The Preparation to Performance Ratio for Podcasts

With more and more people creating podcasts, competition is getting much tighter to really stand out and create a show that rises to the top. And for every successful podcast out there, there are hundreds, if not thousands, more that fall flat or never get off the ground. And while there is no shortage of differing strategies to create a great podcast, there is one undisputed strategy to assure your podcast is boring and destined to fail: “Winging It.”

The single most significant factor that can make or break a podcast is the balance between preparation, performance, and promotion.

And most people only focus on the performance (and even that part is rarely given the attention it deserves – but that’s for another article).

It’s important to understand just how much preparation goes into a successful show and how much effort you should commit to the promotion after you stop recording.

Most people assume that because they’re an expert in their subject matter or they’ve listened to other shows, and it sounds like a natural conversation, they can just rock up and have a chat with their guests or if non-stop about their expertise. But the reality is that even the most experienced hosts put in a lot of work behind the scenes to make it look easy.

How Much is Too Much?

So, what’s the proper ratio of preparation to performance to promotion for a podcast? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, a good starting point is the 5:1:5 rule. That means you should spend roughly five times as much time preparing for your podcast as you do recording it and 5 times as much time/money that it costs you to produce it in the promotion of it.

So, if you’re planning a 30-minute podcast, you should aim to spend around 2.5 hours preparing for it. (This article is only going to focus on the preparation side; if you want to learn more about the promotion side of the ratio, read this excellent article by my friend, Daniel Priestley:

Article by Daniel Priestley about the proper ration of creation to promotion for a product.
Click to read about the proper creation to promotion ratio by Daniel Priestley

So why does preparation matter so much? For one thing, it helps you stay organized and on track. Without a plan, it’s easy to ramble or lose focus, leading to a disjointed or boring podcast. Preparation also helps you avoid tangents and ensures that you cover all the key points you want to make. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in my studio say, “Oh, we forgot to talk about …!” after the show has ended. And if you’re interviewing guests, preparation is essential to make sure you ask the right questions to draw out their insights.

So, what goes into show preparation? Here are some key elements:

While this might sound like a lot of work, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Some of my clients hire my company to do all their content creation for their podcasts, significantly reducing the amount of preparation they need.

  • Research: Whether discussing a specific topic or interviewing a guest, research is essential to ensure you have a solid understanding of the subject matter. “I read somewhere…” or “There was a study once…” doesn’t cut it if you want to be credible as a content expert. You must know the name and author of the book (and if you really want to sound impressive, cite the page number) and provide the actual study of the research you refer to.
  • Outline: Creating an outline of your podcast can help you stay on track and ensure you cover all the key points you want to make. For my clients, we develop a run sheet with every segment AND the lesson/benefits the viewer or listener would like to know to ensure it’s covered.
  • Questions: If you’re interviewing a guest, you’ll need to come up with questions that will help draw out their insights and make for an engaging conversation. And for the love of good podcasting, please avoid these horrible questions:
  • Promotions: If you’re promoting anything in your podcast or want to direct them to your guest’s website, have that information readily available during the show so you don’t look like you have no clue how to reach the very person who is on the show with you.
  • Hookpoint: You need to determine the hook point of your podcast, that is, what makes people want to listen past the first 5 seconds.
  • Title: Choosing the right title for your podcast can help attract the right audience and give them a sense of what to expect from your show.
  • Challenges or Calls to Action: Offer your listeners some challenges or a call to action so that they can be engaged with the podcast.

Ultimately, the success of your podcast comes down to your talent as a host. Please don’t assume that you will be a skilled podcast host just because you are an expert in your field. Those two things have nothing to do with one another. You need to put in the time to build up your show-hosting skills. By doing so, you’ll be able to deliver a polished, engaging show that keeps your audience coming back for more.

If you liked this topic, and want to explore more, why not watch a quick video I made about the worst ways to open a podcast?

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