For the past several years, I have hosted the Podcast Makeover panel at Podcast Movement, the world's largest podcasting conference. In this session, I bring together a panel of broadcasting and podcasting professionals to critique up-and-coming podcasts in a time-honored ritual that many of us know as an “aircheck session.”
My panelists typically come from a wide range of backgrounds, and have included Kerri Hoffman of PRX, Doug Berman of Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me!, Grammar Girl's Mignon Fogarty, Richard Davies of ABC News, and Tom Leykis, among others. The feedback they have provided over the years has not only been invaluable to the young podcasters on stage, but also to the audience members who get to witness people getting a first impression of a podcast in real time.
After years of hosting this panel, I've reached one inescapable conclusion: A podcast is made or broken in the first 30 seconds of every episode. Listeners decide very quickly whether or not a show is worthy of their time, and if they are not hooked immediately, they will move on to something else. It's crucial to open podcast episodes in a way that immediately conveys what the podcast is all about, who it was created for, and why people should listen. One of the most common mistakes novice podcasters make is taking a leisurely attitude at the beginning of their episodes, filling it with idle chit-chat instead of immediately delving into the meat of the episode.
Moreover, unless the podcast is serial in nature, any given episode may be the entry point for new listeners. This means that podcasters must stay disciplined, making sure that every episode features a tight and compelling opening. Too often, it's easy for podcasters to adopt a laid-back attitude when they're dozens or even hundreds of episodes into their show.
That's why this year, with Podcast Movement turning into a virtual every due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're switching things up. This year, we're going to focus on just the first 30 seconds of different podcasts. On Monday, October 26th, I will host the Trick or Treat Challenge. In this virtual session, our panelists (who are still TBD) will give their initial reactions to a slew of podcast openings. They'll critique each, explaining what's working and what's not, and then vote on whether they would continue to listen to the episode (“Treat!”) or not (“Trick!”) Along the way, we'll see real-world examples of what makes for a compelling podcast opening.
If you're attending Podcast Movement this fall, and you'd like to have the opening your podcast critiqued, you can submit it here.
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