Whether you’re a podcast veteran or you’re a relative newcomer to the industry, it’s no secret that you need to consistently create stellar content to keep your show in good standing with your audience. And this need to keep your show fresh and relevant is even greater now than ever before as the number of valid podcasts has soared to over 1,300,000 (Yes, that many! According to the data courtesy of the My Podcast Reviews service, by Daniel J. Lewis, over 90,000 podcasts were added in the last 30 days alone!). But sometimes, coming up with new and innovative ideas for your podcast episodes is easier said than done. Some days, your mind is buzzing with out-of-this-world ideas. Other days, the ideas pond is drier than the Atacama, and that’s saying something! I get it. I’ve been there (the dry ideas pond, NOT the actual Atacama.) But never fear! We’ve put together a list of some of the best tried-and-tested techniques for sparking your creativity and helping you come up with some superb new episode ideas, especially for those inevitable times when you find your “Cool New Ideas” pile wearing thin. Incorporate these techniques into your creative flow, and you’ll never be at a loss for new ideas to incorporate into your episodes ever again.
1. Create Space for Creativity
Our first “technique” for coming up with new and innovative ideas for your podcast episodes is simply to start by creating the space for your creative juices to flow. As you will see with all the ideas and techniques which follow, consistency really is the key. “Practice makes perfect” is a motto that can be applied to most tasks in life, and it most definitely applies to idea generation. Just the practice of consistently setting aside time to think about new topics or come up with new ideas for your podcast episodes will already make a huge difference in the flow of creative ideas. The same way that consistently working out builds your physical muscles, so continually and consistently using idea generation techniques will build your creative muscles and will get the ideas flowing more freely. Consistently thinking about topics or episode ideas will also remove any of the panic that arises when you’re forced to create under pressure. This pressure can be a great hindrance to creativity and is a common cause of writer’s block, which usually gets you feeling more stuck than before! But if set aside scheduled time to come up with new ideas and you’re consistently exercising your creativity, you’ll always have a few great ideas stored up for whenever you might need them.
Related read: How To Improve Your Podcast Creative Writing Skills
2. Brainstorm Sessions
Next up is the ever-faithful brainstorming technique. Brainstorming is used on a daily basis by thousands of people, no matter what their profession, but it can be especially helpful for those in the content creation field. Now, I’ve heard many a complaint that brainstorming simply doesn’t work, however, when it comes to brainstorming it’s all about timing, i.e. when you use it. Brainstorming is way more beneficial when used in a preemptive fashion, as opposed to using it when you’re in panic mode. If you’re already stressed about not having a topic for your episode or a great new idea for a fresh segment, a brainstorming session in that frame of mind will probably not yield the best results. But this technique is really useful is when you set aside time to focus only on idea generation. The brainstorming magic truly happens when you have the freedom and time to enjoy your brainstorming session, and you’re not feeling the pressure of coming up with a new idea, like yesterday. Rather schedule in specific times during your weekly schedule where you focus solely on brainstorming new ideas. That way, you will have the freedom to generate new ideas without the added pressure of a looming deadline.
3. Try Freewriting
Freewriting comes highly recommended by those who write for a living. Simply put, freewriting is similar to brainstorming, but this techniques calls for you to continually write, nonstop, for a specified amount of time. Freewriting is a great way to loosen up your mental pathways, unclog any writer’s block, and it’s also just a really effective way to get your creativity flowing. Whereas brainstorming is focused solely on generating ideas, freewriting is more, well, free, in that you write whatever you want during your allocated time session. But if your intention is to generate new ideas for your podcast episodes, your freewriting will start to flow in that direction. The practice can be a bit daunting to start, but as it is with anything, the more you try your hand at it, the easier it will become. A simple way to incorporate this strategy into your podcasting routine – and what many creatives do – is to set aside 15 to 20 minutes as you start your day, without any distractions, and just write whatever comes to mind, without overthinking and without stopping. Besides getting in some really great writing practice, you also never know what new and totally innovative ideas you’ll come up with for your show!
4. Continual Idea Generation
This is just a fancy way of saying “Always carry a notebook.” You will often have no control over when a great idea will hit, but if you’re always armed with a notebook or a handy note-taking app, you’ll always be ready to record your stroke of genius. As you start to constantly think about new ideas, you’ll be surprised at how often new ideas come to you. You’ll also be surprised at how quickly these ideas slip away if they’re not written down! Keep a notebook in your bag, next to your bed, at your workstation, or in close proximity of wherever your ideas tend to hit most often, and those great ideas won’t disappear without a trace ever again! There are also some great note-taking apps if you prefer to keep things digital. Evernote, Google Keep, or Apple Notes are versatile, user-friendly apps that cater to all your note-taking needs. They also have options to record your notes audibly which is perfect for when your great ideas make an appearance when you’re on the move. And since we’re very rarely without our mobile devices, with these apps, you’ll always be ready to capture your moments of brilliance.
5. Ask Your Audience
Another technique for coming up with some amazing episode ideas is to go straight to the source – your community of loyal listeners. There is often no better method of coming up with what your audience is looking for than by simply asking for their input. Use your podcast, your website, your Facebook page, or wherever you interact most actively with your podcast community and ask your listeners to share their thoughts with you. Ask them to share what it is they might be struggling with, what issues they are facing, any other ideas they may have, or simply what they want to hear more of, and use these suggestions to add new segments to your episodes, to diversity your content, or even as the starting point to spark ideas for your brainstorming sessions. Your loyal listeners will always be a great source of inspiration as they are as invested in making your show as great as it can be as you are. Your audience is also who you’ve created your podcast for, and so they are the perfect resource when it comes to changing up or creating new content as they know what they like better than anyone!
6. Hunt for Inspiration
Sometimes finding unique or innovative episode ideas requires a hunting expedition. And thankfully, there are so many great ideas out there just waiting to be found! You just need to know where to look. Other popular podcasts are a great place to start for some top-notch inspiration. Take note of what some of your favorite podcast hosts are doing on their shows and see if there is scope on your show to do something similar. And while you’re certainly not looking to be a carbon copy of someone else, finding out what other hosts do successfully can help you generate ideas for your episodes. It could be as simple as starting to include guests on your show, or it could be utilizing something fun another host is doing, but putting your own spin on it within your niche and with your own unique voice and point of view. You could then have something totally fresh and new to include in your episodes. Who knows, your new segment could be the inspiration for another podcast host’s brand new idea! You can also take your hunting expedition further afield and look at niche-related Twitter or Reddit threads, podcast-focused Facebook groups, or even the question-and-answer website, Quora. Your search could include looking at topics that are podcast-related in general or those that are aligned to your niche. You never know what you may find or what will spark new ideas, but these expeditions are a great way to keep up to date and in the know with what people are looking for or talking about both within your niche and the industry as a whole.
As a starting point, take a look at this article from Buzzsprout. It’s crammed full of fun ideas for unique podcast segments which could help spark new ideas for your episodes.
With so many podcasts out there (remember that astounding number of 1,300,000?), you may feel daunted by the task of making your show stand out from the crowd. You may also, at times, find yourself weighed down by the desire to make your show something that people want to hear and to keep coming up with innovative ways to keep your listeners interested and tuning in episode after episode. Couple that with the desire to establish yourself as an authority within your niche and carve out some space for you and your show, and the task of coming up with fresh, new ideas for your episodes can seem totally overwhelming! But it most definitely doesn’t have to be! Armed with these techniques, and with a little dedication, you will be well on your way to a constant stream of creative ideas. No matter which techniques you choose to use, and whatever works best for you and your show, remember that the key is consistency. And when it comes to new episode ideas, “prevention is better than a cure” as the saying goes. If you actively set aside times to focus on idea generation within your weekly or monthly schedule, you’ll always have a string of new ideas lined up for when you need them. The more you make time for any and all of these techniques, and the more practice you put into harnessing your creativity, the more your creative juices will flow, and that can only mean great things for your podcast. So get that schedule out, create space for some creativity, and let those amazing ideas start flowing! Before you know it, you’ll have a whole stack of fun ideas lined up for future podcast episodes!
Related read: Top Podcasts To Fuel Your Creative Juices