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Outlining and Scripting Podcast Episodes: Templates and Tactics

Introduction

While podcasting offers creative freedom, without structure episodes risk rambling aimlessly. Organizing shows through outlines and scripts disciplines your content while allowing organic conversation. Outlining provides high-level talking points while scripting fleshes out details without restricting improvisation. Mix and match approaches to balance preparation with flexibility. This guide explores templates and tactics to help plan your podcast episodes.

Podcast Outlining Basics

Outlines provide helpful creative guardrails:

  • Break episodes into logical segments and sections to chunk content.
  • Sequence topics and talking points in a sensible flow.
  • Allocate estimated times per segment to guide pacing.
  • List key questions and discussion prompts to spur conversation.
  • Identify any facts, statistics or quotes worth mentioning.
  • Outline recurring elements like intros, sponsor reads, takeaways etc.
  • Leave room to improvise and react spontaneously within loose structure.

Even a barebones outline focuses episodes and prevents tangents.

Standard Podcast Outline Template

Use this foundation as a starting point to adapt:

Introduction (2-3 minutes)

  • Hook – Interesting opener to grab attention
  • Summary – High level overview of episode topics and guests if any
  • Purpose – What listeners will learn and takeaway

First Main Topic (6-10 minutes)

  • Key points
  • Discussion questions
  • Facts and data
  • Personal examples/stories
  • Audio clips

Second Main Topic (6-10 minutes)

  • Key points
  • Discussion questions
  • Facts and data
  • Personal examples/stories
  • Audio clips

Third Main Topic (6-10 minutes)

  • Key points
  • Discussion questions
  • Facts and data
  • Personal examples/stories
  • Audio clips

Recurring Segments Like Sponsor Reads (2-3 minutes)

Conclusion (2-3 minutes)

  • Review key takeaways
  • Call to action
  • Preview next episode
  • Catchphrase sign-off

Time estimates provide duration guidance.

Tailoring Outline Specificity

Adjust based on goals and style:

  • Highly Structured Near complete script including quotes and verbal transitions between segments.
  • Moderately Structured
    Detailed talking points but flexibility for conversational delivery.
  • Loose Structure Broad topic list as general guide but mostly improvised.

Balance planning with spontaneity based on your strengths. Heavily outlined episodes come across more polished while loose ones sound more casual. Test different approaches.

Researching Content

Prep for outlining through:

  • Guest Interviews Calls with expert guests provide insights to integrate.
  • Audience Questions Crowdsource suggested topics to address.
  • Keyword Research Identify high-interest related search terms.
  • News Articles Timely stories to offer commentary on.
  • Academic Studies Inject researched statistics and credible data.
  • Industry Data Trends or reports tailored to your niche.
  • Personal Stories Relatable experiences connect with listeners.

Outline content resonates when thoroughly researched.

Structuring Episode Intros

Compelling upfront hooks grab attention:

  • Personal Anecdote Brief relatable story foreshadowing show topics.
  • Shocking Fact or Statistic Intriguing data educating listeners upfront.
  • Quote
    Thought-provoking excerpt from speaker or content referenced later.
  • Reference Current Events Timely story or observation tied to episode themes.
  • Dramatic Description Set a vivid scene aligned to follow-up topics.
  • Dialogue Snippet Amusing quote from conversation during episode.
  • Challenge Claim or Myth Debunk/question popular misconception on subject.
  • Hypothetical Scenario Pose “what if” thought exercise then unravel throughout show.

The first 30 seconds persuades listeners the episode merits their time. Outline intros meticulously.

Crafting Episode Summaries

Succinct previews convey focus:

  • Specify number of distinct topics covered.
  • Introduce any interview guests and their credentials.
  • Explain relevance to listeners’ needs and interests.
  • Use chapter-style descriptive headers for each topic segment.
  • Include brief audio clips that exemplify topics as examples.
  • Tie together with a pithy paragraph highlighting connective thread between topics.
  • Close with a single sentence summarizing key takeaway.

Well outlined summaries entice engagement like movie trailer previews.

Defining Takeaways

Specifying desired learned outcomes focuses episodes:

  • Single Core Message The main point or concept you want listeners taking away.
  • Supporting Takeaways 2-3 additional facts, opinions or conclusions from show.
  • Call to Action What next step you want listeners taking based on insights.
  • Closing Thought Final anecdote, joke, or reference to conclude reflecting main takeaway.

Outlining desired responses provides clarity determining necessary content.

Recurring Segment Outlines

Even consistent sections deserve deliberate structure:

Intros

  • Welcome and host introductions
  • Episode numbering
  • Basic premise and topics

  • Announce and briefly describe sponsor
  • List exclusive offer for listeners from sponsor
  • Share personal positive experience with product/service

Outros

  • Summarize key takeaways
  • Cue up preview for next episode
  • Express appreciation and call to action

Reviews

  • Read, summarize and thank listeners for reviews
  • Reminder and instructions for leaving ratings/reviews

Work recurring blocks into natural flow rather than disjointed interruption.

Podcast Episode Script Template

Fully script shows capturing intended words:

Scene Headers

Label segment details: HOST, GUEST, AUDIO CLIP etc.

Dialogue

  • Verbatim speaking parts for each character
  • First name: Line

Parenthetical Directives

(cough) (pause) (laugh) to guide vocal performance

Technical Cues

[Crossfade to Clip 3] [Stinger] to direct editing

Time Checks

[6:32] to note duration into episode

Italics Markers

Emphasize phrase to highlight talking

Follow screenwriting conventions for intuitive scripts polishing speech.

Tightening Scripts Through Editing

Refine drafts by:

  • Deleting filler words: “like”, “um”, “you know”
  • Trimming excessive wordiness and repetition
  • Removing irrelevant asides and tangents
  • Adding clarifying detail where vague
  • Deleting extraneous or off-topic sections
  • Adjusting emotive language either up or down
  • Varying sentence structure for better flow
  • Smooth transitions between thoughts

Merciless editing results insnappier verbiage. Save uncut version as backup.

Sample Episode Script Excerpt

Review example snippet:

JORDAN: Welcome to Marketing Masters where we unlock growth insights from top experts. I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Today we’ll explore optimization secrets for startups looking to gain traction.

JORDAN: Joining me is Amy Cooper, founder of Flourish Fortified foods. After struggling to find healthy snacks she enjoyed, Amy launched Flourish in 2018. Using digital targeting and optimization, she quickly found product market fit. Within 3 years Flourish was in over 5,000 stores nationwide. Welcome Amy!

AMY: Hey thanks for having me Jordan! Excited to share some of what we’ve learned scaling Flourish.

JORDAN: Out of the gate, what key optimization would you say was most vital for growth?

AMY: Definitely dialing in our messaging through testing…

Formatting and delivery cues guide engaging performances.

Recording With versus Without Scripts

Weigh these factors when deciding:

Benefits of Recording Scripted

  • Consistent messaging and phrasing
  • Ability to tightly edit pacing and content
  • Polished and professional delivery
  • Keeps hosts on topic
  • Efficient use of guests’ time

Benefits of Unscripted Recording

  • More natural, conversational flow
  • Authentic personality and humor
  • Fosters real chemistry and dynamics
  • Allows following tangents organically
  • Flexibility adapting on the fly

Test both approaches across episodes to learn what works best for your skillsets and format.

Scripting Tips for Naturalness

Avoid obvious “read” feel by:

  • Don’t ad-lib – precisely follow written words.
  • Allow impromptu deviations that feel genuine.
  • Re-record clumsy portions until smooth.
  • Vary tone and cadence on re-reads.
  • Focus on conveying meaning not just reading aloud.
  • Modify language to match natural speech patterns.
  • Maintain upbeat energy and interest throughout.

Loosen up delivery focusing on authenticity over perfect oration.

Resources for Script Inspiration

Models to borrow from:

  • Well-known Podcasts Study their formatting, scene structure and dialogue.
  • TV Shows
    Examine scene descriptions, character voices and plot points.
  • Sales Letters Review persuasive messaging patterns.
  • Interview Transcripts Adapt organic conversational narratives.
  • Improv Performances Observe natural comedic back-and-forth dynamics.
  • Play Scripts Reliable templates for character interactions.

Adopt professional techniques from screenwriters and comedians.

Conclusion

Taking time to thoughtfully outline or script podcast episodes pays dividends through engaging, focused shows that sound polished and professional. Test different levels of detail in pre-production preparation to balance structure with flexibility. However you approach it, avoid the trap of just winging episode ideas. Following templates and tactics to outline every show keeps quality high while still allowing plenty of space for spontaneity.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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