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How to Capture Your Podcast Audience + a TED Talk by Julian Treasure

Studies show that only 35% of all podcast consumers listen to an entire episode1. Which means that there are a ton of people out there only listening to a part of your podcast. It’s not because of the topic you picked or even because you’re hosting, it might just be that they’re using your podcast as background noise while they’re cooking or busy with work. The best way to become part of their day, instead of just being in the background, is by captivating them so much that they start focusing on every word that you have to say and forget about what they were doing.

If you can get your audience hooked from the first few seconds and keep them hooked throughout the entire podcast without them thinking that they just wasted 30 minutes (or however long your podcast is) of their day, then you’ve got a very successful podcast and this article isn’t for you. But if you are still wondering how to be heard by your audience, then let’s take a look at some of the best tips for capturing your audience’s attention.

Start Strong

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a strong start to all of your episodes. The first few minutes is where your listeners either find themselves captivated or they lose interest. New listeners will only tune in to the first few minutes and decide based on that whether your podcast would be a fit for them or not. It doesn’t matter if you have the best episode filled with the most awesome and interesting content; if your intro is not captivating, then listeners will never know what great content you have to share with them. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to have the perfect intro and the worst content ever! Your content should be at the same level as your intro and carried throughout your show. So what can you do to sharpen up your intro and captivate your listeners? First, start with a professionally scripted introduction, either by yourself or a voice-over artist. Next, really grab the audience’s attention by giving them insight into the details that will be discussed in your show. As an added bonus, you can also give them a teaser for your next episode to get them excited for what is still to come!

Paint a Mental Picture

Podcasting should be an escape from reality, so much so that your audience isn’t aware of anything other than the podcast they’re listening to (if this is the case, just ask them not to be driving or cooking!). The best way to captivate them this much is to create an image in their mind, whether it is feeling like they’re in the room with you or out in a field busy solving a crime themselves. 

Creating relatable content is the easiest way to start painting that picture. If they can relate to you or some part of your story then your listeners will use their personal experience to fill in some of the gaps. However, for new, original content, the best way to paint a picture for your listeners is to really hone in on your storytelling skills. Use your words to really describe a setting, or tell the story with descriptions on exactly how you were feeling – did you get goosebumps all over? Did the wind kick up the dust into a whirlwind that surrounded you? Really go into detail so that the listener can put themselves in your shoes and imagine what it was like to be there in person. 

Ask Unique Questions

Starting your podcast with a question or even ending off with a question that you’ll be answering in the next episode is a great way to keep your listeners intrigued and listening to find the answer revealed. This also relates to interviewing guests on your show, especially popular ones. Many interview guests will often have been featured on other podcasts, especially if they are on a book tour or have a new product they are wanting to promote.

So when you get the opportunity to have them on your show, make it memorable by asking them unique, never before asked questions. If the questions are unique and interesting then your listeners will say tuned in to hear all of the answers. Even though they’ve heard the guest on a previous show before, keeping the questions new and outside the box will give your listeners a new perspective on your guest, allowing them to get that value they are counting on. So take the extra time to do your research, think like a journalist, and pull out the best story you can!

Related read: 6 Strategies for Improving Your Podcast Interview Questions

Avoid Information Overload

Even if you created your podcast as a way of sharing your knowledge, just remember that there is such a thing as too much information at once. Having a podcast allows you to have as many episodes as you want for a reason. Instead of sharing too much information keep your episodes light, yet insightful at the same time. Don’t make the podcast longer just so you can squeeze in another fact. 

For example, if you have a true-crime podcast and you are discussing a new crime with every episode, listeners might easily become overloaded with information all jammed into one show. Rather try creating a season for each crime with as many episodes as you need to really dig into the details and let the information sink in as listeners reflect on the episode, waiting for the next one. At the same time, keep in mind that it is still paramount to keep your listeners captivated throughout the entire season. Keep them engaged with cliffhangers and sneak peeks so they simply don’t want to miss a detail of how the story ended.

Related read: 6 Ways to Create Loyal Podcast Fans

Think About Your Audience

No matter what you do, if it concerns your podcast then you should always consider your audience. Think about who you’re targeting and what it is they’d like to hear, and what type of content they are looking to find on your podcast. If you don’t know right off the bat, then do a little research. You can even ask your listeners using your social media and asking them to submit their questions or ideas. You can even send out a survey to your email list and really create that listener-driven content for your show. If you share content that has been created specifically for them your listeners, then there’s a higher chance that they will become hooked and listen to an entire episode. 

Another example where you should think about your audience is when deciding on how long the episodes should be. How will they react if your podcast is a full hour-long but only needs to be 30 minutes? That would mean that you’re rambling instead of just sharing facts. Trim your episodes down to include only the pertinent details and the information that really draws your audience in. Make sure that you keep their focus and don’t lose them along the way by adding in extra segments to re-engage them to the show.

Related read: 5 Steps to Create Listener-Driven Content for Your Podcast

Include Disclaimers

There are a lot of people out there that don’t like explicit language or controversial topics. Remember to share any necessary disclaimers before you start discussing the topic in your show. This can be anything from explicit language, disturbing or sensitive topics, or controversial discussions. If you don’t release a disclaimer beforehand and your listeners become offended or uncomfortable while listening to your podcast they might never tune in again. 

This is just a quick way to avoid any discomfort and gives them time to prepare or choose a different episode if they simply don’t prefer those topics. Again, keeping your audience at the front of mind is always key! Adding a disclaimer is a quick way to let them know that you’ve considered them ahead of time and want them to be prepared. 

Related read: Top 10 Mistakes that Podcasters Make

Add Sound Effects and Music

Adding music or sound effects to your intro is a sure way to grab your listeners’ attention. But if it suits your podcast then using it throughout your show will add listening pleasure. For example, if you’re using your podcast to read a book to your audience, why not add a page-turning sound effect after each chapter to indicate it’s a new chapter so people can keep track of where they were in the story. 

Another great addition could be playing music softly in the background, especially if your podcast needs a little dramatic effect. Using sound during your podcast or just in the intro can create a sense of excitement about what’s to come, or keep your audience in suspense when the tension in the story starts to rise! Again, using music and sound effects can really be a great way to entice your audience and keep them engaged in your content. So get creative, and create a great-sounding, well-produced show for your audience to love!

Prioritize Preparation

Preparation is always key to any project and even your podcast episodes. Preparing for your podcast will help you speak with confidence and share your story with unnecessary hesitation. If your podcast is all about going off-topic then instead of writing out your entire episode then just write a few keywords of things you’d like to discuss and read them over at least twice before recording. 

However, if you prefer a little more structure to your show then prepare it like you did oral presentations in university is a great way to start. Write out the entire episode outline and read it aloud a few times to yourself to see where you can add more detail and where you can throw in a plot twist to engage your audience. In the end, it’s all up to you on which method works best for you. As long as you are prepared to deliver well-researched and thought out content, you will be ahead of the game!

Related read: 7 Reasons to Implement a Podcast Workflow

Build Excitement

As we’ve mentioned, there’s nothing quite as effective in captivating your audience as building excitement for what is to come. Sharing teasers with your audience is a great way to build that excitement beforehand and have your listeners hanging at the edge of their seats to hear more. These are things like short audio clips, photos and even a video clip of you recording the episode. Something short that will excite and intrigue your audience enough so that they can’t wait to listen to your next episode. 

Social media is a great platform to use when it comes to releasing teasers and growing your engagement with loyal listeners. Share information about your next guest or next topic but keep your audience guessing by not revealing too much information all at once. Another great idea is to create a tagline for your podcast that you and your audience can use, something to get everyone excited and build that anticipation of what is to come. Again, find out what keeps your listeners coming back and give them more of it!

Related read: Top 8 Ways to Create Buzz Around Your Podcast

TED Talk: How to Speak So that People Want to Listen by Julian Treasure


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