Trust me, I know how hard it is to make something awesome.
It took a LOT of work to make my podcast into what it is today, totally over 200 THOUSAND downloads.
The first time you try, you won’t get there. You’ll submit your podcast to itunes (Apple Podcasts), Spotify and Stitcher and then… crickets.
In fact, if you stumble upon brilliance the second you set your mind to something, it’s probably a fluke. That’s why the early stages of any creator’s career are riddled with stuff they won’t even want to show you. If a musician wows you on their debut album, there are likely hundreds of demos sitting on the cutting room floor that they don’t want you to hear.
Do you think I like reading my early posts? Do you think I can get through my first podcast without cringing? It takes a lot of failures to get to a place where you are good at podcasting, and that’s OK.
If you’re making podcast episodes that aren’t quite as good as you want them to be, PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP. Every episode is a learning experience, a step closer to entering the upper tier of podcasters and earning your place in the ears of a dedicated listener base.
There are things you can do to recenter yourself as you work towards the niche that will eventually win everyone over. Creating a great podcast takes a lot of introspection and a lot of brainstorming to find what works and what doesn’t. It’s a process.
In your attempts to build a stronger listening experience and a podcast you can take pride in, make sure you’re taking these five rules in stride.
My Top 5 Podcast Tips:
- Plan out your content (don’t ramble)
- Hone your spontaneity
- Be a strict editor
- Use signposts
- Don’t publish until you’re excited
1. Don’t Just Ramble
The early stages of a podcaster’s career are often brought down by a common misconception—that everything that comes out of your mouth with be gold and the appeal of your podcast is to capture these raw moments in all their glory.
In reality, only the strongest personalities can pull this off. Even then, they require some quality control and guidance to make sure they don’t go off on a tangent that just wastes the listener’s time. You have to earn someone’s trust before they let you talk at them for an hour. Doing so requires purposeful storytelling and curt editing.
Especially if you are just starting out, you absolutely need a script. Not only do you need a script, but you need one with a very strong sense of direction, that knows the story it wants to tell and has carefully considered the best way to tell it.
You need to be in touch with the purpose of every episode to make sure the words that come out of your mouth add to that purpose. If they don’t, cut them out of the script. Re-recording is key when you find yourself talking in circles.
2. Hone Your Spontaneity
On the other hand, something that is too scripted is likely to lose some of that magical podcast charm.
That’s why you need to strike a good balance between purpose and spontaneity because nothing takes a podcast to the next level like a moment of spontaneous brilliance. Make sure your podcast feels like a live show.
When writing a script, be wary of producing something that you intend to read word-for-word. Instead, use the script to give you a sense of direction that you can use as a launchpad for exploring your personality. Make sure your tone projects confidence rather than a ceaseless need to rely on a script. Try a few off-the-cuff moments to see if any of them stick. If they don’t, cut them. Which leads us to my next point…
3. Be a Strict Editor
We all love to hear ourselves talk.
When you talk for a living, you will become attached to everything you say. It’s not hard to justify the value of your own words to yourself. Upon hearing them back, you will think of what you felt when you said them, chuckle, nod and use that feeling to make a case for leaving them in.
Guess what? Your listeners don’t care about that. Unless you are saying something that they can digest and find value in, they’re not inherently attached to the sound of your voice.
That’s why, when editing your podcast, you need to be strict. When listening back to what came out of your mouth, make sure your vision is in the back of your mind every step of the way. If a soundbite doesn’t add something new to your overarching message, leave it out. Even if you like it, your listeners won’t see what you see. Give them too much clutter and they’ll gradually tune out.
It’s easy to want to be the voice of your own podcast, but podcast listeners get bored easily. If you have a co-host, make sure you keep a good balance between the two of you when editing.
Podcast listeners also hate things that sound bad. When editing, use headphones to experience it how they will. Pay close attention to the audio files. If there are moments with poor audio quality, cut them. You can also use sound effects conservatively to spice things up.
4. Use Signposts
Newsflash: listeners probably aren’t taking notes on your podcast.
A lot of people who listen do so passively. As a listener, it’s easy to zone out and only vaguely absorb what a podcaster is telling you. When that happens, listeners might not take away what they need to from the podcasts and end the episode thinking “why did I just listen to that?”
It’s your responsibility to make sure the listener grasps what you’re trying to tell them. To do so, you need to acknowledge that not everything you say is as important as the next and certain things require special attention.
This is when signposts come in. Signposts come in the form of verbal cues that inform the audience that they’re hearing a key takeaway from the episode. These can come subtly, in the form of pauses or tone, or they can be as literal as “this is very important” or “listen up”. Use these sparingly to add some structure to your episode, cleverly spoon-feeding your listeners so the message can sink in.
When looking for new topics, look through social media and Google news to see what your target audience is talking about. That way, you’ll know what podcast listeners want to hear so you don’t spend too much time on something irrelevant.
5. Don’t Stop Until You’re Excited
Once you win over an audience, they will start to expect content. As soon as that happens, you’ll start to feel pressure. Pressure can lead to writer’s block, which leads to forcing out content. Before you know it, you’ll start making episodes you don’t feel that passionate about.
Don’t make dud episodes. Dud episodes are episodes that are notably lower in quality than the bar you’ve set for yourself. You’re especially fragile to dud episodes when you don’t care about what you’re saying, when you record for the sake of recording.
If you’re not excited to record, keep brainstorming until you are. Once you find something to say, the episode will record itself. Listeners can sense apathy as soon as they hear your voice just as well as they can sense fake emotion. If you aren’t genuinely riled up about what you’re telling them, why should they care about hearing it?
Feel like you have your episodes nailed down? Check out this article on promoting your podcast.