How to Structure Engaging Podcast Episodes

If you’re looking for ideas on how to structure you podcast episodes, you’ve come to the right place.

A defined, repeatable episode structure is important because: 

  • Planning your content becomes easier
  • Good structure means fewer post-production costs
  • More opportunities to inject a sponsored ad, shout out a future guest, or deliver a call-to-action
  • Defined segments make it easier to control the narrative tension
  • Listeners who know what to expect from an episode are much more likely to stick around

In this post, were giving you a 3-part structure that includes the Intro, Body and  Outro — and how you can most effectively utilize each during your podcast.

Part 1: The Intro - Tell Your Listeners What to Expect

Your introduction is all about setting expectations.

In Hannah Gadsby’s standup comedy special Douglas, she tells the audience exactly what she’s going to be joking about and what the punch lines are gonna be – and they find it incredibly funny.

The fact that the audience knew in advance what she was going to do highlighted the power of this simple push and pull.

Sometimes podcasters worry about spoilers or showing their hand too soon, but in practice, a description of what to expect won’t spoil the emotional journey that your giving your audience.

In your intro, prime your audience by telling them exactly what to expect in your episode.

✨ Example of a Great Podcast Intro

Notice how the introduction in “The Digital Sisterhood: Mama, I Can See You Now” series outlines the journey and relevance of their guest Alex Fox perfectly. Even before we hear from Alex, we hear the host set the scene in a way that the listener knows exactly what to expect.

Part 2: The Body - Tell Your Listeners What to Expect

The body of your episode is generally the most challenging part. 

For example, a discussion podcast with multiple panelists will have a relatively easy time managing the conversation. 

In contrast, a solo history podcast will have to be scripted down almost to the letter (this is why interview style podcasts tend to have longer episodes, while narrative style podcast tend to have shorter ones).

You almost always should be scripting the main body of your podcast into subsections.

Let’s have a quick look at what a subsegment within the body of an episode would look like.

How to Structure the Body of a Podcast

The body of your podcast can be broken down into three distinct segments:

1. Setup: Indicate that a new segment is beginning by playing either a musical jingle or a clearly unmistakable sound effect. Then follow it up by introducing your topic like it’s a newspaper headline. 

2. Delivery: Now deliver on those expectations. Read out your prewritten script or notes. There is almost never a good reason to diverge from these scripts. If your entire episode is about 40 minutes long then you should have between two and four segments in your body, ranging in length from 6 to 12 minutes each.

3. Payoff: Summarize the implications of what you just read  in a more conversational style and then round off the segment by either making an announcement or reading a sponsored advertisement.

✨ Example of Great Setups Between Segments

Every episode of the Greek mythology podcast “Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby!” creates distinctions between subsegments with both, the host giving you a heads-up before a segment change and a jingle that indicates transition.

Part 3: Perfecting Your Podcast's Outro

Start your outro by reminding the audience why the episode was significant or why you made it. Remind them why they should care.

Your outro is a good spot to insert an ad hoc segment that you didn’t feel belonged in the main body but deserved a mention.

Depending on your level of audience engagement, your outro can also be an excellent time to selectively answer a few questions from your audience. 

As an example, the YouTube channel for PBS Space Time, where every episode the host picks three questions from the audience to answer.

💡 You can also have the same closing segment for every episode.

For example, “The Spiritually Sassy Show” host Sah D’Simone ask his guests at the end of every episode “what it means to be spiritually sassy to them?”

And DON’T forget your call to action (CTA). A few examples of CTAs for your podcast could include:

  • Like and subscribe 
  • Check out the merch
  • Tune in to your next episode because … 

🎸 Let's Rock

Now that you understand the three key parts to an episode and how to format each, you’re ready to fine-tune your show and create an enhanced, more consistent experience for your listeners. 

📘 Related Reading

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