Why I Don’t Script My Podcast (And Maybe You Shouldn’t Either)

All right. Last week we talked about relaunching a show or starting a new show, and I shared that that was one of the most common questions that I got and that we were going to be answering another one of those questions today.

And I saved this little bit for today, but it applies to last week’s too. This question, much like last week’s question, is getting more attention than the answer is worth. Sort of the ROI of this question is very, very, very low. Because of the fact of the matter is, these questions are the wrong questions. We’re asking questions about you. We’re asking questions about process. We’re not asking questions about end result. And I want to talk about that today and that’s what we’re going to wrap the show up with.

But I wanted to get that in your mind to really set the stage for how inconsequential the answer to this question is. And that’s what I want your takeaway to be, because last week, should I restart a show or should I launch a whole new show? It doesn’t matter. Your audience doesn’t care. Today’s question, should I be scripting my episodes, or should I be more off the cuff? Again, your audience massively does not care. This show, as you may have noticed, not at all scripted. The process for this show is…

It’s hysterical to me right now, because I’m pointing at my iPad like you can see me. See, I really do pretend you’re here with me. I have my content calendar living in our project management software. We use Monday. Love it. Not for everybody, but I highly recommend if it’s something you’re interested in trying it out. Anyways, our content calendar lives in there because that is where our production dashboard exists. When I say production dashboard, I mean the place where all the steps of our show live.

And it’s worth sharing all the steps of all of our client shows live inside that platform too. Each client gets a production dashboard because it helps everybody stay on track, stay accountable to getting things done, and also just gives a really clear picture of what’s happening. But again, not the point. I go in there and I see what episodes I’m going to be recording that day, because I do batch 98% of the time, barring mental breakdowns and delay recording. Okay? We’ve all been there at 2020, right?

I sit down and then I look at my day, and I write down the episode number and the title in a doc on my iPad.

I use my iPad for all of my notebooks, my sketches, plans, like not sketches, like real drawings because I’m a terrible artist. But when I mind map something or I’m sketching out what I want the end result of something to look like for a designer or whatever, it all happens in my iPad. I journal in my iPad, everything. This show has a notebook in my iPad.

And on the days I’m going to record, I go in and I write the episode number and I write the episode title and then I put three dots. And those three dots are the three points I have to make that episode. Now, the reason there’s three points is because I believe in a beginning, a middle, and an end, because that’s what I learned in second grade. So that’s what we do now. My points usually go together. And sometimes, in full disclosure, there’s more than three because we need more stuff in the middle, then we need another episode.

That’s it. There’s, generally speaking, six to 10 words on each line that are my points, and then I hop on. And for me, the process of writing that out is enough to get the machine, for lack of a better word, running. That is sort of the jumpstart. And then I sit here and I talk to you, and that’s what works for me. To give you the complete antithesis of that, a client, whose shows we produce, scripts out her episodes completely and then uses that script mostly, but has space for riffing.

Sometimes she’ll add a story or a joke or a point or whatever, but that is what jumpstarts her machine to hop on and actually make her point. It also for her feels better because it keeps her from what she thinks is rambling. I don’t actually agree. I think a little ramble is good. You obviously do too, because you listen to the show and like half of the show is a ramble, as noted by the two points I made earlier that were not on my list of points today. Anyways, and the amount of times I have to say that, but that’s what feels good for her.

For me, if I were to use that process, if I were to put that process on like a shirt and live in it, I would be real boring. I get so… I’ll try to find a way to say this. I get so in my head when I have a script about missing the that I lose everything about me that is interesting. More dangerously, in my opinion, I also lose presence, meaning I’m not here talking to you. I’m making sure I’m saying the thing I’m supposed to say. And for me, it’s useless then. The energy and connection has been removed.

On the flip side, the client I have that scripts, if she put my process on like a shirt, she gets all in her head about rambling, about is she making any sense, is this going to work, whatever that may be. She’s not present to the point she’s making. However, if she’s using her script as a reference and talking her way through the script, she stays connected with the message and therefore with her listener. And the point I’m making here is, the answer to the question, should I have a script or not, is it depends. It depends.

Notice it’s the same answer as last week. And that’s why these two questions are not the right questions. I’m going to talk about that again in a second, but I want to make sure we really hit this point home of you have to do whatever works for you. I remember really, really early in my business, I went to a conference. It was a WordCamp. It was like a WordPress conference, and it was in Phoenix, Arizona. And it was like, I don’t know, maybe the second business thing I ever went to as like a business owner like an event.

And I was really nervous, and I was sitting in a room. First of all, it was a great event. Amazing people. I had a great time, but I was sitting in a room and somebody was giving a talk. And someone in the group asked how long a blog post should be. Bear in mind, this is 2011 to maybe 2012. It may have been January of 2012, but I’ve not been in business even a year. And the speaker gave this answer, and this answer is something that I think about maybe almost every day and it’s,

“It needs to be exactly long as it needs to be to make the point. No longer and no shorter.”

And in fairness, I have told hundreds of clients that at this point and probably thousands of people. Certainly when you and everyone else listen to this episode, we’ll have hit thousands of people I’ve told this to. I only sometimes tell the story about the event at the beginning, because I occasionally like to pretend this is my own genius. I mean, to be fair, isn’t our genius just a made up of other people’s geniuses anyways?

Anyway, now that I’ve confessed to my plagiarism, I think that that piece is so easily transplanted to this topic when you say, “Should I be scripting my episode, or should I be just off the cuff?” You should do whichever one allows you to make the point in the best way. There you go. That’s the complete answer. I want you to really look at what works best for me, what’s the easiest way for me to do this and do that. And then I want you to realize that might change. Now, I have always done my show this way. I have always bulleted it out for seven years.

And what this is episode, 507? 507 episodes. However, that has not always been the last step. There have been shows that were hard for me to get into the mojo, were hard for me to express what I wanted to express on them. A great example of this is the 500th episode of this show. That’s probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to a script for an episode. So generally speaking, when I have my bullet points, if I have sub points that I want to make or I need to flesh out an idea further because it’s winter, it’s taken a little while for the machine to warm up…

This is a very strange metaphor for me. Anyways, when it’s taking a little longer for the machine to warm up, I’ll add sub points. Now I’m basically outlining my episode more in-depth is all that’s happening. I had like four layers of sub points. My sub points had sub points had sub points on the outline for episode 500. I should find it and post a picture of it on Instagram or something because it’s legit the closest I’ve ever gotten to a script because I could not get through when I sat down to record it.

I could not get through how much fun I have doing this show, how grateful I am that you listen and how other people listen, that you share it and others have shared it, that you connect with it and engage and ask questions and follow the calls to action. This has been for a lot of the people I work with and maybe that is you, the start of our very long relationship. This has been a place where you started and then you came and hang out with me in other ways. For a long time, that was in backstage.

Now it’s more in our production company, but also we have people who listen to the show that three, four times a year book a one-on-one call with me. They don’t need help with production. More often it’s sort of content, social, email, marketing questions. Some of that is podcast strategy, but some of it is a larger marketing piece. They book those a few times a year. And I love it because this is sort of how they stay connected between those times where we talk one-on-one and then they always come with like a list of questions.

And it’s like, “I heard this on the show. I heard this on the show. I want to talk about this.” I’m like, cool. I had a really hard time. I’m getting sucked back into it a little bit right now. In that instance, I needed more than my usual outline. That didn’t mean my system didn’t work. It just meant I needed more steps in a system this time, for this example, for this instance. I want you to remember, if you run into an episode where you’re like, “Well, I usually script, but this one, I’m losing all personality, or I can’t get through the script,” great!

Change it up. Give yourself the space and the permission to change it up, to try something different, because that’s where you’re going to see the shift. That’s where you’re going to see the relief, and then you may go back to your old system because that was fine. You just needed to get through a hump. You just needed to get through getting through. That’s cool. All right? Again, largely the answer to this question, it depends.

On an even larger scale, it doesn’t matter.

And that’s what I want to wrap the show up with because I think these questions are the wrong questions. The questions I want you to be spending your time on, the questions I want you to be investing your energy and attention into are the questions that are about them and not about you. A really great way to start that is to look at the question and say, “Does this fit in the who, the what, or the how category?” And that’s the who am I talking to, what am I saying to them, what am I selling them, whatever that is, and then how am I selling it to them, or how am I saying it to them?

Again, depending on sort of the thing you’re running through the filter. If the question you’re asking doesn’t fall into one of those categories, if it’s really about the process or sort of the machinery of it all, it’s not the right question for you to be asking at this stage of your podcast plan. Because until you have the answers to the how and the what and the who, until you know those things, the show itself doesn’t matter, because you’re not going to get results from it.

The next two episodes that we’re going to talk about to wrap up December are really more aligned to those categories. We’re going to be talking about some guest stuff, and we’re going to be talking about some metrics stuff. Those things are content questions, are results for the listener questions, whereas what we’ve talked about so far is process. It does not matter in the grand scheme of things. And what it does is it serves as a way to pretend to podcast. It serves as a way to stay in planning mode without actually doing anything.

And it sounds obnoxious I think in a lot of ways, but it’s the truth because… And I’m as guilty of this as like anybody on the planet. It’s so easy to stay in planning. We’ve got a client who is making some changes, and she asked me when we rebranded this podcast, did I go back and forth on it or did I just jump off the cliff and figure it out? And the truth is, is I did the same thing with that that I generally do, which is I spend an obscene amount of time planning, researching, thinking about, questioning, getting opinions, getting feedback, reading things, learning things.

And then one day I just decide to do whatever it is that I want to do and I do it. I spent a month plus hemming and hawing about rebranding the show from Hit the Mic with the Stacey Harris to Uncommonly More with Stacey Harris. And then one day, I think I was on a call with my mastermind, if I’m honest, we were talking about something, or maybe it was just with my coach, but we were talking about something and I’m like, You know, it’s time. We’re going to do it.” That afternoon I outlined and planned everything that would need to happen, and I think inside a week we had everything done.

We had new cover art. We had new intro and outro. We had new music. Everything like a flip. I just switched and I was done. I think asking questions like, should I relaunch or just launch new? Should I script or not? Which host should I be using? Or some of the other ones. What kind of content should I be doing? What should I be talking about? What’s the cover going to look like? Those aren’t useful questions until you’re in process.

Those aren’t useful answers until you know who your show is for, you know what the point of your show is, you know how you’re going to use your show to move people from A to B. Until you know those answers, these answers don’t matter. However, these kinds of questions are the most common questions. It cracks me up how frequently I get DMs from people asking me what kind of mic they should use for their show.

And then I ask them what their podcast is about and they’re like, “Oh, well, I’m thinking it’ll be,” and it’s a super generic general idea and they’re not really sure when they’re going to launch or what their focus is going to be, but they wanted to make sure that they had this part handled. Your microphone does not matter until your content matters, until the actual substance of your show is a win for you and a win for your listener. Up until that point, the microphone is irrelevant. All right?

As we shift into 2021, we’re going to wrap this year up with two episodes speaking to questions you do need to know. One of those is going to be talking about guests. That’s going to be next week. And then we’ll wrap up the year talking about some things we do when we audit our show every year. And then we’re going to go into 2021 and we’re going to kick off January with a podcasting 101 series.

This is going to be a little bit like the marketing 101 series we ran earlier this year, where it’s a 101 series, not really or exclusively for beginners, because these are the foundations that I want you to be checking in on so that we can make your show better in 2021 than it was in 2020. And not just from an end result, it converts more, but also from a process, also from a listenership growth, also it’s converting at a better quality or a higher quantity. Make sure you tune in for that, because those are going to be the questions that you need to know.

Those are going to be the questions that you need to be answering to really, really feel good in your show and have a show that gets you results. All right? All right. That’s the show for today, a little soapboxy, but I’m glad you stayed with me. I want to remind you that January one-on-one sessions are filling up. It’s a great place to get support with me one-on-one, so that we can get through the right questions for you wherever you are in your business.

Maybe you listen to the show and you have specific questions you want to bring, cool, but you’re going to walk away with that with actionable next steps and implementations that are going to get you real results and not just further any planning or procrastination, either in the launch process or the evolution process. Head over to my calendar and book those for January. All right? I will see you next week.

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