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Today’s episode features Dave Jackson sharing his expertise about creating narrative style podcast episodes.

Pros and Cons of doing a narrative style:

  • The big pro is that stories engage audiences more than just a plain interview. There’s a reason every movie, every book, every TV show and almost all media is a story of some sort. It’s the Hero’s Journey: the audience gets sucked in and wants to find out what happens next.
  • The main con is that it takes a lot more time. To do just a host talking into a mic is a 4:1 ratio. If you’re making a 15 minute podcast like that, plan on spending an hour working on it. However other kinds of podcast have a much bigger ratio, because now you’re trying to get things to sound a specific way and create a mood so it takes much longer.

Dave’s tips for how to approach it:

  • Start with an idea first, break it down into specific topics next and then construct it into a narrative story.
  • Write it down and start fleshing out the idea, even write your show notes in advance. This helps because often during this process you will come up with cool ideas for production.
  • Choose guests via a criteria so that they fit the goal of the episode. That will mean you will get more of the sound bites you want from them and hopefully less will end up on the cutting room floor.
  • When trimming down interviews to get to the narrative elements, focus on the parts where the guest actually answers the questions you ask. Remember, you are the buffer between the guest and the audience and you don’t want to make the audience sift through content that isn’t relevant.
  • Ask yourself “What’s the point of telling the story, what’s the objective?” Do you want people to laugh, cry, groan or be entertained? Write it out so you can see the ebb and flow of the story. Then you will know where it tugs on their heart strings and where you need to lighten it up a bit so it’s not so heavy etc.
  • Sometimes you have good content that wasn’t relevant to the particular narrative, so it got cut. However, you could still use it for a promo for the episode or you can also release the full, raw, uncut interviews as well. For example, The Podcast Producers do this in between seasons.

Techniques to transition between clips or parts of stories:

  • Use music or sound effects, for example, at the end of a segment. Fade in music that sets the tone of the point you were making. It’s also useful for the audience to help the point sink in, let them ponder a bit.
  • Have a commercial break. This is a common way and audiences are familiar with it because it’s used so widely in mainstream media.
  • Simply use a dramatic pause followed by a question. Using a dramatic pause (think Paul Harvey, the king of radio) to let the idea sink in. Then start off next point with a question, to signal to the audience a shift of direction.

Resources or sources of inspiration:

  • The book “Resonate: present visual stories that transform audiences” by Nancy Duarte.
  • Listen to Serial or Radio Lab or StartUp. Listen to enjoy the story, but also listen for the technical aspects of what they’re doing so you can reverse engineer them and use them yourself.
  • A portable recorder, to try to capture your thoughts in a moment, or your surroundings.