Each episode of your podcast requires some kind of preparation before going straight into recording. When you go into recording, editing, and uploading your podcast episode prepared, you have a clear direction and spend less time on these tasks. Additionally, you can be sure that your podcast episode is consistent and on-topic throughout, which ultimately makes your podcast more engaging. While you want to leave room for spontaneity to keep everything natural-sounding, there are a few things you can and should prepare to some degree before recording.
At the very least, you should prepare a topic for your podcast episode. Of course you have your overall podcast topic, but each episode should also have a more specific topic under or related to your overall topic. You may just have a list of topics handy that you can select from. On the other hand, you may have a new topic in mind, or you may even have to conduct some research in order to come up with a topic. Having a topic for your episode is incredibly important because if you go into recording without one, you will end up with an inconsistent episode filled with a mix of random thoughts. Perhaps having a segment of random thoughts may be a nice way to break up your episode, but an episode full of random thoughts is not an engaging format for your podcast. Then, from your overall episode topic you may want to create subtopics that you would like to specifically touch on if your overall topic is general enough.
After you have a topic selected, you should research the topic a bit. The amount of knowledge you have on the topic as well as how opinion-based your topic is will determine the amount of research necessary. If you are an expert on the topic, you may just want to do some quick research as a refresher and to look for anything to add to your expertise. If your topic is more opinion-based, you may want to compile some facts, quotes, statistics, and/or interesting content regarding the topic to encourage your opinion-based discussion. Now, if you are relatively new to a topic or are doing an in-depth look at a topic that you have limited knowledge about, you should compile a good amount of research. You should do this to not only ensure you have enough content for your episode, but also to ensure you aren't communicating false information to your listeners. Regardless of the specific amount of research you need to do, you should aim to feel like you are going into recording your episode with relatively comprehensive information and content.
You may choose your episode title after recording or editing because you can create a title from something you said or with the knowledge of everything you discussed. However, you may also choose to brainstorm some titles beforehand that you can then incorporate into your podcast when recording. Whatever the case may be, your preparation beforehand should be helpful for creating an engaging, appropriate podcast episode title.
Planning out your segments is another incredibly important step in preparing your podcast episode. While you may have recurring segments that you do in every episode or most episodes that don't need to be prepared, you may also want to incorporate segments that are specific to your episode topic or new segments. If this is the case, then you should brainstorm and research, as well as outline the segment(s) before recording. This way, your segment won't be confusing, you won't be scrambling while recording, and everything regarding your segment will be organized and clearly communicated.
Whether you prefer to write a script, create an outline, or just jot down some notes, you should have something prepared to guide you through your episode. This should include things like your research on your topic, word-for-word facts that you may want to say, the general progression or narrative thread of your episode, points that you want to make, transitions, and other reference points to keep you on track. How thorough your guide (script, outline, notes) is depends upon how much guidance you personally need, so include whatever is necessary to keep you on-topic while still allowing for spontaneity. Your guide should also help you avoid mistakes, re-recording, silence, etc. that increase the need for editing.
Your preparation for each podcast episode will likely vary. Sometimes you may need to prepare for 15-30 minutes and other times an hour or more might be necessary. While there is no right way to prepare because it is all dependent upon your needs as a podcaster, you should dedicate some time to get things in order before recording. Even just a little bit of preparation will save you time in post-production and it will help you to create understandable, compelling content. Happy podcasting!
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