50 very quick tips: how to write and make powerful podcasts

Although we’ve already looked at some tips on writing for spoken speech in articles like this here on HTWB, since those were written circumstances have changed and so, too, have the goal posts where both writing and production are concerned.

50 very quick tips: how to write and make powerful podcasts

Powerful podcast how-to: a step-by-step guide from the twinkle in your eye to the finished product, by Suzan St Maur on HowToWriteBetter.net

Here then, are my up-to-date tips on how to do this well for the ever-popular podcast medium…

1. Start by assessing the pros and cons of podcast communication

2. First con: no pictures

3. Second con: no printable text to read later, unless you add that specially

4. Third con: people often do other things while listening to a podcast or other audio product

5. Fourth con: your podcast, as result of tip 4., has to be very engaging to cut through ambient distractions

6. First pro: podcasts usually are portable so your audience can listen anywhere

7. Second pro: podcasts, like radio, are very personal and intimate: with radio, we always say it’s not an audience of thousands, but thousands of audiences of one

8. Third pro: people can get on with other tasks – especially mundane tasks – while still hearing your message

9. Fourth pro: podcasts are a very cheap and effective way of talking to your audience

10. Think how you are going to keep your podcast listeners’ attention

11. Because you don’t have people’s attention reading text or watching still or moving images, your words need to be extra crisp

12. Remember tip #7 – audio is intimate

13. Rather than try to adapt written text (or even a video script), focus your mind on blind words only

14. If you find that spooky, think about how you talk to a friend on the phone

15. Now, of course, that friend will be listening to you intently! Hmmm … maybe with one eye on the TV, children, grocery shopping, emails?

16. Think how you can share your content in a way that will keep your listeners’ interest right up to top level, throughout the podcast

17. Break up your information into short, digestible sections

18. Work out the key point of each section and bring out its most interesting elements that will keep hold of your listeners’ attention

19. Sort out your material like journalists do – start with major points and go into detail later

20. Start writing your podcast using powerful, spiky spoken speech

21. Remember tip #15 – your listener probably will have one eye on something else

22. If you can’t manage to write this style by hand or on your keyboard, record yourself speaking each section. Spoken style is essential here

23. If you have recorded your voice, transcribe it afterwards to use for your podcast recording script

24. To start: grab them with a fact or notion that they won’t have thought of before

25. Expand on that a bit, but move on to the next really interesting chunk before you get into detail. Keep each chunk short

26. Remember that detail shouldn’t really be in a podcast: offer listeners a free download of the expanded version. Too much detail will lose their attention. Audio is all about soundbite communication, I’m afraid…

27. Draw them in by frequently talking about “you” and how your own topic / message can affect “you”

28. Emphasise the personal connection with phrases like “as you know,” “I’m sure you’ve wondered about this,” “you and I know better,” etc.

29. Recap on what you have said every so often before you move on to the next section

30. Now collate all this and start editing your podcast script

31. Sad news: to edit well, you need to be brutal. So get ready

32. Get your material organised and take a look at what you have written down

33. Assuming it’s already in a relatively organised form, record yourself reading it

34. Do something else for at least a few hours – preferably a couple of days, if you have time

35. Go back to the recording and play it back. Would this soundtrack keep hold of your attention while you’re scrolling your emails or ironing shirts?

36. Edit your written version appropriately. If you can’t be horribly honest about it yourself, get someone else to help

37. For once, spelling and punctuation mistakes don’t actually matter! But grammar mistakes do. Check it carefully for these

38. Polish, polish, polish. And cut out any superfluous crap. Excess adjective and adverbs in particular. Choppy, direct and lively is what you need

39. Once you have done that, go back and cut again. I know, it hurts. Tell me about it: I do it with my own writing every day

40. You’re ready to record and polish your podcast

41. Be careful to choose the appropriate software and system to record and share your podcast. Seek advice from an expert if you’re not one yourself

42. Unless you’re on a low budget, it usually pays to go to a professional sound recording studio to make your podcast. Not only is the quality going to be better than home-produced, but also someone else will take care of all the techie stuff leaving you free to focus on the quality of the message and delivery

43. If you want to record the soundtrack yourself, be honest about the quality of your voice. If it’s high and squeaky, you speak very fast, or you have a heavy accent, get someone else to do it. Nothing personal; it’s just that you want your audience to understand your message clearly

44. Before you start recording, make sure you’re in a room with plenty of soft furnishings to deaden echo. Also make sure you’re soundproofed against telephones, computer noises, doorbells, yelling children, barking dogs, and noisy road traffic. Airplanes and helicopters flying low overhead are just bad luck … you’ll have to re-record their bits!

45. Don’t try to record the podcast all in one hit. Do it in digestible chunks which can be edited together later

46. If you make a mistake, simply stop the recording, go back a little, do that section again, and then keep going

47. Although it makes sense to keep the recording clear and crisp, a little music here and there can act as punctuation, and also to separate sections of information

48. Keep it short. Thanks largely to digital comms, people’s attention spans are getting shorter by the day. If you have more than a few minutes’ worth of material split that into shorter sections and offer as a series

49. All your content editing should have been done at script stage. So now, edit a bit more if you must, but don’t strangle the natural, spontaneous, conversational style. This is not a lecture. Keep it human, and you’ll keep your audience’s attention

50. Et voilà! A well written podcast that will work well and earn its keep

Good luck with writing and producing your next podcast. Let us know how you get on!