I had that most excellent experience, recently, of being asked to come on someone else’s show. Caroline McKenna, the host of The Charity Peeks Podcast, asked me to introduce the concept of storytelling for the non-profit sector. I had some rough notes on my iPad, but I didn’t refer to them.
As I was being interviewed, I found that I was boring myself. Now, if I was bored of my delivery, imagine how the listeners would be feeling. I could imagine me putting them into a long, deep coma. Or, at the very least, having them reach for the STOP button.
Perception Versus Reality
When I listened back, I discovered three things. Firstly, the ‘ehmms’ and ‘ahhhss’ were more frequent than I’d like. I was reminded that I still have issues with hearing my voice. (Read episode one ‘I hate my voice’ if you haven’t already done so.) But, to my surprise, I found that my interview wasn’t boring at all.
My perception didn’t match the reality. Whether it’s through lack of confidence or my natural self-deprecating manner, I was convinced that I was boring. I think we all have that in us. The brain can be a cruel organ. It fills us with self-doubt and creates narratives that simply aren’t true.
Boring is relative
Boring is such a subjective word. For example:
- I’m fascinated by the evolution of the short story.
- I’m enthralled by the history of football tactics.
- I’m captivated by the World of entrepreneurship.
All three of those things will likely bore a great many of you to tears.
The truth is, I’ve even listened to boring podcasts on subjects that I love. So what it is that makes them boring?
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Sometimes a podcast loses me because the content is just boring. Having said that, I don’t think there are many subjects out there that can’t be made exciting or engaging, to the right audience, with a bit of work. So, if you have boring content, maybe the approach is wrong.
I listened to a business writer’s podcast episode recently. I’m a regular listener and normally get so much value from it. This particular episode was delivered as a monologue, but it was the unstructured nature that bored me. There was repetition, and I found myself losing attention. After five minutes I hit the STOP button and deleted the episode.
If he’d included interviews or a more structured monologue – it could have worked.
Working with Loops
Let’s talk structure, because that’s the easiest way to prevent boring content.
The key to structure is the narrative, and the hook that drives listeners through that narrative. Tell people what’s coming, but give them just a teaser of the content. Make sure that teaser includes the problem your solving, and a hint at how you’ll solve it.
The teaser in sometimes called an ‘open loop’. An open loop is where you hint at something, or you ask a question. But you don’t give the answer right away. That creates curiosity, and curiosity produces more engaging content.
You can close a loop every few minutes if you like, or you can have an open loop that isn’t closed until the end of your episode. If it’s the former, then make sure you open a new loop either before you close the last, or immediately after. That can work well in an educational show. Break the lesson down into sections, and create a series of open loops, each leading into the next as they close.
Above all, put thought into your podcast content. Structure it, don’t ramble, be purposeful with where you’re going and hint at that direction to the listener. That’s what creates engagement, and THAT’S what compells your listener to listen, with bated breath, to every minute of your show.
Once you’ve got your content down, the next job is delivery. And sadly, I’ve abandoned even more podcasts as a result of boring delivery. I listened to a business podcast last year that, on the surface, looked good. She’d hired a voiceover person to do the dramatic intro. That guy was a pro. His voice was anything but boring.
Then, the host spoke.
Her voice was pleasant enough, but her delivery was monotone. It didn’t alter in the slightest. For a moment, I thought I might be listening to a robot. I saved my life by switching it off. Yes, I was driving at the time.
We’ve talked a lot already about voice in chapter 1, so I’m not going to re-iterate that. But remember how much more interesting you can sound with a little thought.
Keep in mind the word variety – both in tone and pace. And practice, practice, practice. There isn’t a person out there who can’t become a good presenter over time. That includes you.
5 Tips to a bore free podcast
- Use the art of storytelling to engage your audience. People remember stories much better than facts and figures.
- Vary the tone and tempo of your delivery. For more on this read chapter one in this series.
- Make use of interviews. Adding a different voice and perspective creates a more dynamic podcast experience.
- Answer the questions that your audience regularly asks. If it’s important to your listeners, they’re unlikely to find it boring.
- If you have a monologue show – just make sure that it has a structure. Use open loops, and make sure it flows naturally.
Over to you
The fear of being boring is real folks. I know it because I experience it all the time. But don’t let it paralyse you. If being boring is the fear that’s stopping you from podcasting, remember this – you can’t judge yourself. Find a ‘test audience’. Ideally, this should be people you’re friends with, BUT that will be honest with you.
Record a five-minute snippet on your phone on a topic of your choice. The audio quality isn’t important. Follow the advice in this series so far and put yourself out there. Do it, and ask that audience one simple question – ‘Is this boring?’.
I speak from experience. I’ve done this. It works. And remember, putting yourself out there is THE ONLY way to make progress.