Preparing for and Learning from Your First Podcast Episode

To celebrate 300 episodes of The Audacity to Podcast, I'm drawing lessons from this show's first episode to help you launch your podcast better, or learn how you can improve.

I published the first episode of The Audacity to Podcast, “You Need Passion, Organization, and Dialog (POD) to Podcast,” on June 17, 2010. It's launch coincided with the launch of Noodle Mix Network.

1. Serve your audience

In my first episode, I spent too much time talking about what a podcast is. (Even as far back as 2010, I addressed the debate over the word “podcast”!) But my target audience was existing and want-to-be podcasters, so it's reasonable to assume they know what a podcast is.

First, why are you podcasting? If serving others isn't part of that answer, then you may need to re-evaluate your reasons for podcasting.

Second, whom are you podcasting to? What do they actually need? Understand and get to know your audience by asking them questions.

Third, what expectations are you setting up for your podcast? A lot of people came to The Audacity to Podcast looking for information on the Audacity software, which I didn't directly discuss until several episodes in (a point Dave Jackson even made when he first discovered my podcast). Deliver what people came for, and they'll often stay for more.

2. Respect your audience's time

I cringed when I discovered that my first episode of The Audacity to Podcast started with an ad! It was an ad for my own (now retired) graphic and web design business.

I also spent too much time talking about myself and talking about the podcast instead of simply giving the podcast.

In fact, that first episode took nearly three minutes to get into the actual content!

While some people may not mind much if you waste a little of their time, I'm confident no one will hate you for respecting their time.

Don't worry about making your episodes an “ideal length.” Make every minute count, and your audience will most likely not care how many minutes you give them.

3. Plan your show's future

Before I started The Audacity to Podcast, I made a list of 35 topics I wanted to cover. That simple plan gave me direction for the future and that approach continues to help me consistently create new content.

Whether you're launching your podcast or you've been podcasting for a while, try brainstorming a list of future topics: themes, guests, stories, reviews, and more.

The first iTunes review I ever received was from Erik Fisher (now a great friend and the host of Beyond the To-Do List, which is on my network) and it demonstrates the perceived value in having and following a plan:

Let me be the first to say that this show will be around a while. I say that not just because Daniel has it planned out, but because even after just two episodes, it's that good. This show will empower you to podcast through information and motivation. Great job!

4. Prepare your content and presentation

I don't remember exactly how long I spent preparing my first episode, but I have a feeling it was only as long as it took to come up with “POD: passion, organization, and dialogue.” I probably spent no time preparing how I would communicate that message.

The better you prepare, the fewer mistakes you'll make (and thus fewer things you may want to edit out).

5. Be yourself

When I started The Audacity to Podcast, I was still finding my voice. I was not necessarily trying to be anyone else in particular, but I was trying to be “bigger than life” in a way that didn't actually fit my own life. I could hear in my voice how I was trying to sound like a radio DJ or voiceover artist.

Masking or inflating your personality takes extra energy and can wear off, but the real you is the most natural person you can be. It's okay to amplify yourself a little, as that may communicate better when your audience isn't one-on-one, face-to-face, and in person with you. But remember to amplify yourself, not something else.

6. Stay focused

Wow, was I distracted in that first episode! I was trying to explain the podcast, trying to demonstrate my expertise, and trying to engage with a live chat audience. Because of that, I got distracted many times by being interrupted by the chat room or by stumbling over how I said something.

As much as possible, focus on the message you want to share and whom you want to share it with.

I also recommend focusing on building only one podcast at a time. In my first episode, I teased the idea of starting a podcast in a void that had been left open. Instead of starting that podcast, I focused on The Audacity to Podcast and it paid off!

7. Don't obsess

The audio quality of my first episode wasn't great. It sounds even worse, now, because I someday went back and re-processed the audio. There was noticeable background noise from my computer, horribly amplified breath noises, and an annoyingly gate that made the background noise more noticeable by “punching” it in and out.

That first episode also launched alongside the extremely underdeveloped Noodle Mix Network.

Sure, those things probably mattered and might have turned away a few people back then. But those were short-term problems that don't affect me anymore.

Today, the #1 obsession for new podcasters seems to be with their “massive launch”: reviews, iTunes New & Noteworthy, ranking, episodes in the can, and launch partners. When I started, I had zero reviews, but I was featured on the front page of iTunes. That was fun and inspirational, but the real work in growing my audience started weeks later when the New & Noteworthy spike dropped off.

Regardless of where you are in your podcasting journey, I think obsession is unhealthy. If anything, you could obsess over delivering value to your audience, and you'll be respected for that. But that may come at the cost of a personal connection with your audience (as I often struggle with).

8. Don't give up

Not everyone loved me or The Audacity to Podcast when I started. It especially seemed like listeners from Australia and New Zealand disliked me, as demonstrated in this 3-star review from “Aussie-Jack.” This was only my second review and my first international review:

Tends to waffel on a bit, but generally not bad. Second to the PodcastAnswerMan (Cliff has been doing it for awhile, now). If Daniel has the long-term passion, he will only get better. Go Daniel! -Congratulations

Yes, I have the long-term passion and I know my show has gotten better.

Wherever you are in podcasting, don't give up if you're not yet where you want to be. Reach out to experts, join my Podcasters' Society, or do whatever it takes to keep growing and improving. You will see returns when you invest with smart work!

BONUS: Emily Prokop's review

When I first announced what I would be doing to celebrate my 300th episode, Emily Prokop responded with such value, I could not merely quote from it. So listen to Emily's full ten minutes and check out her great podcast, The Story Behind.

(Emily referenced my article, “There Is No #1 in iTunes Podcasts ‘New and Noteworthy.'”)

Thank you for the podcast reviews!

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    • April 2, 2017 was my tenth anniversary in podcasting! To celebrate, my next episode will feature my wife (and a little bit of Noodle Baby) interviewing me and helping to tell my full story (even with the ugly details) of podcasting and my business. It will even include how podcasting helped me through what I call “the year of hell” when I felt like everything in my life was killed or dying. Watch for that in episode 301!

    Need personalized podcasting help?

    I no longer offer one-on-one consulting outside of Podcasters' Society, but request a consultant here and I'll connect you with someone I trust to help you launch or improve your podcast.

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    This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

    About the Author
    As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
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    Mark Struczewski
    6 years ago

    Hi, Daniel. This is the first podcast of yours I listened to you and it really helped me. I’m about to launch my own podcast this week and this really helped me. I will continue to listen and get better and better. My goal is that my first podcast will be my worst 😉

    4 years ago

    Great article! Just starting out. I don’t think I saw a suggestion on a schedule…or how often to post.

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