You Need To Prepare For Your Podcast

You’re not good enough to wing it.

Photo by asar media on Unsplash

There’s an old saying in radio for personality morning shows that also fits podcasts:

“It takes two hours of preparation for every hour on the air.”

Why do you need all that time? It’s just talking, right?

Sure, if you plan on using a lot of ums and ahhs, or don’t mind getting lost in the middle of your episode.

Preparation is different for everyone, and what constitutes preparation can also be up for debate. Is it the act of trying to book guests? Is it researching the topic and taking notes? Is it creating an outline? Is it meeting with your co-hosts and hashing out how the show is going to go?

All of the above?

Yes.

Preparation can make everything run smoothly in each episode. Everyone will know where things are headed, or if it’s just you, it can keep you and your guest from getting lost and off topic. Prep can also provide insight into what the most important points are that you want to stress during the episode.

Still, some resist doing prep work.

A lot of people think preparation is creating a script for your show, with everything written out. If this is you, you might be complaining that laying out the show this way takes too much time. You might make the argument that a script will make you sound like you’re reading, and you’ll sound wooden and not like a real person.

You may also complain that a script will take away any and all spontaneity, that you’ll lose out on great off-hand comments because you “have to” stick to a script.

But I’m not talking about a script.

When I talk about preparation, I’m recommending creating an outline.

An outline is the best of both worlds. It leaves you plenty of space for spontaneity, while also providing you with a guide in case you need to pull the episode back on topic. It’s not a great feeling being lost in the middle of recording, especially if you’re doing a live video feed.

Also, chances are that when you were researching a guest, you were coming up with two things: bullet points and questions. That’s already everything you need!

Bullet points can be a life saver. You use them while recording to jog your memory. Chances are when you were researching, the amount of information may have overwhelmed you, so bullet points can also be used as a sifting system. Make the list, then go through them and remove the least interesting tidbits. If you have too many bullet points, your show may go well beyond what your audience is used to. You don’t want to bore everyone. Narrow that list down to the most compelling facts.

As for questions, sometimes the best questions are the ones you already know the answer to. Let your guest give the answer, of course, but knowing it ahead of time can help you encourage your guest to take it farther. You can ask for a story, or a new insight on the answer.

Writing down your questions can also help you evaluate them. Have you seen a lot of Medium articles about creating strong headlines? (Yeah, I know, I can be better at those.) Questions are the same. Whittle them down, make them strong, then add them to your bullet points.

What if you’re doing a “just having a conversation” type of show? Do you need an outline?

I’m going to say yes, but with a difference. Pick a minimum of 4 things you think you might want to talk about and write them down. Just four things. Why? Because in a conversation show, you usually don’t know in advance if there’s really that much to say about a particular topic. You might believe a lot of hilarity will ensue, only to discover everyone has exhausted the subject after 3 minutes.

Wouldn’t having a back up topic be a good idea in this situation?

One last thing. When you’re starting up, you might find after a few episodes that a structure has appeared, that some ideas get repeated. These are show features! If you think they’re strong enough, play them up! Lay out a template so you go to them at what you feel is an appropriate time.

Winging it is never a good idea. Sure, you can stop and start the recording at will, and yes, you can edit, but why risk losing any momentum while doing the show?

Use the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

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The focus is on the soft skills, and understanding the little human intangibles that go into creating content. Not the nuts and bolts, but how to help you be a better storyteller.

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George “Ace” Acevedo

George “Ace” Acevedo

Podcast and broadcast consultant. VoiceOver Pro. Writer. Presenter.

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