Today’s episode features Eric Johnson from Podcast Talent Coach.com. He has a lot of radio experience and he helps people create stories from their podcast. We talk about storytelling in great detail. He also has worksheets and other resources for telling great stories on his website at podcasttalentcoach.com
The Pros and Cons
One reason to do a narrative podcast is that it’s not prevalent right now in podcasting. Most everybody wants to do an interview podcast, because that’s the easiest type to do. Doing a podcast by yourself where you’re presenting the information is a little more difficult. The most difficult type of podcast to put together is the narrative podcast. It takes a lot of work to create but it’s one of the more entertaining and effective podcasts that you can put together.
Eric recommends narrative style because:
However, it’s incredibly difficult and unless you know what you’re doing it’s not something you should dive into headfirst. Experience in podcasting, broadcasting, audio recording and editing will help. If you don’t have that experience, creating a narrative podcast as your first podcast is going to be very difficult.
When you listen to NPR, they have professional editors that sit down and edit the piece together so it comes together in one nice story in 2 minutes. But that person’s job is to edit stories all day everyday. Be aware that it’s not an easy thing to do unless you know what you’re doing.
The Steps Required
Once you’ve recorded, you have to catalogue the interview, the questions you’ve asked, the details the guest provided. Then once you have the interviews recorded, you have to step back and write the story, find the pieces of the interviews that support your story and piece them in.
The toughest part is knowing what parts to leave in and what to leave out and still tell the complete story. You have to be an incredible storyteller, which is difficult and it’s also an art. You need people to interview that are lively, entertaining and energetic but also that will speak in complete sentences to help tell your story. And then you have to catalogue it all so you can put it together in a way that makes sense, so that your listener can understand the complete story.
The first thing you need to do is decide what story you’re going to tell. The most well known narrative podcast is Serial. It was telling a story of a guy who got locked up, but the question was ‘did he do it or did he get locked up unnecessarily?’ The creators knew the outcome before they started editing. They knew how many episodes they wanted to create and they worked their way backward.
Figure out what the conclusion is of the story you want to tell, and then work your way backwards to figure out exactly how much information you need to include to properly tell the story and reach your conclusion. That will help you figure out who you need to interview and what questions to ask. Until you know what story you want to tell, you can’t begin creating the podcast.
The Four Key Elements to Storytelling
The most difficult part of storytelling is creating that intriguing introduction that really hooks your audience and tells them exactly where you’re going. Don’t wander into the story. You don’t want your listener to be wondering where the story is going rather than enjoying the details. You want the listener to enjoy the journey, and have the anticipation and excitement build up. In a movie we know where the story is going. But is the hero going to survive or is he going to perish? That’s what draws people in.
Sift through the interviews that you’ve recorded to find the parts that will tell the story, rather than you telling the story. The more actual interviews you can use the better, because it brings the story to life. Additional voices add depth to the podcast. The more voices you include, the more depth you have.
You can learn a lot by watching expose shows like Behind The Music or Sixty Minutes. Watch how they make their transitions in their interviews. It’s truly an art, to go from one interview clip to transition to another interview clip. Behind The Music is a great example: they tell the story of a band using a narrator that voices the transitions, and then the band members’ interviews tell the real story.
When you recruit the people that you’re going to interview for your podcast, it’s important to let them know that you’re putting together a story, and their interview will be part of a larger piece. Reassure them that nothing they say will be taken out of context. Make sure in your editing that you are including pieces that are actually what the guest said, not changing their words in any way.
The Interview Subjects
Finding people to interview really comes down to the story that you want to tell. You need to talk to the main characters and people that have intimate knowledge of the story you’re trying to tell. If you find multiple people who are giving you the same story, find the most credible and/or most entertaining and use that.
When it comes to selecting guests for a podcast of this nature, the most important part is to find individuals that will speak in complete sentences. When you go to edit your podcast, to put it into parts, you will find it easier to edit if they speak in complete sentences.
This is where the art of interviewing comes in. You as the interviewer need to think about that in the questions you ask. You need to ask questions that will generate answers that are complete sentences. The answer has to stand on its own without the question setting it up. It’s more important to find guests that can provide that for you than to find guests of any other nature. A great question you can ask is the ‘complete this sentence’ style question. It’s a great trick for people who won’t use complete sentences.
If you want to create great narrative podcasts, look into great storytelling and moviemaking. Understand how movies are created from idea to plot concept to storyboards to shooting the film and how they piece that all together. Go back and look into the early days of radio when they used serials like The Green Hornet or Dick Tracy. If you can find those stories and how they created those through audio, that will help you create great narrative podcasts.
Eric covers storytelling quite a bit in his own podcast. Storytelling makes you real as an individual, which helps create that relationship with your audience. When you’re trying to do business online, people want to do business with those they know, like and trust. That happens through your podcast.
Storytelling is so critical. It’s what happens to be missing in great podcasts today. A lot of interview podcasts are successful because guests come on and tell great stories about how they failed and how they succeeded, and those stories make for great entertainment. Narrative podcasts can do the same thing. It’s a tonne more work but it’s a fabulous form of entertainment.