So, you want to make a podcast! Excellent. But first, you need to pick a topic. Here are some questions to help you get started.
What are you curious about?
Ask yourself this: What’s something you could talk about at length, with no notes or prompting? Sometimes this is actually hard to identify, so if you’re stumped, go ahead and ask the people closest to you. What’s the thing your friends know not to bring up because you won’t stop talking about it? Start paying attention to the things that really get you going, or the subjects you naturally gravitate toward.
Another way to approach this question is to ask yourself what podcast you’d want to listen to that hasn’t been made yet. Maybe you have a hobby you’ve wanted to connect with people about, or you are passionate about this particular romance novel series that nobody has reviewed yet. Or perhaps you want to help other people who have had the same life challenges you’ve had. Odds are very good that someone else has also wished that show existed, and they’ll want to listen to you.
Above all, choose something that is interesting to you. Your audience can tell when you care about something. Not only that, but you’re going to be relying on yourself to drive the narrative of your show, to ask questions and dive deep into topics without direction from anyone, so you might as well pick something you want to learn more about!
Don’t worry about being passionate about something, per se. That’s a word that gets thrown around a lot and it can kill many a good idea from the jump. Instead, focus on something you’re curious about, that you could keep asking questions about. (This will serve you in the long run when you’re three months in and wondering what’s next.)
Once you have some topics of interest, it’s time to zero in.
What makes this a good audio story?
Audio is just one way to tell a story, but it can be an especially powerful one. Look at the topics you’ve listed and consider why they might make sense for a podcast in particular. One way to ask this is to imagine this story in different formats — a blog post, an Instagram Story, a vlog — and think about the pros and cons of each, in comparison with a podcast.
Some things obviously lend themselves to audio — interviews with guests, for example, or anything ASMR-related. Something that is intensely visual might not immediately work well with podcasting — although some people find super creative ways to do that, like this example. Of course, if your podcast is concerned with advocacy or activism, perhaps there is a unique opportunity to center the actual voices of the people at the forefront of your movement. Consider: what is it about your topic that you would most want to listen to? This can be a good time to think about potential formats that will work in service of your idea.
Everyone loves to say it, but it doesn’t make it less true: podcasting is an intimate medium, well-suited for deep conversations, strong storytelling, and fun sound work. No matter what your topic is, imagine it from the perspective of your listener.
What makes you the right person to tell this story?
There can be lots of ways to answer this, depending on your topic and format. Maybe you really scour the archives and do your research before each show. Maybe you’ve got an incredible sense of humor. Or maybe you have a personal connection that makes you the right fit to tell this story and tell it well. Find your unique angle and take another look at your topic through it.
“But what if I’m not an expert?” No worries! You don’t need to be one to make your show, and no matter what, if you’re authentic, it will shine through. You’re going to be great, and the more you can distinguish why you’re uniquely capable of making your podcast, the easier it will be to make the case for new listeners to check out your show.
Once you have a sense of your topic and style, try mapping out three different dream episodes: the questions you’d ask, the topics you’d research, maybe the guests you’d want to interview. Of course, no matter how much prep work you do, your topic and approach will probably change over time. That’s normal! It takes practice to get your rhythm down, so don’t worry if things don’t come together right at the start.
Most importantly, remember that this is an opportunity to have fun! Your podcast can be an opportunity to call up people you admire, travel outside of your city, host round-table dinner parties for cool guests, and read weird books. Let your podcast be your excuse to explore and challenge yourself, no matter whether you’re doing it professionally or for personal interest. Like almost all things in life, if you’ve had fun making it, we’ll have fun listening.
Haven’t started your podcast yet? Try making something awesome with Anchor, the easiest way to make a podcast, for free. And as always, we’d love to hear your feedback, via email, Twitter, or Instagram.