Turn your Podcast Guests Into Storytellers

Turn your Podcast Guests Into Storytellers
Turn your Podcast Guests Into Storytellers
Concept Development

Many of our new clients are companies who have made well-intentioned previous attempts at podcasting but have become overwhelmed with the technical and administrative details of continuous Episode creation or have failed to develop and inspire strong listenership.

Oftentimes before we start planning an Episode Series for such clients, we review and critique this past work to look for areas of improvement. One of the biggest weaknesses we encounter in this process is the lack of examples and stories. This is the case in particular for branded podcasts (i.e., podcasts that are associated with a specific company, product, or brand) that focus on content intended to transfer knowledge to the listener that is either highly technical or conceptual.

Using Podcast Examples and Stories…vs. Not

Some podcasts include examples and stories, and some do not. Take two podcasts covering the same topic: Agile system development, which is a more current methodology for computer programming than traditional methods. Imagine a branded podcast that lists the technical requirements and business benefits of Agile programming. Now imagine a podcast featuring Jessica, a system development manager at ABC Manufacturing Corp, and how she deployed Agile to reduce project delivery lead time by 64%. She compared the process to the painful, slow way it was done previously. Which podcast Episode would you listen to?

Why  Examples and Stories Are Critical

Podcasting requires the interaction among participants to be compelling and memorable - particularly when compared to other means of communication. Why? Well, for two reasons:

  1. Listeners drawn to highly technical and conceptual content may be used to digesting this information in written form, and their minds may wander if it is not vividly presented.
  2. Listeners of podcasts tend more often to be doing something else while listening, as opposed to someone who is reading content, and doing nothing else, but, well…reading.

Besides, podcasting is the perfect medium for storytelling! You have a captive audience for, on average 30 to 35 minutes, and the spoken voice conveys ideas and concepts more compellingly and memorably than the written word ever will.

Why Stories and Examples Don’t Make It Into Branded Podcasts

The reason for this gap is quite simple. If the format is “interviewer/guest,” the interviewer fails to ask the podcast guest to think of examples and stories in advance. Indeed, an interviewer shouldn’t be too directive in preparing a guest, as being overly so runs the risk of the Episode coming off as forced and over-scripted and thus inauthentic. However, guests are often pressed for time and will respond positively to a little coaching, particularly those who are serving as guests for the first time. Also, many guests are more comfortable talking at the technical and conceptual level and may focus on answering intelligently without thinking of stories that would get their point across. We find that almost everyone knows how to tell a story, even the driest of guests.

4 Ways to Draw Out Podcast Examples and Stories From a Guest

So how does one encourage and support their guests to prepare these in advance? Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask for them in a prep meeting: Before recording, as part of your process, you should be having a prep meeting to discuss podcast topics, so be sure to ask them to think about 2 or 3 examples or stories they want to tell, or better yet, ask them for specific ones during your call.
  • Give them examples from other branded podcasts: Point the podcast guest to examples and stories from Episodes you’ve already recorded. You can use excerpts from Show Notes (a text recounting of what was discussed in an Episode) if available.
  • Provide sound clips: If you have a couple of short clips, you can send the guest from previous Episodes, those will help her or him imagine what is possible. We use something called Audiograms, which are clips of up to 60 seconds with overlayed artwork and subtitles; they’re perfect for this use.
  • Be smart with stats: Statistics are immensely powerful and memorable as supporting points for a given assertion. Ask your podcast guest if they know of any and to weave them into a story. If you have time to do a little research, provide ones you think might apply and offer them as something a story or example can be built around.
  • Create and tell your own stories: As an interviewer, there’s no reason you can’t create your examples and stories. It makes the conversation sound more interactive and genuine and provides the information you want to get across that your guest can reaffirm.

You can even orient your entire podcast production around a story or series of stories. If you go to our Genres webpage, you’ll see that we have categories of best-in-class podcasts that you can listen to in two broad categories:  Knowledge-Based and Story-Based. These are not mutually exclusive categories; all podcast Episodes can be enlivened by using stories. Listen to the examples as a way of sparking ideas. Or if you’d like to talk more on this, feel free to reach out to us via our Contact page or visit us at!

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