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Directing the Conversation

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In my last post, I wrote about the structure of a podcast which would allow you to block out the flow of information as you prepare to record a podcast. Now I want to talk about directing the conversation.

Unless you are doing a solo “news report” style podcast, you’ll have a guest on the podcast – that could be a second reporter or analyst, an invited specialist, chatting to a member of the public, or any other combination that makes for an exciting and informative show. The great thing about guests, at least for me, is that it makes the show unpredictable.

And that means not being able to plan out anything more than the broad areas in the structure. So how to keep everything flowing during the podcast? For me I keep in mind three key points.

The first is that you are undertaking a directed conversation. You know what you want to find out from your guest (and of course your guest has their own goals as well), so you do want to keep the conversation going in the direction of “what you want to tell people”. Keep these ideas in mind, and try to make everything you say lead up to one of those ideas, before moving on to the next one.

Second, your next question is in the last answer. It should all flow, no sudden jumps in the progression. Don’t forget that it is a conversation and not an interrogation, it shouldn’t need to jump around. Think smooth. It’s a smart idea to pay attention to random conversations (such as when you are out in a bar) and take note of how people talk with each other. That rhythm and feel is what you need to replicate, while directing the conversation. It might sound a bit false to start with, but over time you’ll be able to guide someone’s voice to where you want it to go, and still make it sound natural.

Finally, and one that sometimes requires tact and bravery in a host… what are the listeners screaming at you to ask? Right there, that’s the question you have to ask (or at least justify afterwards why you didn’t ask it). The key is getting to that point, and once you are there, being able to ask it in such a way that you get a useful answer. That sort of skill takes practice, but you can get there.

Keep those three elements in mind while you are recording your podcast, and you’ll keep the interest up in the audio or video, you’ll stay engaging for your audience, and your skills will continue to improve.

Image Source: iProng and Bill Palmer, Creative Commons.

The Flowering Structure of a Podcast

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So you’re got a microphone ready, there might be a camera in the background with a blinking LED, and it’s time for you to record your latest podcast. But where to start?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is "what should I talk about" in a podcast. To be honest as long as you are talking about something you are passionate about, which has elements of entertainment, education and information, you’re probably on the right track. What’s just as important is how you say it. There’s a structure that’s worked well for me for presentations, seminars, training courses, and podcasts, and I want to throw it out there as a rule of thumb just now.

It’s a pretty simple formula for framing your chunk of information you want in the podcast. The thing you want to tell people sits nicely in the middle. Right before you tell people, you tell them what you’re going to tell them. Once you’ve told them, tell them what you just told them.

Okay you’ll be using some production tricks between the three parts, but a strong "welcome to the show, today I’m going to tell you how to fly to Paris" followed by a jingle, then how to fly to the French capital, followed by another jingle or musical sting, and then "that was how to get to Paris, for more, listen to the next Wonderful World of Travelling episode."

Too broad strokes for you? Then break down the fly to Paris in to two or three sections – for example landing at the Airport, and then travelling to the centre of town. Tell them first you’ll talk about the airport experience, then tell them, then remind them as you move towards the city centre.

With this "flowering" technique you can not only break down a big presentation in a podcast, but you’ll have a natural flow of information, alternating new facts and reinforcement through repetition, as well as a structure that can be used again and again. It’s a great framework when you start out, but also a good safety net if you loose focus and have no idea what to do – it wouldn’t be the first time that this has saved me in a live show!

Tell ’em what you’ll tell them – tell them – tell them what you told em.

Simple.

Image Source: Yukiroad, Creative Commons.

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