Some hosts find success in interviewing guests. Other hosts do better with the witty banter of their co-hosts or the back and forth between panelists. Then some may not want to sit through an interview and perhaps don’t have any co-hosting candidates. If that sounds familiar, it’s still possible to have a very successful podcast. The solo podcast format is becoming increasingly popular and enables you to start a podcast without needing a lineup of guests or a co-host.
The Three Phases To Launch A Solo Podcast
If you’re even the slightest bit intrigued by starting a solo podcast, before you dive in, follow this three-phase approach to make launching easier.
Phase One: Plan Your Podcast
A podcast succeeds or fails in the planning stages. Therefore, this is the part of your podcast that you should dedicate the most time to perfect, making choices that you can continue to scale as your podcast grows.
Choose Your Category, Genre, or Niche
A solo podcast works best if you don’t stray from your base topic. Hence it’s critical that you’re very careful about selecting a category or niche. You want a niche that you can continuously talk about but also that you have an interest in, so you won’t get bored talking about it.
For example, on the ForCreators podcast we interview guests about their experiences as creators to provide inspiration and information for our listeners.
Create Weekly Themes
Once you have your niche, create weekly or monthly themes – depending on your upload schedule. These themes will help you determine discussion points that your audience can follow along. It’ll also help you drum up interest in the coming weeks as you promo future episodes.
Write A Script
Some podcasts have talking points and then allow the panelists to discuss those points allowing real reactions and conversations. As a solo podcaster, you can’t react to or respond to someone else’s idea or perception. There’s no rebuttal or dialogue. In most cases, being a solo podcaster is more demanding than being in a panel or interviewing guests. Because the dialogue relies on you, and if you’re having an “off” day, you don’t have a podcast episode.
While you’re writing a script, create your intro or greeting and your outro. These are parts of the podcast that won’t change but can be wasted space if you don’t utilize them properly.
Phase Two: Make It More Conversational
If you’ve never created a solo podcast before, you’ll notice that it’s more taxing to try to keep the flow of conversation going and sound natural while doing it. You may not be able to achieve the interactive flow of the D’Amelio sisters, because they rely heavily on the back and forth of the other to keep the podcast going.
And since podcasts are only audio, so listeners will be able to pick up awkwardness or uncertainty in your voice – something that’s nearly impossible to fix in the edit. This next phase will help you make your podcast sound more conversational, making your listeners feel as though they’re talking to a friend.
Create Test Podcasts
If you’re starting a solo podcast, you’ll need a practice run. Before you launch your first episode, test your speech, your conversational style, and your confidence. Create a mock subject – something you still care about – and see if your script captures your talking points well. Also, make notes about whether you were able to bring your script to life, how natural you sounded, and so on. This also allows you to test your equipment and your editing.
Before you devolve into thinking your solo podcast is the worst, give it a week or two after editing and listen to it again. Sometimes your podcast isn’t as bad as you think it sounds.
Pretend As if You’re Talking To Someone
If you want to be an engaging solo podcaster, you need to develop the ability to imagine the flow of conversation between you and the listener, giving your podcast a more natural sound. You need to know when to pause for effect, when to ask questions, when to anticipate a common response, and so on.
Additionally, you also want your podcast to have a conversational flow like it would if you had guests or panelists.
You can try listening to some popular solo podcasters to get an idea of how to simulate an engaging solo conversation. Another tip is to try listening to your favorite solo YouTubers without the visuals. Keep in mind most YouTubers are talking to a camera, but still manage to make the content engaging and bring the audience along for the ride.
Make It Interactive
Part of being conversational is to ask questions, make assumptions, and even roll with those assumptions. For example, you can ask your “audience” which subject you should talk about in your next segment and pretend as though their answer is the subject you’ve already chosen to discuss.
Ask for Feedback
When you don’t have any listeners, soliciting feedback is nearly impossible. However, you can ask friends to give feedback on an episode. You can also go to /r/podcasting to get feedback from total strangers.
Having another pair of ears listen to your podcast is going to give you the most objective conclusion on the next steps to take.
Chat About Recent Events
Another way to simulate conversation is to talk about recent events. You don’t need to focus on events making headlines if you’re not comfortable doing that. Instead, you can find news and up-to-the-minute topics about events happening in your niche. Everyone always has an opinion on what’s new. The best way to capture your real reaction to newsworthy topics is to go off-script or not prepare a script at all.
Test Going Off Script
Your script is a guideline. The first few times you write a script you’ll discover that often you’re not writing it the way anyone – including yourself – would speak. Therefore, don’t be afraid to abandon the script and speak naturally. You may discover that it’s better for your tone of voice if you avoid having a script and instead create easy to follow along bullet points.
Phase Three: Produce Your Podcast
While a podcast may succeed or fail in the planning stages, it comes to life in the production stage. You can have the most monotone voice or the least enthusiastic demeanor, but if you know how to edit your podcast, you can instantly breathe life into each episode.
Edit In Transitions, Sound Effects, and Music
Popular podcasts have segments that make the show cohesive. You should consider doing the same, so it’s not one long podcast episode. Transitions and sound effects also help you structure your podcast better and will help listeners follow along without becoming confused.
Remove ‘Umms’ and Awkward Pauses From Edit
Podcasts never sound as smooth as the final cut as they do before the final edit. It can take two or even three passes of editing before you get the smooth conversational flow you’ll hear in your favorite podcasts. Misspoke words, forgotten lines or cues, coughing, sneezing, water breaks, voice exercises – yes, your favorite podcast host removes those things from the final edit to make it sound natural. Do you want to hear someone gargle or spend a minute doing speech exercises? No. So, even while you’re creating your podcast, remember that anything you don’t want to include, you don’t have to include.