A good podcast episode sounds conversational and effortless. You might even be fooled into thinking that your favorite podcast host is flying by the seat of their pants, capable of just opening their mouths and emitting perfectly coherent, intelligent sentences, every time.
But in reality, only people born in Oxford, England before 1971 can do that. If you’re not one of those, and you’ve ever tried ad libbing into a microphone, you know a sharp wit only gets you so far.
The truth is, every good podcast requires intention and planning. So if you want to start your own, you’ll need to learn how to write a podcast script.
What is a podcast script and why would you use one?
In some ways, a podcast script is exactly what it sounds like: a written version of your episode, which you’ll read aloud as you record. Depending on your show format, your experience, and your goals for the podcast, your script can be as detailed or as flexible as you need it to be.
For beginners, it might be helpful to create a word-for-word script for at least some portions of each episode, including the intro, important transitions, and any calls to action. Once you’re more practiced, you might prefer a more barebones outline of the major points. But even if you’re not going fully scripted, you’ll still want to go into recording with a clear plan, probably in writing.
Regardless of your experience level, a script helps ensure you hit on the points you intend to make. Without one, it’s easy to veer off on tangents and lose control of the narrative. Rambling conversations are also very difficult to edit and could potentially leave your listener feeling like they’ve wasted their time.
And finally, reading from a script can help you focus on your intonation and delivery, rather than trying to remember what you want to say. Tone of voice plays a big role in hooking an audience.
How to create a podcast script for different types of podcasts
Your approach to creating a podcast script will depend what type of podcast you’re making.
Solo shows, such as Live From the 405 and You Must Remember This, are podcasts in which a single host delivers the entire narrative, perhaps weaving in archival audio, music, sound effects or other recorded media as they go.
A script is perhaps most essential for this format, as you won’t have banter with a co-host or guest, and your listeners will be less forgiving of verbal tics and stumbles that sound natural in conversation. Planning ahead with a detailed script is essential.
Interview shows, like Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness and The New York Times’ The Daily podcast, consist of at least one host interviewing a guest (or guests).
A podcast script for this type of show will revolve around the interview questions you want to cover in each episode. To draft them, think about things you’re genuinely curious about (within the scope of the episode’s theme) and write the questions in a way that will encourage your guest to give elaborate answers. Once you’ve got a list of questions, put them in an order that makes narrative sense and make plans for transitioning from one to the next.
Interview podcasts leave the most room for surprises during recording because you don’t know what your guest will say (and they are less likely than a co-host to share your perspective or goals). It can help to talk to your guest about what to expect ahead of time, and even give them your question list to review in advance, so that they can prepare thoughtful answers.
When you’re recording an interview, don’t feel like you need to stick to your script verbatim. Instead, leave some flexibility to ask follow-up questions and allow your guests to address things they’d like to talk about, but also have a plan to steer the conversation back toward the script you’ve planned.
Co-host shows, such as You’re Wrong About and Just Break Up, feature multiple hosts who converse with one another throughout the episode.
When creating a podcast with someone else, you and your co-host will need to be on the same page about how structured you’d like your script to be. If you have a strong rapport with your co-host, you can leave room for off-the-cuff banter, but there’s also greater danger in getting off topic. To stay on track, script the big beats you want to cover in each episode, and note who will speak to what so you avoid talking over one another.
Sample podcast script template
The contents of each section of your script will be specific to your show, but this basic structure is flexible enough to apply to any format. If you’re hosting a single-host narrative show, you might think about it in terms of story beats rather than topics.
- Intro: The podcast intro is where you’ll let your listeners know which podcast they’re listening to and which episode. You might also include a previous episode recap. The intro should also include your theme music—a short but distinct musical jingle that makes your podcast instantly recognizable.
- Sponsor message
- Segue: Use sound effects or a few scripted words to transition from one section to the next. In this first segue, you might want to introduce guests if you have them, or tease the themes and topics of the episode.
- Topic 1: This is the first segment of your show. Outline the points you’d like to make for this topic or story beat.
- Sponsor message
- Segue: A transition to your second topic, or the next beat of your story.
- Topic 2: This is the second segment of your show. Outline the points you’d like to make for this topic or story beat.
- Closing remarks/Outro: At the end of your podcast, you may want to give your listeners a call to action (this could be a prompt to subscribe or to follow your show on social media).
- Sponsor message
5 Podcast scripting tips
- Write like you talk. To sound natural, avoid writing your script like you would a term paper or a business email. Instead, write it like you would say it to a friend. This can take a little practice, and it helps to read things aloud as you write. Consider adding delivery notes like “pause” or “emphasize”.
- Allow flexibility. While your script is an important tool to give your podcast narrative, don’t let it stop you from letting conversation flow. Sometimes you won’t hit every word you wrote, or you’ll think of something new in the middle of recording. As long as you’re still covering the topics you set out to talk about, allowing flexibility will make your podcast feel more authentic.
- Watch the clock. Try to keep each podcast episode approximately the same length, so listeners know what to expect. When creating your script, make notes of how long you expect each section to take, so when you’re recording you know when to move on to the next topic. This is especially important in an interview or co-host format.
- Make a checklist. Whether you’re interviewing someone or not, it’s helpful to keep a list of questions you’d like to answer or bullet points of the topics you’d like to cover throughout the episode.
- Build in segues. Make a clear plan for transitioning from one point to the next. When you’re just starting out, you might want to read a script. In the middle of an hour-long recording session, you’ll likely be grateful to have these segues spelled out to help you stay on track.
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