EPISODE 0

 

This episode will be the first episode that you record. In it, you must showcase to listeners what your podcast is going to be about. My friend, whom I referenced previously, started a podcast that serves as a diary for his garden. And so, in his Episode 0, he said exactly that. He welcomed any listeners, introduced himself, and said that this podcast was about his gardening journey where he was planting strawberries, blueberries, snap peas, and figs. This episode he briefly recapped what his podcast description was. 

 

To end, he welcomed any listeners to start a garden of their own and join him on the journey. See? It’s really that simple! We know that you’re excited to begin recording, but before you do, please finish reading the following information before heading to Chapter 6. We promise you that once you finish reading this whole chapter, you’ll have a much clearer picture on your podcast show. 

OTHER EPISODES

 

After your first episode (Episode 0), you will have your second episode (Episode 1), your third episode (Episode 2), your fourth episode (Episode 3), and so on. Yes, we know, it’s pretty weird how all the numbers are off by one. But don’t worry too much about that. 

 

In all the subsequent episodes after Episode 0, you can talk about pretty much anything. Just make sure that it’s in line with the theme and purpose of your podcast. But because you have so much freedom in planning the content of these episodes, it’s super important to have a solid organization and map of what your podcast episode is going to say. Please note that this structure is only a means to set your episode up for success. Later on, feel free to deviate from this as much as you want. But for now, it’s very daunting when you have a blank script in front of you, so keep reading, we’ll help you out!

TOPIC

 

Please note that this chapter really only applies to any episode besides Episode 0, so if you're looking to organize your Episode 0, go back to the first subsection of this chapter. But if you’re here to find a roadmap of organizing other episodes, you’re in good company!

 

Ok, so what is your episode going to talk about? I keep going back to this example, but my friend who has a show that logs the growth of his garden may have an episode that talks about the progress his garden had in the 3rd week of growing. But, if you have a podcast that isn’t chronologically structured, it’ll be much harder to find a topic for your episode. 

 

So sit there and think. What do you want to talk about? Two years ago, I started a podcast talking about climate change. For one episode, I had an interview with environmental activist Rob Greenfield, and I spoke to him about his journey. The next episode, I talked about how environmental policies may affect the economy both positively and negatively. You see, there is no strict structure for each episode. It’s all up to you to choose what you want to talk about in your episode. 

STRUCTURE

 

Now that you have a topic down for your podcast episode, let’s talk structure. Obviously, the structure of your episode will vary a lot with the topic you have chosen. In general, we can break an episode down into 4 categories with various questions to jumpstart the process of creating a reliable episode structure. There are more nuanced categories; however, we find that these categories are the “umbrella” categories for other podcast topics. So categories and questions will set you up for success!

 

  1. Storytelling

Under this category, you tell a story. You must find a way to convey a narrative in a way that’s appealing to the listener, aurally? (Yes, it’s a weird word.) The choice is yours whether its fact or fiction, but make sure that it’s discernible between the two. One of my favorite storytelling podcasts is Memory Palace by Nate DiMeo. Each episode, he researches historical events that not many people know about and tells its story. But, you don’t have to be confined to the stories of others, your podcast can tell the story about you!

    1. What story will you be telling? 

    2. What is the beginning, middle, and end?

    3. What is the most important and crucial aspect of your story?

    4. Is/Are there lessons learned?

  1. Interview

For an interview… you interview someone. I love this category because each episode of a podcast portrays a different perspective. As a host, you have to make your guest’s character shine. Your purpose is to make sure that the audience leaves with a piece of your guest’s personality. 

    1. Who will you be talking to?

    2. What is the purpose of the interview?

    3. What questions will you ask the guest?

    4. Is/Are there lessons learned?

  1. Storytelling + Interview

While telling a story, you might want someone else to corroborate/clarify/alter any claims that you may have made. As a host, you have to guide the guest into speaking their mind about the subject at hand. Your main goal is to extract from the guest their own unique perspective and add it into your story. 

    1. What story will you be telling?

    2. Who will you be talking to?

    3. What perspectives do they bring to contribute to the story?

    4. What information do you need and how can you ask questions to get this information?

    5. Is/Are there lessons learned?

  1. Commentary + (Interview)

A lot of late night shows and talk shows conveniently fall under this category. Like the other aforementioned categories, you must be well-versed on the topic. With many topics, there are sides and opinions to take. Look for facts and evidence that not only confirms what you believe but also counters what you believe. A good commentary episode shows both sides and does not overwhelm its listener with a barrage of evidence that only supports one side. If you’re looking to have a guest on the episode, make sure that they are well-versed too. But also make sure that they will be able to provide a different view than your own. 

    1. What are the stances on the topic?

    2. What is your stance on the topic?

    3. What evidence do you have to back your stance?

    4. What evidence do you have to counter your own stance?

    5. (For interviews only) What is the purpose of the guest?

    6. (For interviews only) What stance does the guest have?

    7. (For interviews only) What questions will you ask the guest?

    8. Is/Are there lessons learned?

 

There are a lot of questions, but trust us, you’re going to want to answer each question in your corresponding category to map out a successful episode structure. Without answering these questions, you’re going to have a hard time structuring an episode. 

 

Once you finish organizing your thoughts for the episode, you must map out your structure of your podcast. Generally speaking, all podcasts have a beginning, middle, second-middle (yes, a second-middle), and end. What is your beginning, middle, second-middle, and end? (Please note that if your podcast is under the storytelling category, your podcast’s beginning, middle, second-middle, and end can line up with the story’s beginning, middle, and end (but it doesn’t have to be).) 

THE BEGINNING

 

So how will you begin? Well, obviously with an introduction. So, it’s good practice for all podcasts to begin with the usual introduction. This includes your name, podcast show name, and a general sentence or two about what you are going to cover on your episode. If you have a guest who is coming on, here’s the place to mention that too. This way, your listener can get situated and also follow along a mental map of your episode while they are listening. But after that, things get a little bit trickier. The structure of your episode will change depending on the category your episode falls under. For all beginnings let’s try drawing the attention of the listeners. But For the sake of clarity, we’re going to suggest some (rightfully) common beginning structures for each category. As always, feel free to add or take away from this general outline because you are the captain of this ship. 

 

  • Storytelling: It’s very common to begin with a hook. What is some of the beginning action that attracts listeners? Is it a sound? One of my favorite podcast episodes of all time began an episode with sounds of footsteps in the forest. But, at this moment, it’s crucial to draw the attention of the listeners. After that, look to explain the situation a little bit, contextualize! Where does the story begin? Who are the characters? Introduce the setting and establish the mood. 


 

  • Interview: Along with drawing the listeners in, it’s common practice to begin an interview episode with a snippet of what the guest said. It doesn’t matter what they say, but it’s best to choose a sound bite that’s broad, enticing, and relevant to the topic. Provide a snapshot of what the podcast is going to be about. After that, we recommend you to introduce who was just speaking and let the listeners know the background of your guest. 


 

  • Storytelling + Interview: The beginning for this is a bit more flexible. But you must decide whether your episode will be dominated by the story or the interview. If your episode is more of a story, then we recommend you to start the beginning under the storytelling category. If your episode is more of an interview that tells a story, then we recommend you to start the beginning under the interview category. Or if you’re not sure, then you should err on the side of caution and begin your episode under the storytelling category. 


 

  • Commentary + (Interview): Under this category, the beginning is a little more straightforward. Generally, we recommend you to simply state the topic of the episode and what stance you are going to be covering. Because it’s going to be your commentary or your guest’s commentary, the beginning will vary with what you are trying to convey through the episode. But to be safe, you should talk about your stance and/or your guest’s stance and introduce in detail about the topic/event you’re going to be covering.

THE MIDDLE

 

After you’ve set the stage with your beginning, you will get into the meat and bones of your episode. Here, you will begin to discuss the topic of your episode in more detail. Unlike the beginning, the middle, second-middle, and end will vary a lot from episode to episode. So we have purposefully kept this part rather vague to let your creative juices flow. Generally speaking though, you want to begin the middle of your podcast to be the bridge between setting up the scene and the crux of the podcast. 

 

  • Storytelling: After you're done introducing the setting, build up the story. What is happening? Guide the story towards the climax. Describe these scenes in vivid imagery. If there is a problem, build on that. Any characters who are instrumental to the story and have not been mentioned yet should be introduced here. You must take the listener on an aural journey with the main character of the podcast. 


 

  • Interview: You should begin to start asking the guest some of the questions that you have listed down earlier. What is the main point of the interview that you want the guest to talk about? Find a way to get closer to this main point of the interview. As with storytelling, build the narrative of your guest. 


 

  • Storytelling + Interview: If you haven’t gotten the guest to speak yet, then this is the time! Ask the guest a few questions which will help you build on the narration that you want. Otherwise, we continue recommending you to explain some of the problems that you want addressed in the podcast. Make sure that by the end of the middle, you’re at the climax of the story. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you speak or your guest speaks. 


 

  • Commentary + (Interview): Now that you have your stance established, start building your argument! Make sure that it’s not unfounded. If possible, we think that the strongest commentary has both statistics and personal anecdotes. Make sure that this part has a blend of both to make a statement to your listeners!

THE SECOND-MIDDLE

 

If this is a new term for you, don’t worry! The second-middle will include the climax of your podcast and wind down with an analysis of the topic. By now you should have built up to your climax of your topic. After the second-middle you will begin wrapping up the episode. 

 

 

  • Storytelling: What is the climax of the story? This is usually the most critical point of the story. For many stories, this point is the part of the story when the character faces the biggest struggle. It’s important to paint the picture for the listener. They need to be engaged. After this, the story begins to wind down, so we recommend that the story nears a resolution. During this time, you must dial the drama down. With storytelling, it’s super important for the reader to be able to differentiate between the climax and wind down. 


 

  • Interview: With the purpose of the episode in mind, make sure that your guest gets to this point. After your guest makes that point, reflect with them. What lessons have they learned? How did they grow? In one episode I made, I spoke with someone who was homeless at 19 years old. For this episode, I made sure that the second-middle started when he recalled the day he was kicked out of his house and became homeless. After this point, the episode began to wind down with him talking about how he struggled from shelter to shelter. 


 

  • Storytelling + Interview: As with all the other categories, you must now include your climax. What is the purpose of the podcast? Do you achieve your purpose at this moment? After the climax, begin analyzing how the interview fits into the story and weave in the guest’s words with the story you intend to tell. 


 

  • Commentary + (Interview): With a commentary, it is much harder to pick out an explicit climax. Therefore, we think of the climax of a commentary as a swivel point. What other opinions or viewpoints are there of the topic? After you mention any counter arguments or perspectives of the topic on hand, provide your responses to them. Do they corroborate what you said before? Do they alter what you said before? Make sure that you provide good analysis with this part. 

THE END

 

As the name suggests, this is the end of the episode. By now, you should have already conveyed the purpose of your episode. For example, if you want the audience to hear your opinions that local funding for schools is bad, then did you effectively express your opinions? If you wanted to tell the story of Coca-Cola, did you do that? Can the listener walk away and tell that same story to their friend? Make sure that whatever goals you had for the episode were achieved. And to be confident of this, recap a little, summarize the podcast, add your personal reflections. Make sure you do whatever is necessary to have the listeners gain something when they leave. Or, you can leave the listeners with a thought provoking statement for them to ponder upon. The choice is yours. 

 

 

  • Storytelling: End the story. After that, recap what happened! Provide your own reflections. What were the lessons that you want the listeners to leave with? If necessary, explicitly say what you learned from the story. 


 

  • Interview: Close the interview with some final, overarching questions for the guest. What lessons did they learn? Feel free to break the fourth wall and ask what words of advice they have for the listeners. As always, make sure you emphasize the point you want the listeners to leave with. 


 

  • Storytelling + Interview: To end, recap what happened. If the interview is a large part of your podcast, feel free to explicitly request the guest to state what he hopes to leave readers with. 


 

  • Commentary + (Interview): With commentary, it’s much harder to find an ending. If you have a guest on, feel free to let them have the last word even if they may not agree with your perspective. Or extend the conversation to the audience. Some of my favorite memories of podcasting is the ability to have side conversations with my listeners. Many times, my listeners reach out to me and tell me their opinions which I may never have considered! 

 

If you're a beginner, we highly suggest that you use this outline. However, as you make more and more episodes, feel free to deviate and add other aspects which you think may help your podcast. As you may have noticed, we strongly believe in a purpose-driven podcast. We find that it’s very hard for amatuer podcasters to create an episode with no clear sense of direction. 

Now that you know the general roadmap of what to consider when creating a podcast, let’s briefly talk about scripting an episode. 

SCRIPTING

 

Scripts are usually the written text of a podcast episode. A major point of contention within the podcasting world is whether or not to script your episode. At Student Podcasts, we think that while all podcasts require some scripting, the level of depth in a script will vary from podcast to podcast. 

 

In general, episodes that tell a story should have a rather detailed script to ensure that the recording accomplishes its purpose. However, interviews and commentaries should have a loose script so that you can discuss the topics that may seem interesting during recording more in depth. Because remember, interviews and commentaries will be more interesting the more in detail you go.

SOUNDS

 

In an outline and script, you should think about which sounds to include in your podcast. Make sure that you are constantly asking yourself the question: what does this sound effect enhance? With one of my podcasts, I remember playing the rewinding tape sound to signify a transition to the past, in this case, the 1960s. I wanted to take the readers on a journey, to time travel to half a century ago. This was really effective because it captured the audience’s attention even if I hadn’t said “Let’s take you guys back half a century ago…” Another good usage of sound would be footsteps to signal physically walking somewhere. And like I said just now, these sound effects need to enhance your episode in some shape or form.

 

It’s easy to record these sounds. Simply place a microphone and record wherever the sound is being produced from. 

 

Now that you have both a solid outline of your episode and a script to go, let’s move on to recording your first episode. 

©2020 Student Podcasts

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