Creating a podcast is challenging, rewarding, and a whole lot of fun.
But for many podcasters like you, things might not be working the way you imagined.
Maybe listeners are dropping off part way through your episodes. Maybe your downloads are low and won’t seem to budge no matter how much you promote.
Or maybe you’re just burned out. It was exciting at first, but now you’re wondering if you’re just wasting your time.
Whatever you might be dealing with, you’re in good company. So many members of our community have experienced those same struggles and challenges, and over time we’ve noticed a few common mistakes that new and even veteran podcasters make.
These mistakes aren’t that obvious but they can be disastrous for you and your show, so it’s critical for you to spot them and avoid them.
Here are some of the most common mistakes podcasters make that are hurting their show.
#1: You’re not hooking your listeners
And we aren’t just talking about that initial hook.
It’s obviously important to have an interesting show with a compelling title, artwork, and description. Those are critical in catching someone’s eye as they browse through the podcast library.
But what most podcasters don’t do is hook listeners in on each episode. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you aren’t thinking carefully about the first minute of your podcast episode. That determines whether someone will keep listening or not.
Podcasts are nice because you have a little bit more time to hook your listener. On blog posts, you only have a few sentences. YouTube videos are even worse – you maybe have a few seconds to get their attention.
With podcasts, you get about a minute, and sometimes saying just a few specific things in that first minute can keep someone listening to the entire podcast.
Here are a few things you can try.
Tell them a story
Story is powerful. Our human minds are wired to love and pay attention to stories.
As a podcaster, you probably already tell stories on your show. It’s second nature.
But starting with a story can be just as powerful, and here’s why –
When your listeners starts to play your episode, they have their own life going on. They’re in their own story – heading out the door to work, starting the laundry, lacing up their shoes for a run.
Their mind is already filled with thoughts, worries, and ideas. You’re already competing with them for their attention.
When you introduce a story however, they step into it. It becomes their own story. And the moment it does, you have their attention. It’s the fastest, most powerful way to get and keep your listener’s attention.
So start with a story. Something that’s related to the guest you’re interviewing or the topic of the show.
You’ll hook your listeners in a heartbeat and keep them listening to the entire episode.
Opening a loop is essentially the same as teasing. It’s like a movie trailer that shows you just enough to catch your interest but doesn’t give the whole movie away.
You could use a short snippet from a story that ends with a cliffhanger. If done right, your audience will naturally lean in and ask, “what happened next?”
Maybe they crash landed behind enemy lines with no way to call for help. Maybe they stumbled upon something that led to an incredible discovery.
Whatever it is, talk about that dramatic moment and open the loop. The promise of telling them the end of the story and closing it later in the show will compel your audience to keep listening.
Clearly say what’s in the episode
Another approach is to be very direct in your opening. Tell them exactly what you’re going to cover in the podcast.
This helps them instantly know if they want to keep listening or skip. While this might not sound like a good idea at first, remember that your listeners are giving you something incredibly valuable – their time and attention.
By telling them clearly and simply what the episode is about, you’re saving them the energy of having to figure it out for themselves. That’s a big positive for most people, even if they don’t realize it, and they’ll likely continue listening.
If you do this, spend a few extra minutes to make your opening compelling. But remember, just being clear doesn’t mean you have to be boring.
#2: You have a poor production flow
Have you ever published a new podcast episode, and then felt immediately overwhelmed with all the work you need to do for the next one?
You aren’t alone. Most podcasters feel this way and it’s because they haven’t optimized their production flow.
Without a system in place, you’re forced to start your planning all over again every time you publish an episode, on top of doing the work to create the podcast.
Here’s what to do instead:
Every quarter, block off two hours with your team (or yourself) to sit down and think through your episodes for the next 3 months. Plan out all of your content – the guests you want to interview, the topic for each episode, etc.
Then right out your production process. What are all the steps you need to take to publish a podcast?
Doing this will prove to be much more efficient and effective. You put all of your planning power into one session, which frees you up to simply execute the plan week by week.
Then when you hit publish, you’ll feel accomplished and confident, knowing you already have next week’s episode planned.
Pro tip: Let other people help.
You don’t have to do it all, and chances are you can find someone to do much of the production work that’s better and faster than you are. You’ll not only reduce your stress, you’ll free up your time and creative energy to make your show even better or pursue other interests.
#3: Your podcast has no flavor
Nobody likes a bland dinner dish and nobody wants to listen to an hour long monotone lecture. You must intentionally work on adding variety to your show to keep it interesting and to hold your listener’s attention.
On blog posts, you can add images, gifs, different fonts and colors, or all kinds of other visual design elements.
With video, you can do even more.
With podcasts it’s much more difficult. You only have audio to work with, which severely limits your options.
So what can you add to your audio to make it stand out without having to hire a whole team to do it?
Here are a few options.
Add sounds effects
Since the earliest days of radio, sound effects have played a massive role in bringing the audio to life.
Nothing quite says “thunderstorm” like the actual boom of rolling thunder mixed with the sound of a torrential downpour. When we hear these kinds of sound effects, we can visualize them with ease.
You can obviously go a bit overboard with sound effects to, so make sure the ones you choose are appropriate for your topic and use them as tasteful additions.
Remember less is more. (Unless your podcast is about Looney Tunes. If that’s the case, knock yourself out!)
Add background music
This is the most simple and dramatic way to add some flavor to your show.
Music is powerful. Mystery, drama, humor, inspiration – all of these emotions can be triggered in an instant through music.
This is also an excellent way to use pattern interruption as well. In general, humans get bored of the same thing for too long, especially with digital entertainment. The fix is to keep things changing. This gives the impression of movement – that we’re going somewhere.
As your show progresses, change the music often to match what’s being discussed or when a new topic is introduced. NPR’s “How I Built This” with Guy Raz is a great example on how to do this effectively.
You’ll want to find royalty free music tracks, which you can find online at places like audiojungle.net. You pay for it once and can use reuse it as many times as you want.
Change your voice
You already have the most powerful tool available for keeping your podcast interesting – your voice!
The human voice is capable of incredible variety, but most podcasters don’t ever change their voice or how they speak. They simply talk just like they would if they were by themselves or sitting at a coffee shop.
That works for some cases, but when your audience is listening to just your voice for hours on end, it isn’t enough.
Start exploring different cadences or talk styles. What if you slow down a bit? What if you give more inflection when asking a question? What if you enunciate more?
At first it might feel like you’re overdoing it, but that usually means you’re on the right track. As you explore more you’ll get more and more comfortable using your voice to keep your podcast fresh and engaging.
There’s a great voice and speech coaching app available called Astound that can help you develop your voice.
Become a podcasting pro
Addressing these common mistakes will help you instantly improve your podcast and level up your game.
But if you want to go even deeper and become an even better podcaster, check out this FREE training from Pat Flynn, co-founder of Fusebox and host of the Smart Passive Income podcast, called “5 Mistakes That Separate Amateurs from Pro Podcasters”.
We covered three of the mistakes here, but in this training Pat goes into much greater detail. You’ll have a clear overview of how to create a solid foundation for your podcast so you can launch, run, and grow your podcast like a pro.
Click here for the training