Podcasting may be an art, but there is one aspect that successful hosts have down to a science: recording amazing episodes.
It turns out there’s a formula for creating compelling content, and over the years I’ve spent helping high-level individuals launch their shows, I’ve seen it work wonders time and time again.
So in this article, I’m going to share this formula with you to help you structure each and every one of your recordings in a way that resonates with your listeners.
But first, let’s break down how we’re defining amazing podcast episodes so you know exactly what you’re aiming for.
What makes great content?
At the end of the day, a quality podcast episode should create an experience for listeners.
And that experience should make them want to keep tuning in.
So with every episode, you want your audience to come away feeling three main things:
1. A connection with you as the host.
When someone listens to your show, they are developing a unique relationship with you and what you’re sharing with them.
To keep building upon that relationship, it’s best to share pieces of yourself with every episode so that your audience feels like they know you a little better than they did before.
In other words, give them a glimpse of who you are as an individual, how you approach things, your unique quirks, etc.
This can be as simple as a quick anecdote about your kids, what you did over the weekend, or even your dog’s latest ploy to steal your sandwich off the counter.
Whether or not your listeners have met you—or will ever meet you—these little details allow them to feel like they have a personal relationship with you.
And that’s how that strong feeling of connection continues to grow with every release.
2. The sense that they just heard something valuable.
I’ve said it in just about every article I’ve written, but it’s worth saying again: Your main goal for your podcast is to provide value for listeners.
Therefore, what you share should be information you know they will want to hear or insight they need in order to make progress toward their goals.
So whether you offer action items they can apply right away, information for them to digest and review, or revelations that will help them better understand how to overcome their particular challenges, you want your audience to get something out of your show every time they listen.
3. The urge to take positive action.
Amazing podcast episodes inspire listeners to take the necessary steps to make progress toward their goals.
That can come in the form of applying your advice to improve their lives, contacting you for more direct help, or even downloading one of your freebies to learn more about a subject.
After all, the last thing we want is passive listeners who are only going to tune in for episodes and never engage with your show, brand, or offer.
You want your podcast to prime people to act.
And that (along with the other two markers of great content above) comes from following the formula.
So let’s dive in.
The Winning Formula
The formula I’ve seen successful podcasters use to create amazing podcast episodes boils down to six main parts:
(Fair warning: You’ll likely read the list and not understand all of the pieces at first glance. That’s okay—I’m going to go explain each one.)
- The Recorded Intro
- The Episode Introduction
- The Listener Connection
- The Meat
- The Quick Bit
- The Recorded Outro
Now, all of these pieces are important, but parts 3, 4, and 5 don’t necessarily have to go in this exact order.
This is just the order I have seen work best—and the structure I would recommend starting out with.
Then, once you’re comfortable making tweaks based on your show and the needs of your audience, feel free to mix things up as you see fit.
That said, let’s break down each part.
1. The Recorded Intro
Every podcast should have a consistent, branded, professional-sounding intro that starts each episode.
This usually includes music and a general overview of what the podcast is about, who the host is, etc.
Think something along the lines of “Welcome to The How To Train Your Puppy Podcast, where certified dog trainer Trisha Poodle shares advice for turning your rambunctious pup into a standout show dog.”
(For an auditory example of a real show, click here and listen to the first 45 seconds of the episode.)
The recorded intro can run anywhere from 15 – 60 seconds, and it is the same for every episode, making it a quick, clear identifier for your show.
2. The Episode Introduction
This portion of the show is unique to each episode, and it is essentially laying out what listeners are going to experience in that particular release.
In other words, it’s a quick overview of the episode topic, who the guest is and his/her credentials, etc.
Typically, the host will say something like, “Today, we’re going to be talking about how to housebreak your dog,” or “Today I’ve got renowned dog whisperer Joe Smith on the podcast to discuss best practices for teaching your pup new tricks.”
The episode introduction doesn’t have to be more than a couple of minutes; it’s just a chance to set the stage and let listeners know what to expect.
3. The Listener Connection
The listener connection is what I consider the secret sauce of the formula.
It’s the core of what makes podcasting work for building connections between hosts and their audiences.
All you have to do is highlight a particular member of your audience who is taking positive action that you want to encourage your other listeners to take, as well.
Mention this person by name and share why you want to recognize them.
This takes you from someone preaching behind the mic to an individual who is connected to their audience.
Because it allows you to express that you not only care about and keep up with your listeners, but also that you know specific listeners.
It makes the highlighted individuals feel really connected with you (just think about how great it feels to get a shoutout by name from someone you admire) and helps other listeners realize that you are committed to helping them.
Additionally, calling attention to specific audience members encourages action among your entire audience by demonstrating that other people who have taken action got a positive result.
This is the kind of thing that inspires those who are part of the passive, “silent majority” to become more engaged with you and what you have to offer.
So what does this listener connection segment look like in practice?
Here are some great examples I’ve seen podcasters use:
- Highlight recent “wins” that listeners have contacted you about and share their success stories that are the result of using your advice. (As an added bonus, this encourages more listeners to share their own stories.)
- Answer specific questions from listeners. (This also encourages more people to submit their own questions.)
- Read positive iTunes reviews. (You can follow this up by encouraging other listeners to review your show, as well, to help it rank and reach more listeners.)
- Share key parts of community conversations from your Facebook group, membership site, coaching group, etc. (Then let your audience know they can reach out to you directly from this group, as well.)
Depending on which style of listener connection you choose, you can build stronger relationships while accomplishing additional goals.
Whether you want to demonstrate that your advice works, generate interest in your programs, or garner more iTunes reviews, a quick shoutout to one of your listeners can go a long way.
4. The Meat
As you may have guessed, this is the main part of your episode.
It’s the longest segment, and where you really dive into the content you want to share.
There are two basic styles you can use for this portion of your episode:
As the name suggests, interview-style episodes involve bringing guests onto your show.
Typically, these guests will be experts on various subjects that will be of interest to your audience, and you’ll ask them questions about a certain topic.
The main advantages of interviews are that they are fast and easy, without requiring you to have tons of knowledge of the subject matter.
They also create a powerful networking opportunity for connecting with people that you otherwise wouldn’t have a good reason to reach out to.
So, naturally, this style is best for people who want to network with A-players in their industry and build up quick authority based on their association with these influential people.
However, there is also the potential downside of scheduling conflicts.
Interviewing guests means working around other people’s calendars, so it requires some advanced planning to make it work.
Meanwhile, content-based shows feature you as the host discussing a particular topic or teaching a particular lesson.
That is to say, you are the expert sharing your knowledge with your audience.
The advantage here is that it naturally positions you as the clear authority on the subject because you’re the one covering the content.
It also offers great social proof because your listeners tune in for advice or content that comes directly from you—not from your guests.
This approach is best for those who really want to demonstrate their expertise and coach or teach their audiences directly on various topics.
But keep in mind that it also means you really need to know the topic and have a plan for what you want to say, as you’ll be carrying the episodes on your own.
For a more thorough breakdown of each of these formats, how they can work, and your options within them, check out The 3 Most Effective Podcast Formats for Entrepreneurial Leaders (And How To Know Which Is Right For You).
Deciding which style to use for the meat of your episodes should really come down to which will create the best experience for your listeners, while also suiting your needs and goals.
However you decide to deliver the main message you want to get across, this section is where you really dive deep into what you want your audience to learn.
5. The Quick Bit
The idea for this portion of your episode is to give a quick punch of value.
For example, you can share helpful tools, books, materials, websites, or even people.
You could also give some easy tips listeners can implement right away.
Usually, this is just a quick 2-3 minute segment that serves to wrap up your episode and summarize the resources.
(As I mentioned before, you can organize the parts of the formula however you want, so if you feel it doesn’t make sense to include this as a wrap-up, feel free to put it where it makes sense for your show.)
The key here is to condense the valuable information and direct listeners to either use it to take positive action or go somewhere to learn more.
6. The Recorded Outro
Much like the recorded intro portion, the recorded outro is the branded segment that concludes all of your episodes.
It generally runs about as long as the intro and uses the same or similar music and the same or similar style voice over.
(Revisiting the earlier audio example, click here and listen from about 0:39:50 to the end).
This is also a great place to include a call to action that gives listeners instructions for accessing more free content, downloading a free book or PDF worksheet, etc. on their way out.
Additional Winning Principles
I would be remiss not to share a couple more elements that I have noticed amazing podcast episodes tend to have in common.
I’ve seen commonalities in two main areas that are worth mentioning:
1. Episode Length
As a general rule, the most successful shows tend to run from 15 to 35 minutes.
Of course, there are exceptions, but that seems to be the ideal range.
I suspect this is because that time frame is short enough to hold listeners’ attention and give them confidence that they can get through an episode in one sitting, so to speak.
A lot of people won’t even bother pulling up longer episodes because they can see the length of time beforehand and they know they won’t be able to listen to the whole thing.
This is especially true if your target audience is a very busy segment of individuals.
Think about it: If you’re about to do the dishes or walk the dog, and you know you only have 30 minutes to do it, what are the chances you’re going to want to start an hour-long podcast?
So my advice is to keep it short.
People can always listen to multiple shorter episodes if they find the time, but they’re unlikely to tune in if they know they’re going to have to listen to a single episode in parts.
2. Publishing Schedule
Hands down, the most effective publishing schedule I have seen is weekly.
Because our schedules are built around weeks, this cadence gives your show the best chance at becoming part of someone’s routine—without taking over your life.
After all, you don’t want your show to eat up so much of your time that you don’t have the chance to work on your business, connect with your family and loved ones, etc.
If your listeners know that every Wednesday morning, they can look forward to your show, it quickly becomes a ritual.
And that’s how they start to build a long-term connection with you.
If you want to release more frequently, I recommend starting at three days a week and seeing how that goes/if you can keep up with that cadence.
However, I don’t recommend releasing less than one episode per week.
Only releasing a show once or twice a month makes it much harder to become a part of people’s routines because they have to remember whether it’s an on-week or an off-week.
So if you’re just starting out, I suggest sticking to the sweet spot of weekly releases.
Create Your Own Blueprint
As I mentioned above, you don’t have to adhere to any hard and fast rules for your podcast to be successful.
The advice shared in this article is simply based on what I’ve seen work the best throughout my years working with clients and helping them launch their podcasts.
So if you’d like to test out the formula for your own show, click here to download my example Blueprint.
It’s filled out to demonstrate how I structured my show, and you can edit it to fill in the plans for your own podcast.
And once you’ve figured out your episode structure, you can get to work recording your own amazing podcast episodes.
Do you have more advice to share for successful show structures? Leave a comment below!