As with so many things in life, that which comes across as effortless is often the result of a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work and a whole lot of practice and effort. Podcasts are certainly no exception! Some of the greatest podcasts may sound like a laid back, effortless conversation, but that is usually just the by-product of some careful planning and a good couple of hours of scripting the episode and practicing the delivery. Podcast scripting is a vital, but often overlooked, aspect for creating and cultivating a stand-out show. Too often, podcasters fall into the trap of thinking that just being well-informed about your topic is enough. Even if your podcast focuses on a subject you have buckets of knowledge on and tons of passion for, scripting out your episode is what will ensure that you cover all your top points and that all the important information is put across correctly and effectively to your audience. Without some level of planning and preparation, you may wander off-topic, lose your train of thought completely, or ramble on without ever getting to the crux of your topic. Scripting your podcast episodes will help you avoid all the above and ensure that your audience is getting the cream of the crop when it comes to content. Not only will scripting out your episodes keep you on track during your recording, but it will also save you heaps of time during the editing process, as you will not be trying to piece together the coherent bits after the fact.
Related read: How to Plan for Your Recording Your First Podcast Episode
But while scripting your podcast episodes is highly recommended for all podcasters, it is certainly not a one-size-fits-all exercise. There are a few different scripting options available when it comes to planning a podcast episode. So before we jump into our tips for writing podcast scripts, we’re going to take a quick look at some of the types of scripts you could use for your show:
1. The Broad Overview
Scripting doesn’t have to mean that you write your entire episode out word for word (but it can mean that too!), it can simply mean plotting a broad overview or outline of your episode. You can plot the points you want to cover and some of the points you want to make. This type of script is like a road map guiding you to your desired destination, rather than a step-by-step guide telling you exactly how to get there.
2. The Bullet Points and Guidelines
Your scripting could also take the form of bullet points and guidelines. Depending on your confidence in your topic, the type of episode you’re recording, as well as your personal style, a bulleted approach to scripting may be the way to go. Guidelines and bullet points are a good balance between a simple outline and a word-for-word script and is the favored style amongst podcast hosts.
3. The Detailed Word-For-Word
Now a detailed word-for-word may not sound like something associated with easy, conversational podcasts, but you’d be surprised at how many of those seemingly ad-libbed episodes by some of the top podcasters out there are often carefully scripted and practiced, yielding a polished final product. This style can work well if you have a co-host, or if there is a lot of complex information you wish to cover.
The bottom line is that you need to find what will work best for you and your podcast. You may even find that you need to apply a combo approach when it comes to scripting your particular show. You may want to do a bullet point layout for those episodes that focus on your specialized knowledge, where you only need a few guidewords to get you going, but perhaps for an episode that is a collaboration with another podcast host, you might want to script it almost word-for-word so that you are not talking over each other or cutting each other off. Whatever style you end up choosing, allow yourself to have fun with the process of finding what will work best for you.
And now on to our seven scripting tips to help you craft outstanding episodes time and time again.
1. Start With Your Basics
Scripting your podcast episodes starts with defining the basic elements of your episodes. Whether it’s an interview, a chapter of your fictional tale, or a collab with other podcast hosts, start your scripting process by plotting the basic structural points that will be the foundation of your episode. Your basics could include your intros and outros, advertising slots, as well as the meat of your episode – your main points. If you plot your main points down, you can start crafting your links to your sections, your witty opening banter, as well as your killer closing. Think of your basics as the outline of a work of art. Once they are on paper, the fun can begin of coloring in (or out!) of the lines by adding your creativity to the rest of your script.
2. Know Your Direction
Once you’ve got your basics down, our next tip for scripting is to know the direction of your episode. Planning the direction, or arc, you will cover over your episode, will help give you a firm foundation from which to craft the dialogue, links, or other segues to help your content flow easily from one section to the next. This will help create coherence and continuity for your show, and it will also make the actual work of scripting much easier.
3. Keep It Simple
Tip #3 is to just keep it simple. In practical terms, what we mean by this is that when you write your script, however you choose to do that, is to write in the same way as you would speak. Often when we write, we tend to use more “higher brow” language as opposed to the language we use when we talk in social situations. However, as your podcast is you speaking, you want the language of your script to replicate your conversational language. The quickest way for a podcast to sound forced and unnatural is if you try and write your script so grammatically perfect, that you end up sounding like a completely different person when you actually read your script out loud. It may take a few tries, but you’ll soon find the right groove of writing your podcast scripts in that easy-breezy conversational tone that those world-class podcasts are famous for.
4. Use Your Imagination
Podcasts, obviously, rely on audible communication to transmit your message to your listeners. But there’s a way to say something, and there’s a way to say something. When you’re scripting your episodes, you should try and use words to paint mental pictures to help convey your message more effectively. As you’re scripting, whether it’s a full script or bullet points, focus on using your words creatively to give more context to your message. As you let your imagination run freely, you’ll find some emotive and creative ways to share your message effectively, while giving your audience an audio adventure each time they listen to one of your episodes.
5. Always Edit
Remember, the first script you write for an episode is not necessarily the one that will be used when you do the actual recording. You might get so into your writing that you craft pages and pages for your opening monologue, and it might be filled with hilarious one-liners and some clever jokes, but if you never get to the heart of the episode, you’ll quickly find your download numbers dwindling. So our next pro tip for scripting is to always spend some time editing to get your episode to the appropriate length. And just how long should your episodes be? Well, the long and the short of it is that your podcast should be as long as you need it to be to say what needs to be said and not any longer. Now, I know that sounds like some sage Yoda speech, but all it really boils down to is editing. Once you’ve created the first draft of your script, however you’ve decided what works for you, you should always spend some time editing. You want to make sure that your episode contains all the vital parts you want to convey, but that it is free of repetition, and that you’ve pruned off the parts that may have become too self-focused or stray too far from your topic.
Related read: How Long Should Your Podcast Episodes Be in 2020?
6. Create Templates
Now, you may be hesitant to try your hand at scripting your episodes because it seems like a daunting task! But that’s where Tip #6 comes in – create some templates. This tip is especially helpful if you do a variety of episode styles on your show, from collaborations to solo expeditions, and perhaps even interviews. All of these different styles will require a different type of script. A great way to save time and energy is to create script templates for the different styles that are applicable to your show. These will then make it easy to write stellar scripts each time you prepare to record a new episode. An easy way to start creating your templates is to first focus on the basic structure of your different episodes and use these elements to create your different templates. You can then just save these basic structures as your templates and they will be ready and waiting for the next time you sit down to write an episode script.
7. Script Some Sound Effects
As you’re busy scripting your episodes, a great tip is to also make some notes of places where you could add sound effects. Sound effects can help add color and dynamics to your audio, and, if done correctly, can add a whole new dimension to your show. The right sound effects can convey tone and can even express emotions or feelings. Just think what Jaws be like without the famous “Da-dum, da-dum,” or Stars Wars without the iconic “swish” of the lightsabre! Not only are sound effects a perfect way to help bring those mental pictures to life, but they also serve practical purposes as they can be used to change topics or signal a new segment in your show, without you having to explicitly explain the change. They can, therefore, help improve the overall flow of your episodes which can do wonders for the overall quality of your show.
Related read: 10 Podcasts that Use Sound Effects to Stir Emotion + CEO of Soundsnap Weighs In
Scripting can be a great practice for getting your podcast to really stand out from the crowd. Not only does it help ensure that all your valuable points are effectively conveyed, but it can also save you loads of time during the editing process. If you’ve thoughtfully planned the direction of each episode, you won’t need to try and piece things together after the fact, as you’ll have all the bits you need for a cohesive show. Creating a workable script for your show really is just a super-effective way of getting your unique message clearly and coherently to the ears of your listeners. There is no perfect way to go about writing a script for your show, all that matters is that you find the method that works best for your schedule and your audience. Spending just a little extra time scripting or outlining your podcast episodes will make a huge difference to your overall quality and it can also help make your podcasting journey all the more enjoyable! So put that pen to paper, or your fingers to your keys and get scripting!