“Perfect is the enemy of done” is a common refrain. Shipping a product out the door with a few non-fatal flaws is almost always better than failing to launch a product because it doesn’t meet your unreasonable expectations of perfection. The same statement generally holds true in podcasting.
But today, I want us to finally pay attention to that nagging suspicion that we often have when listening to the final mix/master an episode suggesting to us that maybe, just maybe we could make it better.
Let’s keep our attention on an individual episode because I want to make this episode/article immediately actionable to you. And if can make your podcast’s episodes better, your overall show will be that much better as well.
And let’s also assume this is happening in that rare circumstance where, after loading the episode’s audio and text to the hosting company’s platform, you have some time to play “what if” rather than pushing those doubts to the side. A (perhaps mythological) world where the actual publishing date is days if not more than a week away. And your brain says; “What’s missing that might make this podcast episode better?”
Maybe one of these five things.
1. Is A Segment Missing?
Your episodes are likely broken up into segments, even if those are just opening, body, and close. But quite often, I hear episodes that just end after the main content is over, leaving the listeners to fend for themselves.
So adding a wrap-up section, where you tell the listeners what they just listened to, drawing attention to the main points raised, and then having a clear call to action at the end could be what’s missing. I’ll go further and say that if you don’t have a wrap-up at the end of your episodes, then that’s definitely what’s missing.
If your topic is heavy, consider adding in a “good news” segment. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be related to the topic. Just a breath of fresh air for the listener who’s struggling with the weight of the topic.
Similarly, having a different take or contrarian opinion than your own can draw a nice contrast. I’m not suggesting you give equal airtime to thoughts or opinions you don’t agree with. But your listeners will appreciate you for showing them a glimpse of the complexity—without overloading them or forcing them to become the experts.
2. Does This Episode Need Internal Guideposts?
If your episodes routinely exceed 30 minutes, placing guideposts inside the episode content can really help keep your listener on the journey with you. Guideposts are short voice-over parts, probably voiced by you, that are placed into the long-form content of your episode after it’s been recorded. Their intent is simple: provide just enough “here’s what’s coming next” to keep your listener engaged enough to get through the big, chunky blocks where you or someone else got a little long-winded.
Little things like “I know we’re getting a little far afield of Topic Of This Episode, but bear with me because I promise this will pay off at the end” or something not quite so literal can keep retention rates—visible on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or through the web player provided by your podcast media host—high and your listeners engaged.
3. Would Sound Design Help Keep The Listener Engaged?
A bit more subtle than adding guideposts, excellent sound design throughout the episode can keep the listener’s brain engaged for your entire episode. That doesn’t mean taking the theme music you use for your show open/close and having it play on a loop throughout the episode. That’s annoying.
Solid sound design requires a deft touch. But done well, music can help to underline, emphasize and accent the spoken word just like good typography can do on the page. Yes, words matter, but how those words are presented and accentuated also matters. And oftentimes tone and inflection spoken aloud by people can be enhanced by just the right application of sound, music, and sometimes silence.
Remember that podcasting is a “found time” medium, and many listeners are engaged in other low-level tasks while listening. Good sound design can use a musical note, passage, or clip to draw attention back to what was just said.
4. Do I Need To Add A New Voice?
Podcasters tend to do as much on their own as they can, including voicing the “structural” bits of an episode, like setup and wrap-up, or even “section headings” inside the episode. And while that absolutely can and does work, a new voice might be nice.
Hiring a professional, semi-professional, or just swapping services with another podcaster can add a bit of variety to your episodes and keep you focused on what you do best.
5. Did I Need To Say All Of That?
The last item is actually a subtraction because less is often more. Sometimes the best way to keep a listener engaged all the way through an episode is to give them less to chew on.
Giving your episode a solid edit—and I do not mean audio editing—on paper can have a huge impact on your episodes’ retention rates. Whether you need a scalpel, pair of scissors, or a meat cleaver, give your content the attention it needs at the start of the post-production process.
This is also a great time to start identifying internal guideposts or making notes for possible sound design. You can also wholesale rearrange content to tell a more compelling story than you got during the interview or after you gave voice to your idea in a monologue fashion.
Bringing In Your Podcasting Peers
Which of those five things—either singularly or in combination—are missing from your episodes that you could add in if you had the time? It’s probably hard to answer that from the inside. But I bet your podcasting peers have advice for you.
Share this article with them so they know the five possible missing pieces and then share your most recent episode with them. Ask which of the five they’d like to see you incorporate, and then work on doing that. A second friendly opinion is always a good idea.
And if you loved this idea or any of the ideas I share with you on Podcast Pontifications, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra to show me your appreciation through virtual coffee.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.