On the back of winning the UK National Award for the Best Business Podcast 2011 at the European Podcast Awards last week, a few people have been asking me “What’s the best show format for someone who works alone?”
My answer is: “It depends.”
If you’re a consultant or solo entrepreneur considering podcasting the format you are most likely to be attracted to if you’re considering starting a podcast is the solo show.
This is the show where it’s just you. Hidden away in your den. Talking away behind a mic. Safe and sound!
This format is often best used for short and snappy shows that have a strong didactic function, teaching the listener something.
The Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts are perfect examples of this format, typically coming in at around 7-10 minutes. They’re tightly focused on one topic such as: “Is there a right way to drink sport’s drinks” (Get Fit Guy), “Fun Nose Games for Your Dog” (The Dog Trainer), or “Top Online Tools to Make Airline Travel Easy” (Get-It-Done Guy).
These shows succeed because they provide advice and answers to the kind of questions and issues listeners – potential customers – grapple with.
The solo podcast is often scripted or semi-scripted as it’s important to give clear and understandable information as quickly and effortlessly as possible. You can’t, after all, use visuals when delivering information in audio format.
As an example, a dentist could talk about particular procedures and why they’re necessary, how to choose a good toothpaste, why electric brushes are better, etc.
Similarly, a French teacher could cover key vocabulary and grammar points to help you order a meal on holiday, ask the way or report a theft, etc.
One of the drawbacks of the scripted solo podcast is that you can come across sounding rather flat or mechanical unless you are adept at reading aloud. Still, it can be done really well. Listen to Stever Robbins to hear just how good a scripted show can be.
To achieve this kind of delivery you need to work hard at practising how you read. Instead of mechanically going through a text, turning the page (or scrolling your mouse), work hard to bring life into your reading. Use your voice to capture the listener’s attention instead of sending them to sleep.
The benefit of the solo podcast is that you are entirely in control. No one else. Just you. Plus, you can always mix it up a little and bring in guests from time to time.
Personally, as someone who produces a solo show as well as a co-hosted show, I can see the benefits of both. I really enjoy the interaction of a co-hosted show, but at the same time I also enjoy trying to deliver something just on my own. It’s a challenge, sure, but I’ve learned a lot about breaking down information for listeners doing this.
If the solo podcast format appeals to you, why not try scripting a pilot show and record it, listening afterwards to your delivery. If it doesn’t sound as good as you hoped, go back and re-record using more inflection in your voice, varying the speed of your delivery.
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