You are thinking about starting a new podcast episode. It can seem both exciting and daunting.
Ideas start flowing and you are writing them down in order not to forget them.
You’re coming up with all the excellent points you want to cover as to engage your audience. You know that a podcast is a more direct form of communication with your audience than social media or written content.
But as you’re planning what you have to say on your episode, you have to plan its structure and how all the pieces will fit together.
Why should I structure my podcast episodes?
People like predictability. They can get confused listening to random rambling.
They want to know what to expect from you and your episodes.
You have to create a listening habit and increase their level of engagement.
If you’re talking all over the place and the audience doesn’t know what’s coming next, they will be confused.
You have to present your episodes in a way that makes sense.
You can have a structure template that you follow on all your episodes and try to fit the awesome content you’re coming up with in it.
Structuring a podcast isn’t always easy, but you can employ elements of storytelling. It doesn’t matter what your podcast is about, structuring it like a story will keep people engaged.
Plan the length
It is a good idea to keep the length of your episodes fixed.
The audience will know what to expect and it will help you know what content is essential to keep or cut.
Categories of podcast episode length
We can categorise episode length like this:
- Short (<25min): Frequent with more actionable tips and no fill
- Normal (25-45min): Great for most podcasts, can tell a story or have a focused conversation
- Long (>45min): For passionate audiences, interviews or unstructured talks
A short episode is compact and doesn’t have a lot of banter. It cuts through the noise and focuses on the basic ideas.
A normal episode is the most common. Its length is enough for you to set the stage and develop your story. You can use all the elements of story telling without rushing into it.
A longer episode will be for more passionate audiences. It’s a good option if you want to cover a big number of events and requires you to do a lot more research. It’s also a good idea if you want to discuss with co-hosts and leave room for exploring the story and theme of the episode more and more.
Tip: When beginning your show choose one of these three categories and keep the length of your episodes consistent. If an episode requires much less or more time than usual you can always make an announcement on the beginning of it so listeners know what to expect.
Have a specific theme
Your episode should revolve around a specific theme that you choose before starting recording.
This way the conversation will not get off-topic.
You can make a list with all the topics you want to cover and follow it.
You can use software like Notion to create a page for your episode, add a to-do list with your topics and as you are recording check them all one by one.
For interviews research the guest
If your episode is an interview it’s a good idea that you do some research about your guest and note some topics related to their work or field of interest in the form of questions.
That way you will put guard rails and structure to the conversation.
For multiple co-hosts discuss the topics
If your podcast has multiple co-hosts go through the list of topics as a group.
Encourage everybody to brainstorm ideas and write them on a shared document on Notion or Google Drive.
Documents on software like these can be edited from multiple people at the same time. Just hit the share button (on Notion is on top right) and add everybody.
The segments of your episode
Every episode should have an intro, a middle and an end.
You may add more sections, like advertisement breaks, in between the middle of your episode, but as a general rule follow the essential elements: Beginning, main content and conclusion.
The intro, well, introduces your podcast to the listener and if the episode is intended for them by giving brief key points of what will be discussed.
It’s a good idea to try to hook the listener early on and give them an idea for what to expect.
You can also introduce yourself and why you’re qualified to talk about the subject.
In short, in the intro, lay the foundation and raise early questions that will be later answered.
The intro also can have the main theme music of your podcast playing in the background. Theme music will make your show recognisable.
Additionaly, you can reference previous episodes as a way to motivate the listener to research more about your podcast.
Tip: You can record the intro after having recorded the rest of the episode. That way you will know exactly what was discussed and what you can hype the listener with in order to intrigue them to listen to the next section.
The main, primary, content is where the conversation takes place.
If your episode is a story, here you will start building it slowly.
If it is an interview you will greet the guest and let them introduce themselves at first, and then slowly start asking them the questions you have prepared to start the discussion.
The primary section is the longest portion of your show and you will deliver the bulk of the content.
You can also include advertisement breaks, or commercial breaks informing the listener and encouraging them to visit your website, like your social media page, subscribe to other marketing channels you are using or tell them about other content of yours.
After the conclusion of the primary content of your episode it’s time for the outro.
We will write a whole other article in the future on what to say during the outro but here are some ideas…
You can briefly recap the episode and key points for the listener to remember.
Also you can give them a call to action in order to prompt them to listen to your previous episodes or visit your website. Don’t be overly pushy though. The listeners that liked your content so far will be glad to learn more about what you’re putting out there.
Don’t hesitate to ask the listeners to contact you directly as to continue the conversation. Try to build a loyal audience and to make them part of the whole show.
If you had a guest for an interview don’t forget to personally thank them again for being a part of the show and plug their website or social media accounts so people can find them.
It’s a good idea for a podcaster to take some time to plan the structure of their show.
Listeners like predictability and a structure will let them know what to expect from your episodes.
And, don’t forget, when you’ve found a good structure it’s time to focus on your content, that’s what matters the most!
Podcast Structure FAQ
What is the most common structure of a podcast?
Intro - Main content - Outro. That’s the most common structure for a podcast episode. You can include more segments in between (like advertisements or commercial breaks) as you see fit.
How long should a podcast episode be?
You can make short (<25min), normal (25-45min) or long (>45min) episodes. Make the episodes as long as they need to be but try to make the length predictable as listeners like to know what to expect in each episode.
What other sections can I include in between?
Advertisements, audience Q&A, read listener emails or social media comments, sponsor messages, short music clips, musical fade-out.