One of the reasons podcasts have been so successful is the conversational tone that they set up. Since they are longer and don’t have to hold you through commercial breaks like our friends in radio they can have a much more conversational feel.
One thing that can make your show sound scripted is…well…a script. You generally want to avoid scripts, but sometimes you need them. Enter the news segment. These can be about a featured member, new member, organizational news, or industry-specific news. News segments are great. I know you hear a “but” coming. You’re right. News is great, but that means somebody has to write it.
Some organizations large enough to have a communications department have a writer who will get tasked with this. If that’s you, and you’re a pro at writing for your newsletter, take a moment and think about how newsletters and newscasts might need different styles of writing. Writing for a listening audience is very different than writing for a reader. Here are some tips to writing and rewriting copy for an audio show.
Read it out loud
Read out loud as you write, it helps. Not reading in your head pretending you’re saying it out loud. Really say the things. With your voice. Out loud. Find a conference room, go in the bathroom, the lobby, your car, or even under your breath at your desk can work. Sometimes it’s even better if you have someone else read it aloud to you.
When you read it out loud you may find that you used words that nobody speaking would actually say. You will also find out how long it takes to say something, and you’ll catch that something is awkward to pronounce or hard to get the meaning across when the listener can’t see the sentence with all its glorious punctuation. You’ll hear when you use the same word too often. And it will be a lot more noticeable when you’re getting too wordy. Which takes me to my next point.
“De-speechify” and “de-wordify”
Podcasts are supposed to be relaxed even if it is serious subject matter. So make it sound less like a sermon and more like you’re talking right to your listener. Short and sweet is your friend. Excessively long and incredibly complex sentences, while intelligent and often-underutilized in print (which by the way isn’t necessarily the opinion of this author), can be unimaginably cumbersome to read, and more often than not, can sound preposterous, pretentious, bloated, conspicuous, stilted, and be insurmountably and impracticably difficult to understand for the listener. In other words, keep it simple. Yeah. No sentences like that one in your podcast please.
Use audible cues when you’re changing subjects
It may sound unnecessary and might look a little silly on paper, but there’s a reason newscasters use their little transitional phrases, “This just in,” or “in other news,” and “From our members in Africa,” etcetera. To understand this tip, just try reading three news paragraphs one right after the other. Or listen to someone else read it. That’s all you have to do to get this point.
Read it out loud
Did I already say this? OK, I’m saying it again because this one is the most important. Seriously. Read it out loud.
And lastly (you see what I did there? I used a transitional phrase). Because they work. OK, last tip now:
Practice makes perfect
If you’re the one who got tasked with the writing, just go ahead and do it. It will get easier as you do it more, and if it’s a new skill for you, then celebrate! You’re about to have a mountain of content that speaks right to your listeners.