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Planning your episodes

Even the most natural, off-the-cuff sounding podcasts need a bit of planning, and in most cases, the more planning you do before you hit Record, the less editing you’ll need to do afterwards. Plus, the notes you write ow can contribute to the text content that makes up your podcast episode.

Planning an episode

Let’s say you’re working on a comedy podcast. You might be riffing on the week’s news, in which case, start a shared Google doc and invite your co-hosts to submit links to talking points. Arrange your show into segments, and label each section so you know roughly what you’ll say. If you have multiple people to introduce, list their names in the order you’ll introduce them (this is especially useful if you want your co-hosts or guests to introduce themselves).

A podcast that has a more professional focus might benefit from more stringent notes, perhaps with segment fragments broken up into bullet points, so you can make the points you need to make but also sound natural.

In all cases, if there’s specific information you need to import to your listeners — like a guest’s name, a web address or a Twitter or Instagram handle — write them down. It can be easy to forget basic housekeeping stuff when you’re in the middle of recording a fascinating discussion, and reminding yourself before you hit Record will save you having to go back and re-record an outdo. This is especially important for calls-to-action (to encourage people to support you on Patreon or review the podcast), as you want to make sure to provide accurate informations and simple instructions.

If you have a guest you’ve not spoken to before, make sure you know how to pronounce their name, and don’t assume you know how to pronounce it. You might also want to consider your guest’s preferred gender pronoun beforehand (he, she, they, etc), since what you assume to be their pronoun may not match their identity.

It might take you a few iterations to get into the groove of writing effective recording notes. Once you feel like you’ve got it, create a template so you can easily start a new episode and know that all the information common to each episode is there.

It’s up to you whether you want to share your notes with guests. Most guests are happy to be guided by the host, but use your own judgement as to whether you’re sharing useful information with them or potentially just adding to their reading list.

Planning a series

If you’re starting a new podcast series or season, it’s a good idea to have a list of episodes you know you’ll be able to record, or guest conversations you can schedule. Tools like Trello are good for planning episodes in stages, as you can create a board with columns like “Idea”, “Planned”, “Recorded”, “Uploaded”, “Published”. Just keep adding new cards to the “Ideas” column as they occur to you, and then flesh them out with a document and move each to the “Planned” column, and so on.

A similar approach works with guest-based podcasts. You might have a long list of guests you’d like to have on your podcast. In which case, you can have a board with columns like “Potential”, “Asked”, “Interested”, “Scheduled”, “Recorded”, etc. As you think of new guests to add, add cards with names and any contact details you can find to the “Potential” column. Then every so often, work through your list of potential guests and contact them. Move each guest along as you get a successful response.

Planning your marketing

As you flesh out the idea for each episode, think about the marketing materials you can create, either to promote the upcoming episode before it’s released, or afterwards. Much of your marketing will centre around the recorded audio, but as part of your planning process, you might consider putting together your episode artwork and social media images — if you plan on using them — based on relevant images, like a photo of the guest or an image that represents the topic you’re discussing.

Finding the balance

Obviously too much planning beforehand could lead to work you have to throw out if the episode doesn’t work, or the guest isn’t able to make it. However, the work you do could be reused, and again, it may save you time during and after the edit, when you’re eager to get the episode out and move on to the next one.

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