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Planning your Podcast

How to Start

Planning, or pre-production, is an important part of podcast creation. The more time you put into preparation, the easier it will be to record and edit your audio. As you start thinking about a new podcast idea, consider a set of important initial decisions:

  1. What is the premise? What topic is the podcast or audio story? What makes you excited about the topic?
  2. Who is the audience? Who is your target audience? This will probably be people with the same passion or interest as you. Thinking about who will be listening is helpful to keep in mind to keep the show focused and on track.
  3. What is the format? Typical formats include:
    • Solo: Also known as a monologue, this is one person talking about a topic. A solo podcast is easier and faster to set up, as you don’t need to rely on other schedules. However, it can be intimidating for the beginning podcaster to do an entire show by themselves.
    • Co-host: Presenting with a friend or colleague. Find someone you have good chemistry with so that you have someone to bounce ideas around or to debate
    • Interview: A host interviewing someone. The interviewee is usually an expert or someone with a vested interest in the topic. Interviewing is a skill that you need to hone through practice
    • Roundtable: A host and a number of guests, talking through a specific topic or topics
  4. How am I going to record? Where are you going to get the equipment needed to record the audio? Where are you going to record (hopefully in a quiet place)? See the Podcasting Tip handout for help.
  5. Timing?
    • Podcast lengths vary significantly but the average is probably around 20 or 30 minutes. The length of your podcast should be dependent on your topic and audience. Err on the side of a shorter podcast. Initially, a podcast that is 30 minutes long in its final form will take at least 3 to 4 hours to record, edit, and publish. As you practice you will get quicker at editing.
    • Set a goal of how frequently you will make episodes. It is better to have an excellent podcast every month instead of a mediocre podcast every week.
  6. Series or Single Issue? Will your podcast be a single recording (for a class assignment for example) or an ongoing series? If a series, will every episode use the same format or will you include mini-episode monologues for example?
  7. What existing podcasts do I find engaging? What do I find engaging about them? What lessons can I take from these examples as I plan my own podcast?

Planning Your Episodes

Every podcast has some amount of scripting. Some are entirely written ahead of time, while others have only small parts that are scripted. Even if you’re joking around with friends, you still need an introduction explaining the podcast to your listeners. Or if you are interviewing someone, you need to introduce them. Here are some tips for getting started writing an audio script.

Writing Audio Scripts for a Solo or Co-Host format podcast:

  1. Research: ​Whether you’re discussing a new medical procedure or interviewing a local historian, conduct extensive research on your topic. Explore news, academic journals, blogs, personal websites. Your research will lead to more questions to explore and interesting new insights.
  2. Storytelling: A common storytelling structure is ABDCE: Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending. Try to figure out how your narrative could fit into that flow. Focus on the action that happens in each step. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you?
  3. Tone: Don’t be too formal. Use a conversational tone and short sentences.
  4. Pace: Try to keep your sentences short, with one key idea per sentence. This is easier for people to understand.
  5. Structure: Develop the structure of your podcast. A typical podcast starts with an introduction, then will transition into an interview, then maybe listener questions and conclude with a call to action (i.e. review and rate the podcast) and credits.
  6. Transitions: Figure out how to transition between segments
  7. Additional elements: Think about how to incorporate additional sounds, like music and sound effects, to enhance the sensory elements of the project. include these notes in your script.

Whether you’re interviewing a single guest or leading a roundtable, you should prepare some structure to your interview. Use your research to guide the interview. Think about what surprised or amused you.

Preparing for an Interview or Round Table format podcast:

  1. Research: If possible, do research on your interview subject’s background. Use this information to guide interview questions. Think about what part of your subject’s biography you want to know more about.
  2. Brainstorm Questions: Have a list of at least 15 questions. Generate more questions than you think you need. These don’t need to be in any particular order.
  3. Ask open-ended questions: Start questions with “How” “Why” “What” “Who” - not questions that can be answered with a yes or no answer.
  4. Specific questions: Try to get the subject to tell a visual story. Be specific in your questions and ask the subject to clarify - “And then what happened?” “And then what did he say?” “And what did you say?”
  5. Tone: In the interview, conduct the interview like a conversation. Don’t ask all the questions in order. Be genuinely curious. Let there be silences - the subject will often fill in the silence with more information.
  6. Additional resources:

Based on the CC-licensed VCU podcasting guide

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