The Good and Bad About Show Features
How they can help and hurt your podcast.
First, what is a feature?
It’s usually a stock segment based on a question or idea. Think “The Money Moment” or ‘Weird Question of the Day” or “This Day in History” or “Netflix Show of the Week.” You get the idea.
There are good reasons to have features on your show.
They can become a big moment, something your listeners look forward to. A great feature can get your fans buzzing. It could be the part of the show they tell their friends about. It could be what separates you from the crowd.
Features can also give you a structure for your show.
They can be a big help in helping you prepare material, because you’ll know what you’re aiming at. They provide consistency for your audience.
Now I’m not talking about scripting your show, I’m talking about using features as an anchor point, a way to keep on the path of your topic. If you’re lost, you’re likely to ramble. Features can help bring you back from the abyss, and get you and your audience back on course.
Features also help set expectations for listeners.
Repeat listeners feel more comfortable having some idea what they’re going to hear, and features can be a big part of that.
Features can help you tell stories, which helps listeners bond to you or an idea.
A big part of why people stay with a show isn’t always about the topic. Sometimes it’s because they can relate to someone on the show.
Now let’s talk about why features on your show can be a trap.
They may force you into a conversation that’s not interesting.
You may not recognize when a feature is a bad idea, causing people to tune out. Don’t ever keep a feature because it’s “something we’ve done from the beginning.” You may start going through the motions, and this is never good. If you’re not enjoying it anymore, your audience isn’t either.
Features may drag you away from an interesting tangent.
A guest tells a wild anecdote that you’re now dying to explore, but you’re hampered because you’re supposed to stop for a feature. This shouldn’t happen anyway, there’s no need to limit your show with a set time. As long as it’s on topic, follow the most interesting path.
Sometimes features can confuse a guest.
You should never assume a guest has listened to your show, or at least you should treat them that way. Explain what’s about to happen so there are no surprises. If your guest feels blindsided, you may not get the response you want.
The feature might be something that no longer fits the show.
Shows adjust and adapt all the time. If you’ve been doing a show for at least several months, go back and listen to one of your early shows. I bet you hear quite a difference. And if you had a certain feature from the start, try to sense if it’s different than how you do it now, and why.
If a feature isn’t working, it’s okay to change up and even eliminate it.
Tastes change, and everything evolves over time. You’ll know when a new one you’ve added is working, or even if an old one still has magic. It’s when you and your audience are super excited that it’s coming up. If you have engagement with your fans, they’ll tell you when they love or hate something. If they don’t like something you love, remember why you’re doing the show. At least modify it.
So should you do features?
Listen to enough shows and you’ll find all kinds, from the straightforward to the insane. There are no rules, although I believe you should be using features only if they add value to the show. And be honest and try to notice if the feature is for you or for your audience.
And make sure you’re using a critical ear and are also honest about whether the feature is working.
I am a 30-year major market veteran of radio and other media, including hosting a morning show for over 12 years, plus I was a news anchor and reporter for another 10 years. My goal is to teach the soft skills needed to be successful in podcasting and radio, like how to get the best from a show guest, and how to work with co-hosts.
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