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How to Write a Killer Podcast Script

By: Compose.ly — March 31, 2020

If you ever need help making small talk during a party or business meeting, just ask everyone in the room what podcast they’ve been hooked on lately.

Podcasts are a hugely popular medium for both news and entertainment. More than half the population of the U.S. has listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime, and nearly one out of three listen to at least one podcast every month, according to The New York Times.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or simply a creative person wanting to get your voice out there, you’ll need to learn the major strategies of script writing for podcasts to make yours stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips on how to write a podcast script, including a template that will help you get pen to paper, while still allowing enough freedom for creativity.

Pick Your Podcast Style

There are a wide variety of podcast types, and each one works best with different levels of scripting. Before you start writing a podcast script, you’ll need to determine what kind of podcast you want to produce.

Of these broad categories of podcasts, which one seems like the best fit for your project? From there, you’ll be able to use the sample podcast script to learn how to write a podcast episode.

Informational

Level of scripting: Detailed

The informational podcast introduces listeners to a topic and teaches them more about it. It can be long-form (anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes) or quite short (5 to 20 minutes) depending on the content. Either way, you should work from a detailed script to ensure that the information you present is accurate, well-researched, cited appropriately, and easily digestible for your listener.

Examples of informational podcasts include RadioLab, TED Radio Hour, and Stuff You Should Know.

Conversation/Interview

Level of scripting: Loose

Podcasts featuring apparently casual conversations can be deceiving; a lot more planning goes into these shows than you might think!

The best conversation or interview format podcasts sound natural and unscripted. But to stay on topic and prevent excessive editing, the podcasters develop a loose structure for their conversations.

These could just be a series of bullet points of topics to cover, or a list of questions developed in advance. Loosely scripting the show gives the co-hosts or interview subjects room to speak naturally and expand on their ideas, but provides enough structure so that the podcast has a logical flow.

Examples of conversation/interview podcasts include WTF with Marc Maron, On Being, Fresh Air, and Hello Monday.

Comedy/Storytelling

Level of scripting: Variable

Some podcasts are not about presenting information, but rather telling compelling stories and entertaining listeners. For podcasts in this genre, a moderate level of scripting strikes the right balance between overly stiff narration and directionless rambling.

The script should match the speaker’s level of comfort in front of the microphone; do they prefer to read a pre-written piece or determine some narrative signposts and take it from there? The same holds true for comedy writing. Each comic has their own preferred method: either scripting jokes beforehand and memorizing them into a routine, or improvising off-the-cuff humor.

Examples of comedy/storytelling podcasts include This American Life, My Favorite Murder, and The Morning Toast.

Podcast Scripting 101

Regardless of the kind of podcast you’re creating, it’s important to know how to write a good podcast script, however loose it may be. Think of scripting as the podcast’s roadmap: it can be a detailed satellite map or simply tell you where you need to turn left.

At its most basic, you want the script to provide an outline for the podcast. From there, you can fill in as many specifics as you think are necessary. Sure, you don’t want to come across as too stiff or like you’re reading aloud rather than engaging with your audience, but you also want to stay on topic and avoid too many unnecessary edits later on.

After recording your podcast, you’ll also want to post a transcript of the episode on your show page. Not only will you save on editing time by working with a script from the beginning, but with a robust script in place, you’ll also have a head start on writing a transcript for the episode. It will all be on paper for you already.

To begin, sketch out the building blocks of your episode. Using the flexible guide below, you’ll learn how to structure a podcast script.

Simple Podcast Script Template

Here’s an easy-to-use podcast script template that accommodates every level of detail:

1. Segment: Intro

Time Allotted: 1-2 minutes

Content: This could be an opening jingle or catchphrase. It signals to your listeners that the podcast experience has begun.

Participants: This is usually pre-recorded and reused for each episode.

2. Segment: Welcome

Time Allotted: 2-5 minutes

Content: Welcome your listeners to the podcast, tell them what you’ll be covering in the episode and how you’ll break that down. For this, you’ll most likely want to use a more detailed podcast intro script instead of winging it.

Participants: You and any co-hosts the program may have.

3. Segment: Topic

Time Allotted: 5-20 minutes

Content: Depending on your podcast format, this could be an informational topic, a stand-alone interview or interview topic, or a storytelling bit. Lay out some of the key questions you want to ask your interview subjects or the ideas you want to cover.

Participants: Any interview subjects or contributors joining you on the program.

4. Segment: Segue

Time Allotted: 2-5 minutes

Content: Say goodbye to your first guest and transition into the next segment.

Participants: You and any co-hosts the program may have.

5. More Content and Seque Segments as Needed

Short podcasts can skip directly to the sign-off and outro, but longer programs may need to include additional topics and segue segments.

6. Segment: Sign-off

Time Allotted: 2-5 minutes

Content: What are the key takeaways you want listeners to gain from this episode? What can they expect for the next episode?

Participants: You and any co-hosts the program may have.

7. Segment: Outro

Time Allotted: 1-2 minutes

Content: Like the intro, this could be a catchphrase or jingle that helps you and your listeners close the experience.

Participants: This is usually pre-recorded and reused for each episode.

You don’t have to follow this formula exactly—you can mix and match the segments and have any number of segments that fits the vision for your show. How to format a podcast script in a way that works for your project is up to you, but this gives you a framework to start planning.

The content column can be as sparse or as robust as you find helpful, but having it there as a point of reference will make your episode planning feel more structured and help you avoid getting bogged down in the editing process.

More Podcasting Pro Tips

Help Listeners Follow Along

During your welcome message and in your segues, it’s helpful to signpost the direction your podcast will take for listeners.

Give them a sense of what you’ll cover during the episode and what segments are coming up next. This helps listeners fast-forward to segments that interest them particularly, builds trust with your audience, and just generally helps everyone know what to expect.

Practice Before Recording

Whether you’ve chosen to write a full script for your episode or just a loose outline, rehearsing before recording will help you stay on the same page as your co-host(s), show you where your plan for the episode might need some more work, and avoid a long, laborious editing process.

While it might not be possible to rehearse with interview subjects, you can practice information segments and storytelling to ensure you capture the desired rhythm and material in your recording session. While you don’t want to practice so much that your recording feels canned and overwrought, you don’t want to sound unpolished or unprofessional either.

Cooperate with Your Co-Host(s)

Another benefit of rehearsal is that you can work out who will say what and when. This will keep you and your co-host(s) from talking over one another, a blemish on your recording that is just about impossible to remove during editing.

Even if you can’t rehearse together, it’s helpful to have a conversation during your script development about how you will take turns speaking during segments.

Tell a Story

Even if you’re recording an informational podcast, tell a story with your data. Human beings are driven by narrative, and establishing a story-based framework around your topic will not only engage your listeners, but also help them retain the information.

As you are sketching out how much time each segment will take and what information you will cover, think also about what story you will tell your audience. And now that you know how to make a script for a podcast, you’ll have the narrative framework in place to tell it with flair.

Keep It Concise

Your podcast can be any length that you choose. The runtime will depend largely on what type of podcast it is, but in general, the shorter the better.

Everyone has limited schedules and most are fitting their podcast-listening into other activities like commuting, cleaning, and exercise. The average American commute is 26.1 minutes, according to CNBC, so try to fit your material within that window.

If you’re considering a longer format, check out similar podcasts to yours on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher to see whether you’re on a par with them lengthwise. You don’t want to be the only 90-minute listen in a room full of sleek, 20-minute options.

Big Tip
Creating a podcast is quite the process: writing the script, recording the audio, and then post-production. Once you’re done, it’s ready to go live. But where to go from here? You’ll need a solid hosting service to share your podcast with the world.

Conclusion

According to Forbes, 62 million Americans listen to podcasts each week, with over 800,000 active podcasts and more than 54 million episodes available to choose from. How will you appeal to your target audience amid this vast sea of options?

Having a plan to organize your content delivery will give you the structure and support you need to showcase your ideas. These tips and podcast script examples will help you write a killer podcast script for a killer podcast episode.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Molly Mann.


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