How To Structure A Podcast Episode
If you’ve been following along with this month’s podcast series on the blog (click here to take a look at our last two blog posts), you know that it’s almost time to start recording your podcast!
You have a compelling idea, host(s) and guests with personality and knowledge, insight on equipment and software, and now it’s time to create a strong plan for your episodes.
Think about what makes your podcast better and different from the rest. This is what will guide you as you plan out your podcast content.
We sat down with Kristen Stegall, founder of Novice Studios, a podcast and video production company that takes clients all the way from planning to publishing their dream content. For over six years, Kristen has been combining her love of storytelling with her knowledge of the media industry to help business owners (just like you!) creatively convey their message to their target audience.
Here are her tips for structuring a great podcast episode:
What a Strong Episode Plan Looks Like
Every good podcast episode has a detailed outline and planned out segments. Depending on the type of podcast you’re creating, the extent of your planning varies.
Most choose to have a guest or co-host on their podcast; someone to bounce ideas off of and help deliver information or perspective in a conversational way. If you have a guest who you know has a lot of information to offer and won’t want to spend too much time on informal conversation - shorten your question list! Sometimes with seasoned (or maybe...intimidating...) guests, you might have a total of 5 questions. Chances are, by question 2 or 3, you’ll decide to dive deeper into an alternative storyline based on an unexpected comment or follow up question. It’s better to have a shorter question list so you have time to play around and go in different directions with the episode so it doesn’t seem forced.
Some podcasters want to begin their podcast journey with solo episodes - and that's great, too! Solo episodes can be a little harder for beginners to pull off because there’s not someone else there to listen to and work with. The conversation is just you and there is less opportunity to add lib - so this is going to take way more scriptwriting than you think.
Have you ever written a speech that took hours to prepare, but when you actually say it, it’s way shorter than you thought? Yeah, the same thing happens with solo episodes: as you’re preparing, you think it’s going to be so much longer than it is. If you’re a person who likes to script things out, 8 pages of content will realistically amount to a 15-minute solo episode.
At the end of the day, you will project more confidence in an episode where you feel you are the most prepared. Allow yourself to plan out as much as you want so you feel like you are in control of your own episode, but remember, the beauty of a podcast is that you have lots of room to be creative and do something you’re excited about.
If you’re still feeling unsure of how to plan your episode, you can’t go wrong with outlining what you want the main takeaways from your episode to be. What do you want your audience to know? Do? Feel? Stay relevant and keep these main points in mind as you record, and you’ll definitely have a great episode in the end.
Make it Compelling
Think about when YOU listen to podcasts. Maybe you listen on your commute to work, while you’re doing the dishes, or even as the morning coffee drips into your favorite mug. That being said, most people listen to podcasts while they are doing something else. Kristen shared with us how to approach keeping your audience engaged during your episode.
One way you can keep your audience interested right from the start is by making your first 5 seconds (or so) really compelling. Instead of starting out with “Hi! I’m Bella, welcome to another episode of my podcast,” try starting with a really juicy soundbite, great tip, or exclamatory quote to hook the listener in.
This will make your audience feel as though you’ve already gotten to the meat of the episode, so they can decide if your content is what they are looking for. This technique will also give a listener a better grasp of who you are and what you are about. They’re more likely to stay for the duration of the show if you show them a little bit of what they’re going to get right off the bat.
Prepare Your Guests
As much as you prepare yourself to host your podcast, you’ll also want to make time to prepare your guest(s) as well. A good way to make sure you can get the best conversation and content from your guest is to send them your questions ahead of time.
There is definitely pressure having a recorded conversation with a new person. Providing a breakdown of what you want to talk about will relax them, giving them ample time for extra preparation if they need it.
When your podcast episode covers a broad topic, the conversation can go in a lot of different directions. Ask your guests if there are any specific topics they want to emphasize or avoid. Allow them to tell you what they’d love to showcase about themselves or what they know, but also what lies outside of their expertise or comfort zone. This way, you can steer clear of any questions they don’t want to answer and also give them the opportunity to share what they are passionate about.
Kristen also suggests having one or two questions to ask every guest to create consistency and tie all of your episodes back to your main podcast theme, if your podcast topic allows that.
Kristen described interviewing as an “intuitive art.”
And, like anything, this intuitive art comes with practice.
Interviewing is just as much preparing questions beforehand as it is being present in the conversation and listening intently. Nothing is worse than hearing your guest answer a question but then immediately moving on to a totally different topic without much acknowledgment of what they just said.
It’s common to get nervous as an interviewer. As much as we all may want to cling to our list of ordered questions, allow yourself to actively listen to your guest and give yourself the opportunity to explore alternative storylines. Some of the best content comes from the follow-up questions -- something you didn’t prepare beforehand. Here are some of Kristen’s tips for how to handle interviewing while recording:
Have your questions printed out on paper
Take notes during the conversation. This will help you synthesize and notice themes in what your guest is saying. (Also helps with your show notes later!)
Use your notes for the follow-up questions. It’s no secret that asking questions, listening to responses, and taking notes all at one time can be overwhelming (especially since it’s being recorded…). Use your notes to guide you to the alternative storylines and different directions that you can take your episode. Something great could happen by going off the beaten path.
If you loved these tips, here’s where you can find Kristen:
Click here to register for Kristen’s podcast webinar, Why You Should Start a Podcast in 2021, happening Friday, January 22 from 11am to 12pm CST
Check back next week for even more insight from Kristen about marketing and sharing your podcast!