does it work? And is it the right format for your show?

Let’s find out below.

What Does ‘Unscripted Co-hosted’ Mean, and Why Might it be the Best Choice for Your Show?

In an unscripted co-hosted show, the show functions pretty much how it sounds — two (or potentially more) hosts split the narration responsibility without following a formal script. As with unscripted monologues, it’s important that the hosts stick to an outline or plan to keep the show flowing smoothly. This pre-recording planning becomes especially important with another person involved, so one host doesn’t get entirely lost in tangents or travel too far down side conversations (both of which I, for one, am all too familiar with in my own personal conversations).

That also brings me to one of the major benefits of the unscripted co-hosted format: There’s something undeniably comforting and entertaining about listening to two people talk to one another. If there was ever a show format that could make you feel like you’re friends with the folks behind your headphones, this is it. An unscripted co-hosted show allows for plenty of spontaneous moments of hilarity and honest thoughtful discussion that just can’t quite be scripted — and that require interpersonal dialogue to inspire. 

Co-hosted shows can also help companies achieve their goals in clear ways. For example, say your goal is to establish your team members as thought leaders: this way, two people are able to let their expertise shine and gain more exposure. If your company is trying to build a community, a dialogue echoes that sentiment more than a monologue. And if your company is trying to feel more human and personal, the banter and humor and compassion that can emerge between two people help show, rather than tell, that trait.

If you’re the kind of person who does your best work when you’re able to bounce ideas and concepts back and forth with another person, this could be the best format for you. Unscripted co-hosted shows also work especially well when the two hosts have different lifestyles, levels of expertise, or ways of processing the world. This dynamic allows audiences to get two contrasting perspectives that both feed and elevate the conversation.

Where Might You Have Seen This Style Before?

One standout example of an Unscripted Co-hosted show is Build Your SaaS by In it, hosts Jon and Justin take an extensive look at what it takes to build a web app in the current market (beginning in 2018). What’s especially unique about their approach is they take listeners through their own experience building, a podcast publishing platform (which you should totally check out after you decide which format to use to launch your show). The two have the organic, easy chemistry of a pair that’s been friends for years, and the podcast is a wonderful mix of informative and lighthearted. Listening feels a bit like grabbing a beer with two of the coolest professors in an academic institution — you learn a lot, but the conversation never feels forced or prescribed. On the contrary, it’s often funny and comes across as genuinely human. That feeling couldn’t be replicated with a scripted show.

Another great example of an unscripted co-hosted show is Crazy; In Bed, a podcast produced by UCB comedy that tackles the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Hosts Alyssa and May are both hilarious (the podcast comes from UCB, after all) and have a wonderfully honest rapport with one another. Crazy; In Bed is an interview-style show (some episodes of Build Your SaaS are as well), and it’s an excellent example of what can come from two hosts interviewing a guest together. The show is full of personal anecdotes, but each episode also explores a bigger topic, keeping listeners coming back for the surprising funny moments while also teaching them something.

An unscripted co-hosted show works extra well if you want to be both entertaining and informative (spoiler: you do) for a couple of reasons. In one show model, one host can take on the “teacher” role, explaining things to the other host who can then react appropriately. The host is teaching someone in real-time, not just hoping their ideas land for listeners. In another show model, both hosts can explore an idea together, each learning and bouncing theories off one another to keep listeners feeling very much a part of the discussion in real-time.

Challenges That Might Stand in Your Way

Of course, no show format is all fun and laughs. As much as an unscripted co-hosted show might seem as easy as getting a friend together to talk about something you like for 45 minutes, its execution is actually much more nuanced than that.

One challenge that can arise with unscripted co-hosting is scheduling. As the co-hosts of Not Another True Crime Podcast reference often on the show, one of the hosts lives on the west coast while the other lives on the east. In order to record together, the west coast host has to be online at 6:00 AM on podcast recording days — definitely not an ideal situation for non-early-birds. Additionally, it can be easy to rely too heavily on the natural rapport between you and your co-host. While genuine moments between you two are wonderful — and, indeed, one of the major perks of this type of series — it’s important to remember that you have talking points to address and a conclusion to reach by the end of your episode. As much as plenty of us might think that just recording a conversation with a great friend is entertaining enough, that is unfortunately rarely the case.

Having a plan in place is especially important if the two of you are interviewing someone on your show. You definitely don’t want to fall into the trap of speaking over one another or bumbling your words when a third party has carved time out of their own schedule to be on your show. And remember that even though an unscripted co-hosted show can feel like just you and a pal chatting, you need to keep listeners engaged and curious so they stick with you through the end of the episode, and hopefully for many more to come.

The Verdict

Unscripted co-hosted shows are some of the most entertaining out there (in my humble opinion), so if you know you have a great show idea and the right person to co-host it with you, it will probably bring you and your audience lots of joy. Just make sure to plan, plan, plan each episode, and stick to the point. While listeners love a moment or two of organic unbridled laughter between hosts, we don’t want to feel left out listening to two friends catching up. 

And beyond their entertainment factor: co-hosted shows can help your business. Two people engaging in an unscripted conversation can bring an unmatched level of authenticity to a brand. Discussing their opinions and perspectives can aerate ideas and build community. With an unscripted co-hosted show, you have the opportunity to be both highly relevant and informative while still being entertaining. If you do it right, it might just be the perfect fit for your brand.


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