Do you structure your podcast episodes?
Crafting a well-ordered podcast episode is fundamental to captivating your audience. If the individual elements of an episode are not arranged in the correct order, it could fail to make any sort of meaningful impression on listeners.
A good structure helps keep the episode organized and on track and can make all the difference both in keeping your audience engaged, as well as ensuring that your podcast reaches its maximum potential.
But that’s not all. Maintaining an overall structure to your episodes can help you, as hosts, streamline your podcast workflow, maximize your editing time, and it can even help you conduct better interviews.
So, we’re all for episode structure! And we’re all for helping you find the structure that works best for your show.
We’ve put together three strategies to help you structure your podcast episodes to help you make them the best that they can be.
Why Podcast Episodes Need Structure
Before we get into the ways to structure your podcast episodes, let’s talk a little more about the whys. We gave some reasons above as to why we believe in structure. But it’s more than just helping you stay organized or improving your workflow.
Your podcast episodes are mini-narratives. These may be fiction or nonfiction, but they are narratives nonetheless. And a good narrative needs structure.
It needs a beginning, a middle, and an end that work together to create an experience. Without structure your podcast episodes will lack focus and direction, leaving listeners feeling lost.
One More “Why”
Another reason in the “why” column for podcast episode structure has to do with episode length.
While there is no hard and fast rule for how long an episode should be, there is a big rule when it comes to consistency. No matter how long (or how short!) your podcast episodes are, there should be some level of consistency.
Any podcast host is on a mission to build a loyal group of listeners around their show.
And there are many strategies for doing so. (You can check some of our thoughts on the topic here.)
But an often-overlooked strategy is consistently delivering consistent episodes.
And in order to maintain that consistency in your episodes, you need to have a structure that you follow and replicate with each episode.
Related read: What is the Ideal Podcast Episode Length in 2023?
Now that we’ve covered the “why” of podcast episode structure, and you’re fully convinced that your podcast episodes need structure, let’s get on with the crux of this article…how to structure your podcast episodes.
Ways to Structure Your Podcast Episode
1. Start with Your Segments
We mentioned above that a good narrative has a beginning, a middle, and an end. So you want to have these basic elements form the backbone of every episode. But don’t mistake basic for boring! You’re free to be as creative as your heart and imagination desire when it comes to your podcast episode structure. We’re just saying that in their most basic form, these three elements should be present in each of your episodes.
Let’s break down these three episode pillars:
Use your introduction to set the scene. It’s the hook to grab the attention of your audience – whether loyal or first-timer – and it tells them why they need to stick around and reminds them why they should commit their time and attention to your show.
This is the substance of your episode. This is the main reason why your audience is tuning in to your podcast. And here is where you have to deliver whatever you promised in your introduction, and whatever you promise to consistently deliver on your podcast overall.
Quality content is everything. And the body of your episodes is where you make yours shine.
Use your conclusion to tie everything together. Summarize your main points, share that all-important call-to-action, share the ways your listeners can connect with you, or share the social handles of whoever is in the metaphoric hot seat on the episode in question.
You should also use your episode conclusion to share those killer takeaways, or drop exciting hints for your next episode.
The key thing to remember about your conclusion is that it is not an afterthought. It’s a key element of your podcast episode structure. Structure it correctly, and it serves an important function in keeping your audience engaged and getting them to take whatever action you’re hoping they take via your CTAs.
In between these three pillars, you can structure in your recurring or rotating segments, your ad breaks, and your sponsor messages.
This is a great article from Masterclass on storytelling in general, but it also highlights the importance of structure.
2. Hone Your Episode Focus
The next strategy for structuring your podcast episodes is to hone in on your episode focus. What are you wanting to share in this particular episode?
Each episode should have a clear focus. And this focus should serve to cement your authority in your overall topic and within your niche.
Once you have a clear idea of the message and focus of the episode, it can be super helpful to write down everything you want to cover in relation to your focus. This is another way you bring structure to your episodes. By making sure that what you’re covering is clear, coherent, and complete.
In order to do this effectively, it’s helpful to make use of a script. And the great thing about scripting your podcast is that there is scope for tons of flexibility when it comes to finding the scripting workflow that works for you.
Sure, you can certainly do the word-for-word script. But you could also use an outline, a more fleshed-out overview, or a hybrid of any and all of the above. It’s just got to work for you, your content, and your audience.
Why the need for a script?
Because a script is another rung in the podcast episode structure ladder. It’s the way you can get an overview of what you’re going to cover in an episode. And more specifically, when you’re going to cover what, so as to deliver the best narrative possible.
A script in some way, shape, or form helps ensure that you really hit the focus you intended for the episode. It ensures that you cover all the parts that must be covered in order for the episode to be complete and coherent. And a script ensures that each and every podcast episode is jam-packed with the valuable content your target audience is hungry for.
3. Consider Your Episode Length
Strategy three for structuring your podcast episodes takes us back to our discussion of length.
Remember, you’re aiming for consistency. Your podcast episodes should be structured in such a way that there is a general consistency in the running time of your episodes.
Whenever we’re asked by podcast hosts how long their podcast episodes should be, our answer is always the same…
Your podcast episodes should be as long as what you can fill from start to finish with valuable content. And not a second more. As soon as you’re looking for “filler material” to “bulk up your episode” it’s time to stop!
The belief that “good podcasts” have one-hour+ episodes is outdated and frankly, not true. I promise you that your listeners would rather have 25 minutes of content gold than an hour of “pretty good stuff” but diluted with way too much fluff.
So that’s why considering your episode length is part of our strategy for structuring amazing podcast episodes.
So, how do you do this practically?
You need to start by evaluating your overall outline or script. And it’s another reason why some sort of working script is so important. Because without it, you’ll really have no idea how long your episode is possibly going to be.
Remember, you want to deliver the message and focus of each of your episodes like a firm (but friendly!) punch. And you can only do that if you have some sort of plan as to how you’re going to get to the heart of the episode, as well as the time you need to do this in.
Bring those two elements together, and structure it between the three pillars of “Introduction”, “Body”, and “Conclusion,” and you’ll have a winning strategy for acing your podcast episode structure.
Do this, and each episode will be another reminder to your audience about how valuable your podcast is, and how much they love being a part of your podcast community.
And that’s it! Our three simple strategies for structuring your podcast episodes like a pro!
We’re firm believers that having episode structure serves to help you craft engaging narratives for each and every episode.
By applying these strategies for creating your podcast episode structure, each episode becomes an exciting, engaging experience for your listeners, and will serve to expand your audience base and cement your authority within your niche.
How do you structure your episodes? We’d love to hear your go-to strategies!