Step 6: Show Outline
By now, you should have the goal of your podcast, identified your audience, an overview of your competitors, and a list of key themes and topics provided to you by your target audience. The next step is to start outlining your show.
Your show outline is the concept of your show and your hook - why people should listen. This includes the topics and themes you’ll discuss, how you’ll deliver the content, and your unique angle and voice.
You’ll likely have a long list of topics you want to cover across your niche, but go on the assumption that you won’t be able to cover everything. So what’s the most important content your audience wants to hear, and how can you hook them in?
This is where your competitive research will be useful, as you know what everyone else is doing. Your hook could be to do with the way the content is delivered. Suppose you operate in a traditionally serious industry; perhaps you could bring some comedy into your podcast? Or maybe your competitor’s episodes are really long, so you’ll make yours less than 10 minutes so they can be listened to during work breaks?
The hook of your show is what’s going to differentiate it from other podcasts in your niche.
Next, you want to start thinking about your format. Your format will determine the flow and structure of your podcast episodes. There are a few key elements you need to consider when finding your format:
- Is the podcast interview-based or solo?
- Will you have one host or multiple?
- Will you focus on one topic per episode or several?
- Will you have any re-occurring segments?
- How long will your episodes be?
- How frequently will you publish?
- Will you release episodes consistently or in seasons?
The decision of having a solo host or multiple co-hosts can come down to your own preference as there are advantages to both styles of hosting. For solo hosts, it can be easier to plan recordings as you are not restricted by the schedule of your co-hosts, meaning you can more easily work around your own schedule. Moreover a solo host can make the show revolve around them and their voice, meaning they can be the main attraction. That also means that being a solo host may be more nerve-wracking to first-time hosts as they are solely responsible for instigating the conversation and maintaining the audience’s attention.
On the other hand, while co-hosting can be more difficult to schedule, having multiple hosts can be a great way to keep the conversation flowing, add different perspectives and knowledge, and provide a more dynamic conversation for listeners. Furthermore, while a solo host certainly shouldn’t feel that they have to interview guests and can certainly talk through a topic (similar to a TED talk), with a co-hosted podcast, that reliance on other guests further diminishes as it is possible to hold a conversation between the hosts, exploring their own opinions, knowledge and experiences.
Regardless of whether you are a solo host or have co-hosts, you want to ensure that you come across as a credible source. If you decide to go solo or with a partner, make sure the host(s) are well-prepared for each episode so that their passion and expertise can shine through.
A discussion-style structure for your podcast is ideal for anyone looking to explore a particular topic with their own expert opinion or experience. With this structure, the host or co-hosts are able to explore their own experience and knowledge, rather than relying solely on that of the guest as is typical for interviews. Discussion-based podcasts are also less structured and more conversational.
An interview podcast is typically highly structured, in which the host acts as the guide for the listener, presenting a question-and-answer format, typically with guests such as industry professionals, those who are knowledgeable on the topic and those whose story best demonstrates the topic. This structure can be very beneficial as you can ensure that you and your co-host/guest are able to cover everything that you wanted. You can also send the questions to the guests ahead of time so that they are able to prepare. However, when using an interview structure, the conversation can be constrained as the host may be limited to the questions they have prepared in advance, meaning that any areas of discussion that come up over the course of the conversation may get missed.
Moreover, this can affect the flow of the conversation, although this can be mitigated to an extent by being willing and able to change the order in which the questions are asked, however that can take practice to do well.
With a round table podcast, you will typically have several guests discussing a single topic. The host may present an occasional prompt of an area of discussion, but the direction that the podcast goes in is dictated by the conversation had between the guests. This can provide fascinating insight for your listeners as a round table discussion allows the possibility of new areas of conversation to arise that you had perhaps not thought of or planned for.
A narrative structure may sound confined to fiction, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! With a narrative podcast, it is typically the host or hosts that present different threads of information, backed by case studies, statistics and further research, to build a picture of a wider point or narrative. This structure can be incredibly engaging, however arguably takes the most work to prepare and assemble.
At the end of the day, the structure of your podcast will heavily depend on the topic, the information you wish to present, and what you believe your audience would most engage with. Consider whether interviews, discussions, round table or narrative structures would best serve the content you are looking to deliver.
You could break up your podcast into smaller segments. The advantage of this is it adds can add structure and variety to the episode. That being said, it is important not to fall into the trap of being too rigid with your segments, it is better to deviate from the formula as and when required, rather than restricting your discussions to fit into a particular kind of segment.
When looking at the duration you want for your podcast it is important to consider your audience, the topic and your competition. The optimal length can vary from podcast to podcast. You want to be able to cover content in sufficient detail without it feeling rushed, but similarly, if you try to make your podcast episodes too long, you run the risk of losing your audience’s interest.
A shorter podcast can facilitate very specific and tightly packed discussions. A shorter episode may also suit your audience’s schedules better, so a podcast aimed at business owners may be more successful having episodes that run for 10-15 minutes on average to allow the listener to get caught up on your content during lunch breaks.
In contrast, longer episodes can allow you to cover everything you wanted to in a single episode, whether that is through multiple segments or through interviews with one or more guests. However, with longer run times, it can be easy to try to attempt to do too much to fill out the time, which can be counterproductive. It is better to cover less breadth but more deeply, rather than casting a wider net and only being able to scratch the surface.
Within podcasting, most successful podcasts opt for a weekly or bi-weekly release schedule. While a monthly release schedule is appropriate in some circumstances, in our experience that can make it difficult to build momentum and gain an audience. As such it is advisable to aim for a weekly/bi-weekly release schedule as consistency and frequency are vital when building your audience.
To ensure that you can meet and maintain your desired frequency, make sure you are prepared before recording. This could include topics, questions, guest research and content that you want to cover. Once you have decided the frequency you want to maintain, do your best to stick to it and be consistent with when you release content. It can be helpful to work at least two episodes ahead of the release schedule to allow some leeway encase there are any issues or delays when it comes to scheduling the next recording.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how you should structure your podcast and how frequently you should post, as production time will vary depending on the topic and format of the podcast, as well as the availability of the hosts and guests. However, a good rule of thumb is to release new episodes regularly, preferably once a week or every other week. This will help keep listeners engaged and allow you to gain momentum.
Now, show outlines aren’t set in stone. One problem we see with podcasts is that they stick too rigidly to their show outline, which can result in stale content. So don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with your show!