MF 407 : Podcasting in 2022: more on topics, formatting your show, and practice
Today, we use your exit and topic to format your show, including fine tuning your host style, picking airdates, and schedules. I also cover simple ways to practice to find and fine tune your podcasting style. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
[Note: due to the Thanksgiving holiday next week, episode 408 will air on Monday.]
From topic to formatting to practice
Continuing our discussion on picking and developing a topic, let's go back to aligning your show to an exit (MF 405). As I talked about last week, coming up with an exit as your first strategic step is the one piece of advice I find the most resistance to.
To clarify, an exit isn't meant to cramp your creative flow. Rather, it serves as an anchor point from which you can continue the momentum of content creation, especially once the shine of launching a podcast wears off. At some point, you'll need something more than the burst of excitement from creating a show and those first episodes to sustain you.
You're more likely to burn out or give up without an exit than you are to approach the end and feel that you've hamstrung yourself unnecessarily.
If the later does occur, you can reevaluate your exit, as in the case of if your show blows up or gets syndicated by a major publisher that wants you to continue on. Alternately, you can use your podcasting longevity to launch a new show.
Although, I'm not the best example of this, having launched a show that mixes and matches genres, formats and goals, all without an exit until late in the game, were I to do it over, I would start with my exit and focus the show's theme and topic.
Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of where I am and what I've accomplished. I'm grateful to the listeners who tune in to select episodes as well as those that have been with me since day one. However, if I were to do it over, I would stick with a single goal, result, and topic and launch new show(s) that address new goals and formats. Hindsight is definitely 20-20.
Once you've spent time on the exit and developing a topic, it's time to get to the nuts and bolts of your show so to speak. Start thinking about your format. Are you going to do a solocast, an interview or conversation based show with multiple guests, or a hybrid of the two. Your ideation roadmap should give you a basis from which to decide. From there, you should look to your exit and your current schedule. Do a time audit and be realistic about how much time you have to devote to a podcast. If 30 minutes is too long, consider a shorter show. If you once a week is too demanding, consider once every other week. Format the show so that it works for you, not the other way around.
A question or concern I sometimes hear is that if you don't podcast in a certain way or according to a certain schedule, you'll lose audience interest. This is before having launched one episode! To me, that's getting way too into your own head about assumptions that you just don't have enough facts to justify. Don't worry and don't assume. Rather, set a realistic schedule and stick to it. When it comes to your listeners, it's two c's: communication and consistency.
So long as you communicate with your audience and are clear, upfront about when your show airs and how regularly, -AND- you are consistent with sticking to a schedule, your listeners will adapt. If they like your content, they will be far more accommodating than you think. Remember your listeners are busy people too! Some may prefer a shorter bi-weekly format to a longer weekly one. As long as you are focused with your topic, are communicative and consistent, you will find your tribe and they will stick with you.
If you do need to take an unexpected break, let your audience know. I recently had to do so over the summer and announced it on episode MF 388, which I titled "mid-season finale." That episode garnered a lot of listens and my return, MF 389, which aired over a month later also had a large listener count. I didn't do anything special other than clearly communicate that I was taking a hiatus, explaining why, and I announced a return date that I stuck to.
Treat your podcast like your favorite TV show. If you go on a break, announce when you'll return. If you start, have a finish. No one likes to commit to a new TV show only to have it cancelled midway. You're better off having a short run with an actual conclusion than being too ambitious and giving up midway, leaving your listeners hanging.
Back to formatting - I won't get too much into the nitty gritty of how to do interviews or solopodcasts. That will largely be dependent on your goal, aspirational result, topic and you. You'll need to experiment to find your voice. Some are very formal, others casual. You may be tying your show to a business, which will sound very different than if you're doing a show based around a hobby or pastime.
I recommend listen to shows that are out there to get a sense of different styles and formats. You can borrow elements that you like but tailor them to your show, and make the show uniquely you.
To that end, I recommend you practice. Turn on your phone's voice recorder and start talking. Practice one of your episodes. Listen to it in playback at least a couple of times. If you feel cringey hearing yourself, listen to yourself more until you no longer feel self-conscious about it. Getting comfortable with yourself will make it easier for you to put your voice and yourself out there. We'll cover this more next week.
If you're doing an interview or conversational podcast, practice with a friend or colleague. Go through the steps of hopping on Zoom or Skype or in person and doing a mock interview. Record the session and listen to it in playback. Don't worry about the tech or getting it perfect. This is just for practice.
Review your practice sessions with your theme and topic wheel. How well did you accomplish what you set out to do in the episode? What did you like and didn't you like? Don't worry if you hate what you hear. Everyone is clumsy and awkward the first time they do something like this. The point of this exercise is for you to start getting out of your comfort zone and getting accustomed to the process. You'll also want to evaluate your format and see if you want to make changes or adjustments.
For more on formatting, check out:
MF 264 : Podcasting Styles (you can ignore the sections on hosting as we'll cover that later).
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