How to structure a podcast so well your rivals will hate you!

How to structure a podcast so well your rivals will hate you! cover

Your podcast’s your platform to the world. It helps blast your wisdom to those you love to help. But how do we make sure those listeners of yours keep coming back for more? You’ll make it happen with a little thing called ‘structure’. In this article, I'll spill the beans on how to structure a podcast that's so enticing, your listeners will be hooked, lined and sinkered.

A man fishing to act as a metaphor for hooking in listeners with a well structured podcast
Photographer: Brady Rogers | Source: Unsplash Geddit? Fishing reference in the opener so… oh forget it. My genius is wasted.

Why structure matters (more than you knew!)

A structured podcast isn't just about dotting your ‘i's’ and crossing your ‘t's’; it's your golden Wonka ticket to keeping those ears pricked and fingers away from the skip button.

A clean, familiar and uniform structure keeps listeners riveted and waiting on baited breath for your next pearl of wisdom.

Miss out on it, and you're left with a jumbled mess that'll have your listeners scurrying off faster than a dog that’s spotted a kitten.

A panty dog that's spotted a kitten faster than a podcast listener has ditched out of a badly structured podcast
Photographer: Michael Newton | Source: Unsplash

Here’s the thing though, structure isn't just for your listeners. It's a gift to yourself – a magical guide that keeps your thoughts on track and cuts down on that bloody cumbersome planning and prep time. So you can churn out those killer episodes like clockwork.

Jayzus! It’s the holy trinity of podcasting: three part content (intro, main content, and outro)

Welcome to the golden framework of any podcast worth its download numbers – the three part podcast structure system.

This comprises the introduction, main content, and conclusion. It's how you’re going to win over those new listeners.

Think about it like a set menu at a fancy restaurant.

You need to have all the right ‘dishes’ in the right order, that make the listener hungry for more or they’re just gonna settle for the ‘safe option’ cheeseburger.

Photographer: Nienke Broeksema | Source: Unsplash A couple of ladies looking at a menu. Maybe they should start a podcast? Hmmm… perhaps not.

The introduction – it's your flashy billboard and welcome sign. It's where you make your grand entrance and give your listeners a tantalising taste of the treasure trove they're about to delve into. Here's where you dish out your topics or hint at the mystery guest ready to drop some specific knowledge bombz.

The main content is your glitzy stage, the star of your show. Be it riveting interviews, lively discussions, or profound soliloquies, the main event is where you deliver the meat and potatoes of your podcast.

Photographer: Joshua Hoehne | Source: Unsplash

Keep it juicy with story-telling tricks and a sprinkle of humour where it fits. And if you have any. Sorry, just sayin’! Not everyone who hosts a podcast is as funny as they think they are…

And remember, relevance is key. You're feeding value to your listeners, not just filling air time.

The conclusion – it's your curtain call, your final bow.

Recap the nuggets of wisdom shared, leave listeners with a takeaway, or a thought to mull over.

Don't forget to thank your listeners for their time. After all, they could've been anywhere in the world, but they're here with you. Then nudge them to hit that follow button. Or subscribe if they’re listening to you via an Apple Podcasts subscription show.

Podcaster adhering to the three part podcast structure
Photographer: Malte Helmhold | Source: Unsplash

How to design your podcast structure

Before you hit that record button, have a blueprint in your mind and even better, printed out on your desk.

Jot down the main topics, plot out your guest journey and the kinds of questions that will guide them there, and frame your episode. But don’t set the questions in stone. Have them as a guide. Always listen to the answers intently, and let those answers steer you towards the next question wherever possible. Because, trust me on this, the guest knows what their interesting topics are way better than you do!

Photographer: Minku Kang | Source: Unsplash

Keep an eye on the clock, and plan how much time each section should get. Don’t let one topic labour on too long. That said, ensure you’ve dedicated enough time to deep dive into the thoughts and conversations that warrant it.

Think about how to transition between sections like a profesh, to keep your listeners engaged. If you need help with this, talk to a professional like us at Podknows. It’s literally what we do, and we’re here to help you!

Choosing your format – (that’s tailor-made for your podcast)

Format depends on your content and audience. Whether yours is interviews, co-hosted shows, or solo deep dives, they all have their charm. And it’s incredible how many podcasters still get so hung up on this aspect of the medium.

Here’s a recent example of a podcaster who’s struggling with the direction to take.

My response to this kind of thing is, why not do a mix of formats, depending on what feels right for the episode? There are no rules that say you have to do the same format each episode.

Let’s analyse the three main different types so you can get a better idea of how each works:

Interview thought-leader style conversations

Interview-style podcasts bring diverse insights but they can drone on if not well produced. Always ensure the voices you’re bringing on can add to the show, not distract from it. And don’t focus on booking guests with large follower numbers. Conversion rates from social media shares are low, and a lot of their audience might be bought fakes anyway. Let their topic and expertise lead your decision to book them. In all honesty, most people in the business community would probably rather listen to a conversation with a market trader who scaled their business to billions in profit, than a chat with Richard Branson or Tony Robbins about the same old ‘rich dude stuff’.

Roundtable and co hosted shows

Co-hosted podcasts can promise lively banter. They’re also a great opportunity to broaden appeal with wider coverage of expertise. But don’t fall into the trap of making it all about your bantz and your in-jokes. You’re there for the listener, remember!

The odd turn of phrase, show slogan, or call back to a funny moment is fine, but don’t try and make your show the next “Kermode and Mayo’s Take” with long sections dedicated to ‘church members’ and salutations to Harry Potter movie actors. Those work for that show because they’ve built the vibe for twenty years.

Solo monologue

And solo shows? They're your pedestal to establish yourself as the expert. The great thing about this style is you don’t have to share lead-generation or ‘air time’, and you will always be the main thought-leader. Also, they’re a much better opportunity for you to grow in the direction you want, without having to consider the goals of others, including co hosts, guests or members of your panel.

Choose wisely and consider your available time and resources for each format.

In most cases, you’ll probably be looking at either a solo show or interview based one. But if you’re going to opt for an interview based one, give lots of consideration to how you can keep it interesting. Nobody needs another Diary of a CEO style show droning on in their ears for fifty five plus minutes!

Planning your main content in your podcast structure – make 'em stick around

We’re coming back to this for one simple reason – the main content is where you deliver the big ‘value’.

It's where you unravel the magic and mystery.

Use storytelling techniques, sprinkle in humour, illustrate with examples, ask insightful questions, and above all, provide immense value.

This is the section where you’re doing the most to build a relationship with the listener. It’s this section which will help them decide whether they want to follow your podcast, leave a review, and better still, sign up for your shiz.

But if you tell anyone to leave their 2 cents in the comments, I’ll slap you so hard through this screen that you’ll be seeing tiny cartoon Gary Vaynerchuks flying around your head and your eyeballs will have huge ‘X’s on them!

Ok, glad we sorted that out. Time to record…

Photographer: Aman Upadhyay | Source: Unsplash

Recording and editing your podcast (with structure in the forefront of your mind)

Once you've mapped out your podcast structure, it's go time – recording and editing your episodes.

Never underestimate the importance of quality recording equipment; you want your listeners to enjoy crystal clear audio. And anyone who tells you something dumb like “content is king, just start on your phone” is an idiot and deserves public shaming.

No, I’m serious! Tag them in the comments.

During recording, adhere to your pre-set structure, maintain a consistent tone, and keep the pace engaging. Be ready to make necessary edits to enhance the episode's overall flow.

In the editing stage, ruthlessly remove unnecessary content or dead air. And yes, you should remove most of the ummms. Screw those people who bang on about ‘authenticity’ – they don’t know what they’re talking about. If you want your listeners to take your show seriously, don’t waste their time by forcing them to hear three extra minutes of content filled with repetitious half thoughts, time-buying vocal tics or endless ‘you know’s every other sentence.

Also, put in a bit of effort to spice up your episodes by adding sound effects or a musical touch to elevate the listening experience.

Here’s an example episode that uses lots of sound effects and music to keep the listener engaged.

Level up: storytelling and thematic structures in podcasting

For those ready to venture beyond the podcasting basics, integrating storytelling and thematic structures into your podcast can turbocharge listener engagement. This might involve creating overarching story arcs across multiple episodes or weaving a recurring theme into each episode. Our network’s podcast “The Weeniecast” (linked above) does this to great effect, with host Katie McManus making lots of references to personality traits and characters she’s shared with listeners in previous episodes. She also makes regular repeat visits to her core central topics in almost every episode.

Photographer: Unseen Studio | Source: Unsplash

Storytelling is a secret sauce that can make your content relatable and deeply engaging for your listeners. Sharing personal anecdotes or experiences can forge a stronger bond with your audience.

Photographer: Mikael Seegen | Source: Unsplash

Try to steer clear of these podcast structure pitfalls

Hate to be negative, but I abhor not keeping it real even more! So here are a few common structure mishaps that you should dodge like the plague. They include:

  • Skipping a well-defined introduction
  • Running a minute long music intro at the very start
  • Having that very same intro at the start of every single episode
  • Straying off-course and rambling in your main content
  • Trying too hard to sell your services without offering context first
  • Neglecting a clear wrap-up or final takeaway for the listener
  • Terrible audio quality or production value
  • Inconsistencies in episode lengths or release schedule
  • Basically copying anything Steven Bartlett does

By evading these potential errors, you can ensure your podcast structure is solid and capable of sustaining listener engagement.

My final thoughts on podcast structure

In conclusion, a well-structured podcast is vital for keeping listeners hooked and coming back for more. I hope you found this article useful for empowering you to create a crystal-clear podcast structure that delivers value to your audience and results in your engagement goals. Notice how I didn’t say ‘increased download numbers’?

Again, remember to pre-plan your structure, tailor your format to your content and audience, and ensure your main content is engaging and relevant.

By the way, if you're looking to rocket your podcast to the next level, consider a podcast audit.

Personalised feedback and tips could be the catalyst you need to enhance your structure and content.

You can book yours here.

Want more zero-BS insights and advice from a straight talking podcast expert who’s seen and done it all in podcasting, follow me on LinkedIn.

I cover topics the gurus just won’t touch.

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