Whether you’re launching your first podcast, or thinking of reformatting the one you have, you should think a lot about how you will present your content.
I see three different formats for presenting content.
- Script—you write and read the script verbatim into your podcast.
- Ad-lib—you speak freely without restriction or direction.
- Outline—you have a basic list of content you want to share
This topic was inspired by Alan’s question.
Hi Daniel, I love your podcast . I am new to listening to podcasts and I am intending to start my own soon.
I have a question about episode 144 which I have just listened to today. It’s the one about finding the time to podcast.
How much scripting do you do, if any, for pre-show prep? It sounds to me that you do none as its so natural sounding.
I love the way you describe how to break it down into parts. ( the P’s) This makes it all seem so do-able to me.
many thanks and you get my vote for the annual podcast awards.
Alan ….. in London U.K.
When you’re concerned about perfection, the highest accuracy, or you’re not yet comfortable speaking into a microphone, you may be considering, “Should I script my podcast?” This may be the right way to go for some podcasters.
Scripted audio and video is all around us.
- Movies and non-reality TV shows are scripted and performed by (usually) skilled actors.
- News broadcasts on radio and TV are scripted and either read from a teleprompter or script.
- Political speakers usually read from a teleprompter, too.
- Commercials are almost always scripted.
- Some popular podcasts—like Grammar Girl and others from Quick and Dirty Tips—are scripted.
- Even late-night comedy shows are partially scripted.
Scripting ensures that you’ll get the message exactly right, often to precise timing, which is crucial in all of these media. But this precision and accuracy comes at the cost of time and presentation quality.
The downside to scripts is that they must be read. It takes professional coaching or years of practice to get good at reading a script naturally.
Scripted podcast content doesn’t work in long form. I think around ten minutes is the longest you should let a scripted podcast be.
Because most of us aren’t professional voiceover artists, reading a script will often produce loads of editing as you struggling to perform perfectly.
When I first started the Ramen Noodle – clean-comedy podcast, I scripted my episodes and performed them verbatim. This took many hours to produce a single episode, and it’s why I only had nine episodes in two years.
On the total opposite to scripting would be ad-libbing. This is when you speak freely and have no restrictions or directions for your content.
This can be very comfortable for some people to present, but others will be very uncomfortable with publishing something unpolished.
Ad-libbing allows your personality to fully show through (as long as you’re presenting something you truly care about).
Conversations are a form of ad-libbing as each participant speaks as the thoughts come to them.
Free-flowing thought can be hard for a listener or viewer to follow, and they may often be annoyed by the rabbit trails and excessive emptiness a podcaster speaks to make a simple point.
I know I can struggle with a little too much ad-libbing. This means I’m wasting your time to tell you something in five minutes that could take me one.
Outline (my recommendation)
A hybrid between a rigid script and ad lib would be an outline. This is when you have your points you want to cover, and the extra information handy, and then you present from those points.
This doesn’t mean every episode is “10 ways to …” or “How to … in 5 steps.” You may have some of that (and it makes for great episode/post titles!), but you don’t need to share your outline. You can present great content from a 5-, 10-, or 50-point outline without your audience ever knowing your list, but still receiving the information.
This is my top recommendation because it gives your content flow, while still allowing freedom to ad-lib as you elaborate your points.
Even multihost podcasts can follow outlines. In our Once Upon a Time or Once Upon a Time in Wonderland podcasts, we have taken notes on what we want to discuss, and we work our way through those notes.
Using an outline in conversations keeps the discussion moving and ensures you present a structured message to your audience.
A hybrid for your show notes
If you want the most effective podcast show notes, then I recommend combining all of the above.
- Outline your content with headings, subheadings, and lists.
- Script or transcribe the things that must be accurate (quotations, technical descriptions, etc.).
- Ad-lib by writing some concise sentences that summarize what you spoke, without being a transcript or commentary.
These hybrid show notes become very useful:
- to you, as you present the content and have an outline and certain wordings you must get right;
- to your audience, as they have the option of consuming (or reviewing) your content without rewatching or relistening to your podcast episode;
- and to search engines, as this more thorough content can be laced with search-engine-optimized (SEO) keywords, human text, and quality content.
What about you?
How do you prepare your content presentation? Do you script, ad-lib, or outline? What has been your experience?
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- Check out Podcasters’ Roundtable #18, “When Not to Start a Podcast” with guest Lisa B. Marshall.
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