Improve Podcast School – episode 10
I have a question for you:
What is the worst feeling after recording and publishing an episode?
I know that most podcasters are extremely self-aware. After completing the editing and mastering our show, many of us hit the play button. And I know many people think, “that is my worst episode ever.” We have all been there.
But we also have been in a place where we felt proud about an episode, and, unfortunately, our listening stats did not reflect that at all.
So in this episode, we will work on making every single episode count by focusing on preparation and creating highly engaging and converting episodes.
Let’s see what data tells us about preparation.
57% of lower-revenue podcasters don’t use any episode drafts or use only a general outline of the episode when recording. That is a lot.
They are betting on improvisation skills and their general ability to talk competently and in an entertaining way about the subject of their podcast.
On the other hand, 74% of higher-income podcasters have either a detailed outline or a full script ready before the recording session.
Being that prepared allows for a great level of control and story flow and allows you to take your listener on the journey you can fully design and predict.
Here are 5 Ways to Look at this Data to Help You Make the Best Choice for Your Show
1. No preparation is accepted only when you are highly competent, or improvisation is your thing
Roughly 9% of all podcasters don’t use any drafts when recording.
I recommend that approach only to a tiny group of creators.
Now, we have to acknowledge that some podcasts are difficult to script.
Many gameplay-type podcasts are not scripted, and that is easy to understand. They often rely on the dynamics between the people on the show and random events in a game.
The audience expects an unscripted form. The natural reactions of hosts keep them hooked on, and the experience of surprise, fear, or humor, when shared with the host, are something unique that can’t be scripted.
As a small sidenote, gameplay-type shows are harder to monetize. Just be aware of that.
But this formula, of course, is not limited to gameplay shows but is often used in many entertainment shows, when hosts surprise each other all the time and constantly react to what the other party is saying. That dynamic can be entertaining but can also be fatiguing for listeners if not controlled at all.
On the other hand, you have shows like Star Talk.
That podcast works similarly.
However, Neil deGrasse Tyson is extremely competent at what he does, and the show balances teaching its listeners and hosts just having a ton of fun.
Additionally, in most of the episodes, they try to answer many questions, which limits the length of rants. Neil deGrasse Tyson, as a competent host, is aware when he is giving a lengthy reply on purpose and when he should wrap things up.
If you don’t have that experience, or you can’t control your rants.
2. You need to come prepared for a podcast recording
Research clearly shows that not enough people are preparing for recording.
57% of lower-income podcasters don’t use drafts or use only a general outline of the episode.
It does appear that a low preparation level is correlated with the struggle when it comes to monetization. Of course, there could be other contributing factors, or a low level of preparation could just be a symptom of a broader problem.
What do I mean by that?
There is another correlation found in the data.
That group of podcasters, the 57% of lower-revenue podcasters, who do not prepare enough for recording, the same group also uses fewer marketing and monetization channels.
So being inadequately prepared for a recording session might indicate that there is not enough effort put into the growth of a show.
Something that later is reflected in the quality of the show, poor marketing, and unfocused monetization.
There are no quick or easy wins in podcasting. If you don’t put in the effort, you won’t see the results. In this situation, the 3 Breakthrough Points of Podcasting Success, which we talked about in the previous episode, will be beyond your reach.
You won’t quickly collect your first 1,000 listeners per episode, which in many cases will just mean you won’t be motivated to push towards 100 episodes. You may abandon your show before the 24 months mark and lose the chance for a successful show.
If you are on that lower end of the preparation spectrum, you need to read it as a clear signal – you need to put more effort into preparation and execution.
3. Top performing podcasts dedicate time for preparation
Hosts of the chart-dominating shows are well prepared in terms of marketing, monetization, and recording sessions.
Overall, they have a better-structured approach to podcasting, and the show itself is only part of their focused efforts.
The episode itself is crafted to elicit an emotional response, get their listeners invested, bring them on a satisfying journey, and finally return them for the next episode.
36% of higher-income podcasts start a recording with a very detailed outline with all the main points laid out.
A good outline will plan the listener’s journey from the first minute until the end of the episode.
And on top, another 38% of top performers have a full script ready before recording.
That means that, in total, 3 out of 4 higher-income podcasters designate a portion of their time to make sure the episode flows correctly and all the main points are covered during the recording session.
If you dedicate time for preparation, you will gain more control over the episode and how your audience will perceive your show.
This, in turn, will increase the impact of your episode and help you grow faster.
And if you could dedicate a bit of your time to follow the show and help us become one of the top-performing podcasts for other podcasters, that would be just awesome.
In most cases, preparation is just a piece of the larger puzzle, where the successful podcasters allocate time to multiple activities to bring together the best results.
4. Importance of preparation is greater if you are just starting out
You will find very often people saying that sounding natural on your recording is most important and that preparation will only make sounding natural more difficult and instead make you sound too scripted.
You will often hear advice to only work from high-level notes.
But the data tells us something different. That preparation is, in fact, a key to a successful show.
The full picture is, of course, a bit more complex.
The truth is that when you begin your podcasting journey, you need to spend more time on preparation.
And sure, if you prepare a stiff script or mess up your delivery, you risk a chance of sounding too scripted.
You should anyway persevere as naturally, with time you will improve all your skills.
With time, you may need to spend less time scripting and drafting outlines.
When you achieve a level of high proficiency and train in public speaking, you may significantly reduce the time you need to prepare before recording.
But until then, you should work from a script or a very detailed outline.
As the saying goes, “Chance favors the prepared mind” (Louis Pasteur).
The most successful shows require both insight and good fortune.
You just need to make your script and performance come out naturally.
If you want to understand this better, then in the next episode, I will cover, Is the Speaking Pace (Words Per Minute) Important in Podcasting, so make sure you follow the show.
When you are starting, many things require your attention. So to solve this problem…
5. Put a good content production schedule in place
If you want to record your episodes efficiently and avoid sticking for too long on any tasks, like writing scripts, you need to have a content production system.
A well-produced, regularly published, and the engaging episode is something that will have the biggest impact on your success.
You can cut the preparation time by using reliable sources, timeboxing your work, working with a calendar, or recording and editing in bulk.
Even good equipment and good recording software, like the one we recommend daily, will save you a lot of time on editing, which you can spend on preparing your episodes.
Similarly, having a detailed profile of your listener is also a powerful tool used by those who monetize successfully.
Another way to cut down on the prep cycle is to publish in seasons. It is not the most popular method, but 25% of higher-income podcasters do it successfully. I only recommend you to do this if you have an established brand and where people are waiting for you to publish new content.
If you don’t have a brand, focus on your content production system.
If you are not sure where to start, then start regularly using a calendar app and a simple app for tasks and reminders. I use the ones that come installed on my Mac, and they are more than enough for anyone to develop good routines and work ethic. I recommend you to start with the simplest tools you have at your disposal.
The key takeaway for you from this episode is that you need to put time and effort into preparing your show.
The good thing is that the dominant publishing schedule is 1 episode per week, so it shouldn’t be that hard to put an extra hour or two into polishing your outline or script.
Time and time again, I’ve seen on average that people who plan and prepare, in the end, achieve better results and reap greater rewards.
Start your show with a robust system that will plan for scripting, and as you become more professional, you will get a chance to reduce that effort and maintain your quality simultaneously.