If you’ve come to this post from the first in this series, you’re MY kind of podcaster.
You’re a podcaster who is willing to work yo#ffcc00ur way through things that are hard and potentially overwhelming now so that your podcast will THRIVE in the long run.
THAT’S THE SPIRIT! Keep it up!
The next step down the road of podcasting success is also going to require time and intentionality, but as every wise and accomplished person will tell you…
Anything worth doing is worth doing well!
This series is about helping you do PODCASTING well.
I want you to succeed with your show. I want you to help your listeners in ways that matter.
So let’s not waste anymore time. It’s time for STEP TWO in this series – which has two parts…
PART 1: TOPIC DEVELOPMENT
You are undoubtedly an expert at your topic, or at least an interested novice and an eager student of them.
So you likely already have some great ideas of the topics your podcast should address for listeners.
But at some point along the way you’re going to hit the wall when it comes to generating new ideas for things to talk about that will be of value to your listeners. Trust me, it’s going to happen.
When it happens you need a way to break through the impasse, the brain-lock, the “stuckness” you feel and get you moving again.
That’s what I’m about to give you.
I call it the 10-10-10 topic creation exercise.
To get started, you’ll need the following:
- A pad of sticky notes (yes, I love sticky notes)
- A pencil
- A countdown timer (your phone is fine)
Go find those things and come back. Go ahead, I’ll wait. 😉
Sit in a comfortable chair at a table or desk. Set yourself up for success by turning off your phone notifications for the next 30 to 40 minutes. You need a time of uninterrupted concentration and action.
If you take this seriously and DO what I’m about to describe, one hour from now you’ll have 10 or more ready-to-go episode topics with accompanying basic outlines for each.
Ready? Let’s do it!
10 MINUTES: Brainstorm every possible topic
Set your timer for 10 minutes (the first of the 10s).
Start your timer.
Begin to think of every topic that could be addressed on your show.
As one comes to mind, write it down on a sticky note, remove that note from the stack and set it aside, then write down the next one on the next note.
Brain-dump. Keep going. One after another after another, as quickly as you can.
Get the topic ideas out of your head and onto paper.
Some helpful principles to keep you going…
- Do NOT self-censor topics. If it comes to your mind, write it down and move on
- Don’t allow yourself to EDIT things, just blurt it out in print and go on to the next one
- If an idea seems crazy, don’t worry about it, just get it on that sticky note
- Should you come up with an idea you feel entirely incapable of tackling yourself, it’s no big deal. Just write it on a sticky note and move on
When the timer sounds, stop writing.
Get up and stretch, breathe, get something to drink, then come back to your pile of sticky notes, ready to move into the second 10-minutes of this exercise.
10 MINUTES: Sequence your topics
Your goal during the next 10 minutes is to order your pile of topics in the most logical sequence. Undoubtedly, some of them are elementary topics related to your podcast’s overall subject matter, others are more advanced.
As you sort through them in this section of the exercise, you’ll take note of those kinds of relationships and put the topics in the order that makes sense.
If you get stuck, unable to decide where a topic should fit into your sequence, don’t stress about it. Just make a decision quickly and move on. You’ll have the opportunity to make tweaks later.
Are you ready?
Set your timer for 10 minutes (the second of the 10s) and press “start.”
Spread out the sticky notes so you can easily see all of them and sequence them from “basic” to “advanced.” Naturally, some topics will lead naturally into others. Put them in order in a way that reflects that relationship.
You’ll get into a rhythm with this as you go, so keep going.
When your timer sounds you should have 8 to 10 to 20 topics in order, building one upon another. If you have topics left over, quickly consider each one… should it be inserted INTO THE ORDER OF TOPICS YOU ALREADY HAVE?
If so, insert it now. If not, set it aside.
Do this step quickly so you don’t stall out before going to the next 10 minute section of the exercise.
As before, take a moment to clear your mind. Stretch, take a few deep breaths, take a swig or two of that drink you got for yourself. Close your eyes and relax.
Come back to your neatly ordered group of notes. Set aside the notes you aren’t using. Get ready to move into the third 10-minutes of the exercise.
10 MINUTES: Bullet-point THREE subtopics on each sticky note
During the next 10 minutes, you are going to expand the main idea of each of your sticky-note-topics as naturally and quickly as possible.
Ask yourself, “What are the logical building-blocks that make up the topic before you?” As the topic unfolds in your mind, write down the first three sub-topics that come to the surface.
Don’t belabor it. Don’t over-think it. Just get the sub-topic ideas for each sticky-note-topic out of your head and onto paper.
Set your timer for 10 minutes and start it.
When you finish with one sticky note, turn it upside down on the table and move on to the next one. When you finish with it, turn it upside down on TOP of the first one.
Keep going like this until your timer sounds.
Set down your pencil. Gather up the topics you were NOT able to sub-point and set them aside in their own stack.
Return to the upside-down stack and turn it over. Count them.
How many sub-pointed topics do you have?
5? 10? 15? MORE?
What you are holding is a fully sequenced, outlined set of podcast episode topics, ready for the next step in the process.
CONGRATULATIONS! That wasn’t such a painful 30-ish minutes, was it?
HOW are you going to use the topic outlines you’ve created?
Now that you have a handful of rough outline topics that can serve as areas of focus for individual podcast episodes, you need to make decisions about how you’re going to approach the COMMUNICATION of each of them to your audience.
When you think about this, don’t ONLY think about guest interviews. There’s a LOT more that goes into it and there are many other ways you can communicate your topics for the benefit of your listeners.
If you’ve got a team working with you to produce your show, this is a great time to include them. The more brains you have working on this step, the better your ideas are going to be. Even if you don’t have an official team, you likely know others who are interested in your subject matter. Ask them to participate in this next section. You’ll be glad you did.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT FORMAT FOR EACH EPISODE TOPIC
Now that you’ve got a bunch of great topics that you feel will serve your listeners well, you need to decide on the best WAY to present those topics to them.
I know a bit about what I’m saying here because prior to running my own podcast production company I made live presentations to people at least once a week… for almost 20 years.
Why is that relevant?
Because I learned that speaking in a way that your audience best hears and receives maximizes your effectiveness as a presenter. And you ARE a presenter when you publish a podcast, right?
And the WAY you present things to your audience and and should change from topic to topic. That’s because different topics are communicated BEST through different mediums or methods.
Think for a moment about the teachers you had in school. Which ones did you enjoy the most? They were typically the teachers who had the most passion about the topic and who worked to make the subject interesting, right?
You want to approach your podcast episodes with THAT approach. As you consider EACH episode, EACH TOPIC you plan to cover, you’ll want to come up with an interesting, creative, helpful way to present it to your audience.
Don’t skim over those words…
When you are intentional about presenting your content according to THAT criteria, you’re not only going to create content your audience enjoys and benefits from, you’re also going to STAND OUT in your industry or niche.
Because nobody else in your niche or industry is putting THAT kind of work into what they do for their audience. It’s almost guaranteed to be true (because people are lazy… I call it like I see it).
Here are some “format” ideas you could use for your episodes. I’m sure there are more than these as well. Use these to get your team’s creative juices flowing and to craft content for each episode that communicates powerfully and truly benefits your listeners.
PODCAST EPISODE FORMAT IDEAS
You’re familiar with this episode format, guaranteed. It’s the easiest, simplest, “gateway drug” into podcasting (that’s a quote from one of my clients, Nick Loper. You can hear his story here).
Interviews enable you to place the burden of value generation on somebody else, your guest. THEY are the expert. THEY are the one delivering value to your audience. And they usually do so in exchange for exposure to your listening audience.
Though I’m less and less inclined to encourage my clients toward an interview format these days, they can provide great value — and can be the PERFECT solution for certain topics.
The scenarios where I think interviews shine are…
1) When YOUR expertise is not in the topic area you want to present to your audience
2) If the exposure your audience receives to the guest is the BEST way you have to help them
3) When your guest has a course or program you feel your audience desperately needs
4) When you have a UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE on the subject at hand and use the interview to draw out your expert guest’s interaction
MY ADVICE: Interviews can be great. But they are also WAY overused. Be smart about how you use them and make sure they serve your audience rather than just making it easier for you to produce episodes.
This principle applies to every podcaster. From the business that’s podcasting as a content marketing strategy for your business to the hobby podcaster who is simply trying to build and audience and serve them well.
The people listening to your show are SEARCHING for success… of some kind. It’s your job to give it to them.
What better way to do that than by featuring others who have had success along the lines of your episode topic?
Yes, these are many times interviews — but they are MORE than that as well.
Success stories function differently than a straight interview. Interviews typically feature an expert or high-profile personality. Success stories feature Everyday Emma and Normal Norman — people JUST LIKE your listeners. Their story, their journey, their failures and their triumphs will connect with your listeners powerfully.
This is a great place to solicit engagement from your listening community. Create a call to action asking your listeners to share their successes with you.
If you are a business, reach out to those who have used your product or service and ask them if they’d be willing to share their success stories with you. When you do this, you not only enable them to help others (your listeners), you also build a stronger bond with them and their loyalty to your brand will increase.
In the section about interviews I mentioned that you use the expertise of your guest to provide helpful content for your listeners. But remember this… YOU have expertise in certain areas too.
As you look through your stick-note-pile of topics, put a star on the corner of topics where you’ve had great success. These could be great opportunities for you to demonstrate your skill and knowledge of your show’s subject matter and put yourself in the expert seat for an episode.
And don’t worry, this is NOT being arrogant or self-serving… not any more than a Doctor is for believing she can help you with a health issue. Not any more than your neighborhood mechanic is for believing he can fix your vehicle.
When YOU personally have something valuable to share, you owe it to your listeners to share it.
I think more podcasters should be doing SOLO episodes. Why?
1) Through the time they’ve recorded guest interviews, they’ve learned. As they’ve applied that learning, they’ve had experiences and insights that can benefit their listeners. Those things should be shared.
2) Many podcast hosts have had a wealth (and sometimes a lifetime) of experiences that could benefit their listeners immediately. Why not share those jewels of wisdom?
A podcast host who does this very well is James Schramko. His podcast “Superfast Business” is one that I’ve been subscribed to for almost as long as I’ve been listening to podcasts.
James is an experienced businessman, both in the corporate world of automobile sales (he worked for Mercedes Benz) and in setting up and running his own online SEO, Website development, and Info product businesses.
One of his main sources of revenue these days (October 2021) is a business coaching membership.
Open up this new tab and check out James’ podcast. Scroll through the episodes.
You’ll see interview episodes. But if you go back enough you’ll also see very short, solo episodes. These are James, breaking down a concept or principle for his audience that he’s found to be helpful or beneficial.
And I rarely find anything he says that I disagree with.
As a listener, my respect for James and the work he does with and for business owners has only gone UP because of these solo episodes. And I actually LOVE that he’s willing to vary the format of his podcast episodes to best serve his listening audience.
So as you look at that stack of topics you created, which ones are uniquely YOU? Determine to produce those as solo episodes.
You know what a coaching session is, right? It’s someone with less experience receiving specific advice from someone with significantly more experience.
If you are a specialist in the topics your podcast covers, why not offer coaching sessions to listeners.
Not only are you creating an interesting, relevant, engaging format for that episode, you’re also demonstrating your expertise for your audience (and thereby appealing more powerfully to your target audience).
Once you hear this done well, you’ll see the genius of the coaching approach.
One show that does it VERY well is called Freelance to Founder. I just discovered this show recently and am HOOKED.
Every episode is a coaching call… and the hosts (Preston Lee and Clay Mosely) have the experience, insight, and savvy to field most scenarios and give solid advice.
If you’re trying to sell your services as a coach, I can’t think of a better marketing strategy than publishing participatory coaching sessions through your podcast.
Give the show a listen, you’ll see what I mean.
All of us have enjoyed a parable or fable. Lessons are sometimes learned best through a fictional depiction of the principles being communicated. Think about the following books as examples (maybe you’ve read some of them)…
* The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
* The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
* The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
* The Noticer by Andy Andrews
Are there topics in your sticky-note stack that could be communicated effectively through a story, fable, or illustration? I bet there are.
Not only would this kind of episode shake things up a bit for your audience, but they’d also set you apart once again. Very few podcast hosts have the courage to try something new like this, and those who do find it pays off big time.
Don’t you enjoy a good Q&A? When I attend conference sessions I always find myself wishing there was much less keynote presentation and much MORE Q&A… because the Q&A is what I find most practical and helpful.
You can provide that same kind of “rubber meets the road” practical content for your listeners.
Where do you get the Q’s (questions) for your A’s (answers)? From your listeners or customers.
Again, create a call to action asking your listeners for questions that you or a guest could answer. If you’re in business, reach out to your customers for the things they wish they knew about what you do.
You can also go to your F.A.Q. section and discover a load of things you could make into Q&A episodes.
Another idea is to Google your topic + Q&A. As an example, here’s what I found when I Googled “Online Marketing Q&A.” Each of the web pages found in that search could be a gold mine of Q&A episode content ideas (if you’re into online marketing).
Are there other episode format ideas you can think of?
I’m sure there are… I’m not the all-knowing expert on this idea. But I do know this… when your content is packaged in the very best way for the topic, your audience benefits and your podcast thrives.
Lack of consistency is one of the biggest “podcast killers.” BATCH RECORDING is one of the biggest “podcast savers.”
Think it through with me for a minute in light of your experience (real or imagined)…
You’ve just come up with a bunch of great new content ideas (sound familiar?).
You’ve outlined many of them to give yourself a head start on creating the content (sound familiar?).
You’ve determined which will be guest episodes, which will be solo episodes, and which will be another creative and helpful format (sound familiar?).
Now you’ve got to start recording them.
There are guest interviews to schedule, solo content to flesh out, creative episodes to script and conceptualize, coaching sessions to set up, Q&A content to create…
How are you going to tackle such a diverse set of projects?
You’re going to have to take it one step at a time — which most podcasters are not willing to do — and they MISS the advantage that comes from setting up systems that accelerate their process and growth.
You aren’t like that, are you? 😉
There’s no “easy button” for scheduling recordings that involve other people. You or your team will have to work out a system to get that done. I call it a “guest intake” process and I’ve done a video about how to set that up for FREE, here.
You can use the same process for inviting guests to coaching session recordings, etc.
Assuming you’ve done all that, you CAN and SHOULD set up a BATCH RECORDING special for all of your interviews.
What do I mean by “batch recording?”
The concept of batch recording is simple… do as much recording as you can (as many episodes as you can) all in one sitting. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about solo episodes or interviews, the concept is the same.
Batch recording maximizes your time, enables you to be more efficient, and actually improves the quality of your recordings.
It happens because as you get going, you move into a rhythm and it becomes more effortless, more natural. You drop nervousness and pick up confidence. You roll with the process instead of struggling against it.
You probably immediately realize that batch recording interviews will take a lot more work than batch recording solo content. And you’re right.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
For every kind of episode, I recommend batch recording.
I’m going to give you an example of what batch recording might look like for a podcast host… and please realize this is just an example. It will look different for you depending on your commitments and schedule. But you can take the principles the example provides and fit them into your life. I know you can.
So here’s the example…
- Set aside an entire day (Saturday?) or evening (a weeknight?) each week to record podcast episodes
- Solo episodes are simple: use your prepared notes, turn on your recorder, and record the content
- Guest episodes require scheduling all guests on the same day (evening) with breaks in between
- Other types of episodes will require different approaches, but can be batch recorded as well
HANG ON A MINUTE… RESIST THE OVERWHELM YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW.
Remember that you can do anything if you want it badly enough and take it one small bite at a time.
The advantages you gain from batch recording will set you up for success long-term (and most podcasters won’t do it, so this can be your secret weapon… your superpower).
HOW TO MAKE BATCH RECORDING WORK FOR YOU
1) Don’t leave people out of the equation.
If you want to do batches of recordings during times usually spent with other people, they need to be considered.
Pull your family into the process. Discuss your plan with your team.
You may be surprised at the buy-in they express when they understand the WHY behind what you’re doing. Their support and help can make all the difference.
2) Offload the things that don’t require your level of expertise
Think this one through before you say, “I don’t have the money to do that.”
If your typical hourly rate for what you do is $20 per hour or more, it makes no sense for you to be doing tasks that could be done by someone else for $10 per hour (just an example).
You could be using that time to do your $20/hour tasks and paying someone else to do the $10/hour tasks.
That means you PROFIT $10/hour ($80 per day-ish). If your personal hourly rate is greater than $20 then your profit number grows even more.
But here’s the disclaimer: You have to actually DO $20/hour plus tasks with your freed-up time. If you don’t things can go backward quickly.
So… can you…
- Teach someone to find qualified guests for your show?
- Train someone to schedule and set up guest interviews for you?
- Equip someone to upload and publish your episodes?
- Find somebody who can create your social media promotional assets?
- Hire a competent podcast editing and content creation team?
Don’t make excuses. FIGURE IT OUT.
Once you have batch recording in place, you’re going to see your productivity, creativity, and SERVICE TO YOUR AUDIENCE skyrocket.
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR STEP THREE IN THE PODCAST WORKFLOW SERIES