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How to start a podcast from scratch..when all you know is that you want to start one. In this article How to Create a Podcast Outline, I will help you do exactly that. By the end of this article, you would’ve outlined your podcast and be ready to get into the weeds of execution.
You just want to start a podcast. Period.
You probably read my earlier post in this series on why you should create a podcast.
I know what’s on your mind right now. I’ve been there, and have seen many people in exactly the same state.
Let me order a microphone.
No. Don’t just do that. At least, not yet. This is exactly what many do.
Create a podcast? Open the Amazon app on the phone and spend the next God-knows-how-many hours looking at microphones. Start a vlog? Go to YouTube and look for the best vlogging cameras reviews.
Close the Amazon app right now.
Stop getting anxious about how to get started, as I’m going to help you do exactly that in this article and the others in this series.
The brain is a noisy place.
This is especially so true when we come up with a great idea for a new project. What do I do now? Oh I should do this! Someone told me to check that. Flutter! Pop! Whirrr!
So what’s the best way to stop the noise?
Get away from it. Well, that’s one way. The better way is to take that noise out of our brains. And since the noise is not all bad (those thoughts that are popping and whirring, are good ones), it’s not a good idea to discard them.
So what do you do? Externalize them. In other words, take them out of your brain and put them somewhere else you can see or hear.
Sshhh! Stop that noise.
Outlining the “podcast idea” in your brain helps you do exactly that.
When you create a podcast outline, you are starting to give it a form. It was all in your head, and now you are giving it a shape that you can see and show someone else to get feedback.
You get a fresh perspective.
When was the last time you asked someone a question and at that very moment, realized you knew the answer?
That’s exactly what happens when your brain is noisy. When you get that noise out, you get some brain resources freed up to think. Just to realize you do have the answers. Well, at least most times.
When your brain is noisy, you sometimes find it difficult communicating that noise to some else. Perhaps you are looking for some help. But you just don’t seem to get the words right to form your question!
Good Questions Get Good Answers.
Having an idea for a podcast is a good first step. But usually, it’s communicating that idea to someone else, that makes it better.
Outlining your podcast helps you communicate your new podcast idea better.
What is a Project?
Here’s a definition I found on Googling for it:
Noun: an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.
You are going to be spending time doing something over a period of time. In this case, it’s a podcast. But what does this mean to you?
Will you need more money?
Perhaps more time? Or, maybe you need someone’s help? Hmm, what if all of this is still going to kill your productivity?
Treating your podcast like a project helps you tackle all of the above questions and more. The most important of them all is that it helps you focus on your goal.
A podcast that has a definitive goal and all dependencies and resources tracked, is sure to head in the right direction.
Your podcast stops being a noise and starts to come to life!
Though that might sound a bit cheesy, that’s actually the truth. You would’ve done this exercise by the end of this article, and so you’ll know it’s 100% true.
That brings us to the nuts and bolts of a project. At least the biggest nuts and bolts.
You’ve probably heard this several times by now. What gets planned, gets done. If it’s not on your mind, it’s not important. It’s all true. So that’s why the first step to treating your podcast like a project is to actually have a Plan.
So, if you are longing to place an order for a microphone, you do it just after you finish planning.
I know you are getting anxious. Yes, once you plan, you get into the weeds of the creation process. This is where you are actually doing a lot of the hard work – artwork, recording, etc.
You then put the podcast in the hands of your listener. Well, the ears of your listener. This is the third phase of your podcast project – Distribution and Test.
It’s not good enough to put them in your listeners’ ears, but more important to get to understand what they think about it. Get them to open their thoughts and mouths. Get feedback.
Nah! It’s now time to get back to the second phase of creation. You start to Improvise your podcast.
We’ll get into the details of all of this in future articles. But in today’s article, I will focus on helping you prepare for planning.
I almost tempted to call this Pre-Planning Your Podcast…but let’s stick to Create a Podcast Outline as that’s exactly what we’ll do in the rest of this article.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Outlining, as the word indicates, is the act of drawing the boundaries and key constituents of the system that you are about to create. And that’s my definition.
In the earlier part of this article, I talked about noise. Outlining is an activity where you put to words (mostly by writing or speaking out loud) all those thoughts in your head.
I have a lot of things in my head.
I hear you. That’s why, in this section, I’m going to give you a set of 12 questions you can use to create your podcast outline.
These questions will help bring out all of that boisterous thoughts inside your head, in a way that will help you get into planning your podcast.
So let’s begin.
What do you do when you are about to have a new baby?
You start to break your head to find a nice name for your soon-to-be-born baby.
So you can call your baby, to play with or maybe introduce it to your family and friends. Your baby would, over a period of time, identify with that name.
That’s exactly what you will need to do to get started with creating your podcast outline. Find a name you can refer to this project.
This may not be the final name of your podcast, but at least something you can refer to this project as.
My podcast’s name is…
For example, if you are thinking of doing a travel podcast, then you can pick a name like Road Travel Podcast project or Babymoon Travelers Podcast project. These are just examples to help you get started.
Now that you have a name, it’s time you picked up the phone and told your friend about it right?
Hey, but what are you going to tell?
“Hey I’ve planned to start this podcast on babymoon travels. And…” what?
What is the podcast about? Is it about babymoon travel locations? About soon-to-be parents planning a babymoon? Is it an interview-based podcast? Or, are you going solo? Is it audio-only or does it have a video component?
That’s what you want to do here. In as many words as possible, try and explain what your podcast is all about.
Now, it’s time to pick up that phone!
Well, before you picked up that phone to call someone, take a moment to write down how you’d describe your podcast to a stranger.
But I just wrote down what the podcast is all about…
True. Now, imagine you are in an elevator with someone who you think should know about your podcast…for whatever the reason may be. How will you explain?
The 15-second ride.
Some people call this an elevator pitch. In less than 10-15 seconds, you need to be able to describe your podcast to them. That’s about it.
Go ahead and write this down. And when you are ready, move on to the next question.
It’s actually weird that I’ve seen a lot of blank stares when asked this question to people who are thinking of creating their podcasts. It’s a simple question, isn’t it?
Into whose ears are you speaking?
When you speak on the microphone, who is listening to you on the other end? Whose car speakers are playing your podcast?
That’s what you want to do here. Write down in detail, as to who will be listening to your podcast.
Everything about them and what they do before they listen to you, when they listen to you and after they listen to you…and then hold onto that last one.
Explain in as many words as you need to.
Your listeners are listening to you when walking their dog, driving to work, or maybe when out on a run. Great
What are they thinking after they are done walking their dog?
What’s going on in your listeners’ minds after they finish listening to your podcast? What are they gaining from listening to your podcast?
Feeling inspired? Learnt something new perhaps? Maybe they just got to know someone they should connect to?
Write down the benefits your listeners would unlock if they listen to your podcast. It’s important you do this exercise in this sequence, and be as clear as possible when writing your answers.
Most podcasts you’ll find in iTunes don’t have more than a dozen episodes. Many others don’t have over a handful of episodes. You know why?
They never planned that far!
You are now working on your podcast like a project. So, how long is this project slated for? Pick a date and a frequency of publishing new episodes.
Your success hugely depends on your commitment to live up to this frequency and date.
You can break your podcast into “seasons” if you’d like to. If so, how long is the first season going to be, and how many seasons are you going to commit to?
I’ll be famous and that’s keep me going.
Now if that’s what’s the motivating factor, I hate to break the news. You better spend your time doing something else. Podcasting is not for you.
No, I understand that it’s hard work. I enjoy doing this though.
Now that sounds like a winning horse! You’ve got to enjoy going it. In addition, you also need to have some realistic indicators that will keep you going.
What would success look like?
Success has different meanings. What is your definition of success for this podcast? Downloads? Get speaking gigs? Learn audio production? What’s it?
Write it down as clearly as possible.
Doing it alone? No problem.
But be truthful and clear as to who else you’ll need any help from. Need someone to do an intro music for you? Write that down, even if you don’t know who it is going to be.
They need not be a literal team. But these are people who you will need to reach out to, in order to live up to your promise.
Don’t let people become a bottleneck to your podcast’s success.
Need a few key people to make some introductions? Write down their names. Can you also get these people introduced in other ways? Avoid creating bottlenecks.
Like in any project, resources can play a huge role in deciding the success or failure of the project’s outcome.
What resources will you need?
It could be computer or a software, a hardware or some other resource. List down every single thing that comes to your mind.
This section will get better as you share your podcast idea with your friends and family. But first, dump everything in your mind.
I thought my voice was like Guy Raz 🙂
One of the most common challenges a lot of podcasters face is learning to like their own voice. It sounds different when we hear our own voices.
I imaged the intro jingle to be so different. I just don’t like the sound quality.
This list can go on and on and on. The point is, you will never be able to feel any of this until you actually do a sample episode and listen to it.
But why should you listen to all of this? Because the earlier you listen, you at least have a chance to reduce some glaring or embarrassing mistakes!
But embarrassment is essential.
Go ahead and record a sample episode (just get a sub-$10 mic to do this), a jingle (here’s a nice tutorial on using Garageband to do this) with whatever resources you have. Get a feel of it. It’s okay for you to have an embarrassing outcome.
You will have a ton of learnings from how long it takes to record, how your voice sounds, how to use a mic, etc.
Many podcasts I’ve met and talked to, have told me this.
“I published my podcast to iTunes and X and Y, but I still I don’t get more than 10 or 50 listeners every day.”
I opened a lemonade stall outside my house and no one’s buying them.
It doesn’t happen that way. iTunes has tens of thousands of podcasts. How will people find you? Write down all the ways you expect listeners to discover your podcast.
I’ll buy a billboard ad space.
Be realistic. Write down how will people find your podcast and what will you do to make it happen.
Great! You now have some idea as to how new listeners are going to find your podcast. They found it. They click play and listen to an episode. Then what?
How will you engage with your listeners?
Despite the new mall that opened in your neighborhood, you keep going back to the mom and pop shop in the corner of street. Why?
You love the experience.
It could be a smile with which you are greeted. It could be that small freebie. Maybe they call you when your favorite drink is restocked.
How will you get your listeners subscribe to your show, and then click and listen to the next episode?
List down your answers to these questions. Great work!
That brings us to the end of the podcast outlining exercise to help you create a podcast.
Outlining a podcast helps you plan and execute better. This is not a part of the planning exercise itself, but something that will lead you to planning.
I strongly recommend you not skip this ever. Outlining your podcast helps you uncover some unknown risks and also helps you make your show unique.
This exercise, when iterated, can help you create a podcast that you’ve been imagining. Of course, before you get there, you’ll also see and discover a lot of good things and not so good ones too. But don’t drop the ball just because you are uncovering some unpleasant stuff.
Do drop a comment below and tell me how this exercise helped you uncover your podcast. Do consider subscribing to my newsletter below so I can let you know when I publish more on this topic.