Once you’ve figured out your podcast concept, audience, and all the other important details, it’s easy to want to jump into recording your first episode right away.
And while I’ve seen plenty of people try to wing it over the years, that approach rarely goes well—especially not in the beginning.
For starters, it typically leads to audio issues and the need for multiple re-records.
But, more importantly, it also fails to capture the particular first episode format that makes launches much more effective.
So in this article, I’m going to share with you how to structure your first episode for maximum results, and give you two free resources I’ve created to help you get predictable, quality audio for that first episode and beyond.
Planning Your First Episode
Before you dive into the topic or lesson for your first show, you want to make sure to lay the groundwork for listeners.
In other words, give them a breakdown of the basics so they can decide if your show is right for them.
To do this, there are four key things you want to share with listeners right off the bat:
1. Who You Are & What Your Show Is About
Before listeners will buy into anything you say, they need to know who you are and why they should listen to you.
So introduce yourself along with the show concept, including your credentials for speaking on the subject matter and why you’ve decided to create this podcast.
Now, it is important to clarify that introducing yourself and sharing your qualifications does NOT mean spending forever going over every detail of your life.
I don’t mean to be harsh, but listeners don’t care about all that—especially not before they’ve developed a relationship with you and your show.
What you want to do here is give a simple, quick, and straightforward overview of what makes you qualified to speak/interview on this topic.
Do you have a decade of experience in your field? Have you built a successful business? Do you have a Ph.D. in your subject?
Let listeners know (quickly) what makes you an expert, and then move on to your “why.”
Of course, you don’t want to say your goal for the podcast is to drum up more business—even if that’s true. In this introduction, you want to explain what makes you think this show will be valuable to listeners.
Try something like “I get a lot of questions about [insert your topic], and I wanted to put together a resource for [insert your audience],” or “I realized that [insert people in your target audience] don’t have a resource to go to for [insert your topic], and I wanted to create that resource.”
Whatever your goal with your podcast, let listeners know from the jump.
2. Who Your Show Is For & What’s In It for Them
You want to make it clear very early on who your podcast is for and what it has to offer them.
Whether you’re targeting celebrity dog trainers, first-time self-published authors, parents who need help sleep training their babies, or anything in between, make sure your intended audience will hear a description of themselves in your explanation.
Take Weight Loss for Busy Physicians for example. In the recorded intro, host Katrina Ubell refers to it as “the podcast where busy doctors like you get the practical solutions and support you need to permanently lose the weight.”
Anyone in her target market who hears that instantly knows this show is made for them.
(If you want to get super targeted, you can also describe who the show is NOT for. People do this in sales all the time, so you can use a similar tactic.)
Make sure you also touch on what listeners will get out of your podcast.
Will it be advice for keeping the peace in a blended family? Dos and don’ts for building a financial planning firm? Insight into health challenges they may face?
In keeping with the above example, Katrina shares solutions and support to help physicians lose weight.
Another great example is Tracey Bissett’s Young Money podcast, where she gives financial literacy tips for “young millionaires in the making.”
So break down your niche and make it 100% clear WHO your podcast is for and what PROBLEM you will be helping your listeners solve.
3. What Listeners Can Expect
Your first podcast episode should set the stage so people know what to anticipate from your show.
How often will you publish new content?
What day(s) and time(s) will new episodes release?
What kinds of topics will you discuss later on down the line?
Lay it all out so your audience knows exactly where, when, and how to access your podcast.
4. How To Get The Most Value
This step is easy to miss, but it makes such a huge difference in how your podcast works with the rest of your business.
The last thing you want to make sure to cover is how listeners can get the most value out of your show.
Spell it out for them with a specific call to action (CTA).
For example, you could say something like, “If you really like the show and what we’re discussing, then don’t miss our guide on [insert relevant topic here]. Go to [insert easy-to-remember URL] to grab your free copy!”
And that’s just one example of many.
If you have a Facebook group, tell listeners to join so they can continue the discussion. If you offer free consultations, give them the phone number to call.
It can even be as simple as encouraging them to subscribe so that new episodes come right to them.
Essentially, you want to give them a CTA that will allow them to get the most involved with the show and with you/your business.
Now that you know what to include in your first podcast episode, you have to decide how you want to incorporate it.
There are three basic ways to work the above elements into your opening show:
- As a brief overview in the first few minutes of the first episode before jumping into a lesson/interview/“normal” episode layout. (Check out the first episode of What The Wealth?! to get an idea of what this can look like.)
- As a lengthier explanation that fills the entire first episode. (Listen to the first episode of the Everything Always podcast to hear an example of this approach.)
- As a mini trailer that is released as episode 0 before your main episodes. (The podcast trailer for 3 Books with Neil Pasricha is a great example of this.)
If you decide to take the first approach, you’ll want to follow the four introductory bits with a lesson of some kind.
Typically, I recommend teaching one core central piece of advice for listeners (again, check out the first episode of What The Wealth?! to hear this in action).
And to help you keep it all organized, I’ve created the Podcast Episode Outline.
Feel free to download it, fill it in with your show’s details, and keep it handy for when you record your first episode—and your future episodes.
As you’ll see in the outline, it’s best to start with a core concept and bullet out 3 – 5 things you want to touch on.
Note that this approach means NOT writing down every single thing you want to say.
A lot of people make the mistake of trying to write down everything that’s going to be said in their episodes, but keep in mind that there is such a thing as overplanning.
This will make your podcast seem scripted and rigid, and it takes away from the conversational feel you want to have.
The bullet point approach, on the other hand, keeps things flowing with just quick reminders of what you want to cover.
After all, any subject you want to talk about on your own should be one that you can speak freely about based on a bullet point reminder.
So make a note of the main ideas you want to cover or any experiences or situations that you want to use as educational stories within the podcast.
Or, if you’re doing an interview, make a list of the wisdom you want to uncover from your guest that your audience is itching to hear.
Then, instead of having pre-scripted questions that can feel forced and interrupt the natural flow of conversation, you can gently guide your guest toward the subjects in each of your bullet points.
I also recommend including the specific calls to action you want to remember to mention.
That way, you’re sure to cover all the elements you wanted to include without having to redo anything.
There’s nothing worse than knowing you’ve totally nailed an episode and then realizing you forgot to hit record—or that the audio is such poor quality that you can’t use it.
Or how about having to call an interview guest back after they fit you into their busy schedule to tell them that you need to redo the interview for one of the above reasons?
All of these scenarios happen more than you might think.
That’s why I also want to share with you The Pre-Recording Checklist.
This is something I personally use for every episode I record and something I share with all of my high-end, done-for-you clients who use my company’s services.
Going through this checklist whenever you’re behind the mic will not only make it easier to produce your episodes, but it will also result in better sound quality, a chance to catch problems before they happen, and (best of all) ensuring you don’t have to deal with the dreaded re-record.
So download a copy, tape it to your desk, and go through this list every time you sit down to record.
And if you have a co-host or a guest who will be recording with you, have them go through the list with you to make sure that you have the best audio quality possible on both sides.
It will make your life so much easier as a podcaster and make your podcast that much better, so don’t skip this step!
Recording That First Episode
Now that you have the tools and optimal format for your recording your first episode, it’s time to make it happen!
And when you’re ready, we’ve put together A Simple Guide To The Best Podcast Launch & Production Services to help you find the best solution for getting your podcast out to the world.
Have more ideas on recording inaugural podcast episodes? Leave a comment below!