To Script or Not To Script? Best Practices for Effective Podcasting
Do I really say “like” that much?
This is exactly what I thought to myself after listening back to an old podcast episode from a few months prior. I was cringing at the amount of times I used fillers as I tried to articulate my thoughts for my audience.
Self-reflecting on creative work can be an intimidating task, but it’s often in that reflection that we find areas to learn, grow and improve.
As I continued to listen to my own voice, I fidgeted uncomfortably while trying to unpack why it was that I used fillers almost every other word as I attempted to share the oh-so-profound thoughts that were clanking around in my head. It finally hit me: Too many thoughts were coming out at once. All of them were equally important, but none of them were coming across clearly. They were bottlenecking at the tip of my tongue and, as a result, coming out in fragments that were even confusing to me. I would try to rephrase the same point three or four different ways, and “like,” “er” or “um” came out just about every other word.
I knew what I wanted to say and was passionate about sharing it, but I simply couldn’t get it out in a clear and concise way.
I needed a script.
As a creative, the idea of following a script can feel restraining, especially if you have a personality type like me where you simply like to wing it. But preparing for a show will not only make for an easier listen for your audience — it will also allow your mind the creative freedom to improvise and share more articulately as you record. In addition, the more confidently you speak as you record, the less editing you’ll have to do before hitting “publish.”
If you’re finding yourself spending too much time editing, wondering if your points are coming out clearly or simply wondering if you are keeping your audience’s attention, here are a few ways you can utilize outlines or scripts for your show.
- As painful as constructive feedback can be, it’s an invaluable tool. Asking peers to audit our work allows for fresh perspectives. In addition to listening to your own work, ask a trusted friend to take a listen and make notes on words you use too frequently or tendencies you have (like rambling or not expanding enough). This feedback will give you a good launching pad of things to be aware of as you begin to prepare your episodes.
- You know what they say: “Fail to plan, plan to fail”; that phrase has often rung true in podcasting. Whether you use the notes app on your phone or an organizational program like Trello, preparing in advance always makes for more concise work, which will ultimately serve your audience better. Get into the habit of batching your work. Begin with planning out episode ideas for a month. Write the title and topic of each episode; then expand by writing three to five talking points for each episode. If you have a thought you don’t want to lose, write it underneath that corresponding talking point so that, as you’re recording, you have an organized outline that will keep you on track. Doing this is a little extra work on the front end, but it pays dividends as you edit, and ultimately it leads to more impactful work for your audience.
- Remember that, while preparing in advance is certainly effective, everyone does it a little differently, and that’s OK. That’s the beauty of podcasting — there are no hard and fast rules. While some podcasters write out their content word for word, others simply like to write bullet points with a few thoughts. Neither way is wrong, but the best way to tell what is most effective for you is to test it out, record and continue to audit your work.
Finally, don’t let fear paralyze you. The more you prepare, record and audit your work, the more you will be able to fine-tune your craft. As creatives, learning, growing and adjusting our systems comes with the territory. Be willing to take imperfect action and tweak things as you go. The only way you can fail is to quit!
If you are a member of COMPEL Writers Training, follow the Compel podcasting Facebook group where we dive deeper into topics like this in video format.
Until Next Time,
Bethany R. Adkins
Have you ever audited your recordings? Take some time to listen and reflect on your words, voice and inflections, and then apply your audits to your next podcast outline. What other podcast-scripting tips do you have?
August 22, 2023
April 25, 2023