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How to create engaging solo podcast episodes

July 1, 2020


Melissa Guller


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Are you considering doing a solo podcast, or a few solo episodes? It’s a really great way to showcase your expertise, so if any of you are hoping that your podcast will build your authority or bring more leads to your business, going solo can be a great choice.

This is a popular podcast format for coaches, course creators, experts, and storytellers, although it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s the first episode in our 5-part podcast format series, although each episode is independent. (You don’t need to listen in order.)

By the end of this episode, you’ll learn…

  • What are the pros and cons to doing a solo podcast?
  • Who is this the right fit for? (It’s definitely not for everyone.)
  • Can you mix solo episodes with other formats?
  • How can you spice things up to keep things exciting for both you and your listeners?

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Episode transcript

NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by a free AI tool called Otter. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Melissa Guller 0:03 Welcome to Wit & Wire, the podcast that takes you behind the scenes to learn how to start and grow a successful podcast that makes an impact. I’m your host, Melissa Guller. And as an experienced podcaster, and teacher, I knew that I wanted to help more diverse podcasters launch amazing shows. So in each episode of Wit & Wire, I invite fellow podcasters and industry experts to share their best tips, resources, and strategies for podcasters of all experience levels.

This episode is part of the Wit & Wire five-part spotlight series on different podcast formats. Your podcast format explains how many voices are on your show as well as their purpose. And my goal is to spotlight each format by creating an episode in that format. Today I’m kicking off this series with a solo episode to celebrate the solo format. And in this episode, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of going solo and who this is going to be the right fit for because it’s not for everyone. From there I’ll talk about how You can mix solo episodes with other formats, and how to spice things up a little to keep things exciting for both you and your listeners. As a solo podcaster, you are obvious as it sounds, the only voice on your show. And as we talk about podcast formats, you don’t have to do the same thing in every single episode, because you can mix formats. I just want to get ahead of that question.

So what I’m talking about today is when you go solo for an episode, just as I’m doing here, it’s just you and the microphone, and most likely you’re delivering prepared content. Although that doesn’t mean it has to be fully scripted. Like I personally choose to work from bullet points. I may write out full sentences here or there. But because I’m comfortable speaking, and I’ve been doing this for a while, and also I know what suits my style, the bullet list is right for me, but whether you script or bullet, just choose the approach that works for you. A solo podcast mimics the feeling of attending A lecture or watching a TED talk. And since there’s only one presenter, it is a one-way stream of communication. Going solo can be a really great choice for educators, motivators, coaches, or sometimes investigators too, and investigators could refer to anybody who’s doing research into a certain topic. Overall, if your goal is to share knowledge with a wider audience, then it could be a great fit.

Another way to think about the format is to ask, does this feel like something I could get up on a stage or in a classroom to share? The classroom doesn’t have to be large. Maybe you’re just talking to four to six people. But when you imagine yourself in a solo format, you should feel like it’s something that you could confidently communicate and hold your own in front of a group. Here’s the thing though. When you podcast alone, you are the only person, perspective, or expert on the show. And maybe obvious as this might sound, many podcasts do benefit from bringing guests or a co-host because that invites new viewpoints into the conversation. And it does actually create a conversation between two actual humans instead of just the one-way knowledge transfer. We’ll talk more about those other formats in my upcoming spotlight series. But back to the question, Who is this for? I would say if you want to be seen as an authority on your topic, a solo podcast can be a great fit. So I’m talking about coaches, consultants, career professionals, maybe even passionate hobbyists. going solo really lets you showcase your expertise. So if one of your goals as a podcaster is to attract new clients, or customers to your business, or to expand your influence and your authority on a topic, a solo podcast will really let you shine.

One podcaster who I think does this really well is my recent guest on Wit & Wire Vicki Louise from Episode Seven. Vicki is an anxiety and procrastination coach, and she does short 10 to 15-minute episodes every week, and those solo episodes really let Vicki show off her incredible talents as a coach. And for a lot of listeners after tuning in a week over week and really benefiting just from the free podcast teachings alone, listeners end up paying to work with Vicki by becoming full-time clients. So to learn more about Vicki and to check out her podcast, you can visit witandwire.com/7 or you can just go to our website witandwire.com and search for Vicki Louise. And I think she’s a really great example of a solo podcaster where every single one of her episodes is a solo format. And actually, in that episode, she gets more in-depth about why she chose to go solo after thinking she would start off with an interview show. So it’s definitely worth the listen.

Melissa Guller 5:01 Now that we’ve talked a little bit about who the solo format could be a good fit for, I want to run through some of the pros and cons. So on the plus side, as we’ve shared already, going solo is a really great way to educate people.

Melissa Guller 5:14 So if you do have great knowledge to share or a new perspective on a topic or a passion for a topic, going solo can really position you as the expert. And people will start to think of you when it comes to that topic. For example, when I go solo on wind wires podcasts, it starts to really elevate my knowledge as somebody in the podcasting field. And when you’re interviewing to give maybe a counterexample, you’re often showing off the other person’s expertise, and is associated with experts does still absolutely build your credibility. But if you are, like we said before, a coach or a consultant or somebody who wants to showcase your work, going solo is a great way to do just that.

It’s also great if you’re doing research and you want Want to peel back the curtain behind a topic whether it’s something going on in pop culture, news trending, or even something that isn’t current events, but something that you want to learn more about? Solo can be a great way to kind of show off your chops and share what you’ve learned. The other great thing that we’ve covered is that going solo builds your authority because people start to see you as an expert. And to wrap up the list of pros. This is a double-edged sword. But when you’re solo, it’s all on you. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do all of the work alone. But it’s your creative vision. It’s your content, you’re really the owner in full of the podcast and the way that it feels. On the other hand, let’s talk about the cons. So a major con to the solo format is that it’s only one person’s perspective. There are certainly ways to represent other people’s perspectives. You can quote other people or you can quote pieces of research or books. So it doesn’t have to mean Oh, it’s only my opinion all the time. But, you know, it’s only one voice. It’s just you. And so it is only one perspective in the way that other formats bring in more than one perspective to the show. The other thing that maybe you haven’t thought about yet, is that it can feel really unnatural at first to talk with no audience. going solo.

Honestly, it felt really odd for me at first to, we’re all used to having conversations with other humans in the same room as us or even from afar over the phone or over FaceTime. So the first time I sat down to record a solo episode, it definitely felt strange. And even then, I felt like I was starting off, maybe more experienced than most because I’d already been teaching for years and I feel really comfortable presenting. But despite all of that, when I hit record on my first solo episodes, there’s nobody around like you’re literally just talking maybe to a wall in front of you or to your computer screen. There’s nobody to like laugh at you. making jokes. And it’s a really odd feeling to get used to. And I wanted to share that not to dissuade you. But just to reassure you that it is a learned skill to go solo on a podcast. And as with everything in podcasting, the more you do it, the better you’ll get. So I wouldn’t let the fact that it feels a little awkward or unusual at first, totally deter you from going solo.

The last con is that double-edged sword I mentioned earlier when you’re solo, everything is on you. Recording, editing, publishing, marketing, all the things. If that is the biggest con for you. There are absolutely ways to solve that certainly in Wit & Wire we have services and courses to help you do just that. But I wouldn’t let that stop you. Again, I’m offering pros and cons so that you can really thoughtfully consider both sides. But going solo is a great option and I hope that some of you are feeling excited to go solo.

Here are some common FAQs. I think the listeners might have about going solo. And the first is not actually about the solo format, but formats in general. The question is, can I mix and match different formats? And the answer is definitely, I think a big part of the fun in podcasting is getting to play around and to try new things. So a couple of common combos are solo plus interview, or co-host plus interview. And we’re going to talk about co-hosting and interviews in some of the upcoming episodes in this series, which I’m really excited about. But for today, I’ll just say absolutely, you can mix formats, but I probably wouldn’t mix more than the two. I think it’s a great way to show off your expertise sometimes but also bringing guests at other times. And that mixed format is actually what I do here for Wit & Wire and if something speaks to you and you want to mix two options, I would say go for it. Another question that I know a lot of my students have had about going solo is how long should each episode be? And the very unsatisfying answer is, it depends. It depends on two things, your style, and who your ideal listener is. So if your ideal listener is somebody who loves to just put on their headphones and go for a two-hour walk and tune into your podcast, because they have that kind of time, and maybe your podcast is informative or relaxing for them, then you can talk for two hours, but only if that’s of interest to you.

Now, on the other hand, if your ideal listener is a very busy Dad, let’s say that dad maybe doesn’t have more than 10 to 20 minutes to tune in. So you should keep the length on the shorter side. And it’s an independent choice of whether you’re solo or interviewing when you’re thinking about episode length. But I do think that your style matters quite a bit. Like when I go solo, I try to keep it to like 10 to 20 minutes. On the one hand, I think that’s about as long as I can talk to myself without having anybody interact with me. But I also think that That’s about the length of one good lesson. And my inner teacher just kind of prefers that 10 to 15 minutes sweet-spot. But again, that’s just totally my personal preference and my belief about my audience. So choose whatever length works for you, I would hesitate to go over an hour, that’s usually my upper limit recommendation, but otherwise, totally your call.

Melissa Guller 11:25 I want to talk about one more thing. And that’s the power of music. In my solo episodes, in particular, I usually incorporate things like music transitions, or what I love that some other podcasters do is that they’ll incorporate sound bites. A sound bite is just a short audio clip, whether it’s a listener asking you a question, or a snippet of another recording. And as long as that recording is not protected by copyright, then you should be okay to use it in your podcast but make sure you read the fine print on that since I’m not going to get too in-depth there.

Melissa Guller 12:00 But the reason why I like having audio clips in a solo episode is I think it breaks up the sound of just your voice. I have been told that I have a very soothing voice, which is a huge compliment, and I appreciate it. But I also worry it means that it’s a little bit easier to tune me out. And so if I bring in elements like a music transition, that recaptures listeners’ attention, if I bring in a sound clip of an FAQ from somebody in my audience, maybe they submitted a question and I wanted to play the actual sound of their voice. Again, that creates interest, audio interest. And for a solo episode, especially if you want to go on for, you know, 20 minutes or longer. I think that those elements are really key. So I would encourage you to get a little bit creative. I think that’s part of the fun of podcasting is the creativity that you can try new things. So, play with music, play with different audio clips, and in the show notes, I’ll make sure to include some links to some of my favorite places to get podcast friends. Music Online. To quickly recap today’s episode, we talked about the pros and cons of going solo, and who it might be the right fit for because it definitely isn’t for everyone to just talk at a microphone, all alone with no audience, but it is such a great fit for educators, coaches, consultants, anyone trying to build your authority, share your knowledge, share your passion, grow your expertise, and really present yourself to your audience. We also talked about how you absolutely can mix formats you can do solo plus another format, and how to spice things up with different audio elements like music or other sound bites to keep things exciting for both you and your listeners.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. To see a recap from today’s episode. Or to learn more about the other podcast formats in this series. Visit witandwire.com/10 that’s the number 10. And if you want to get an alert about next week’s episode, make sure you subscribe to the podcast The best way to subscribe is right through our website at witandwire.com/podcast.

Up next our podcast format series continues with a feature on co-hosting. It is one of my personal favorites although it is not right for everyone, and I’m so thrilled that my book smart co-host Em Hammel-Shaver is joining us.

Thank you again for tuning in with me, Melissa Guller, in this episode of Wit & Wire. I’ll see you next time, podcasters!

The Complete Podcast Format Series

Did you know that this episode is included in a 5-part series? I did a deep dive into the five primary podcast formats, and I created one episode in each format.

You can check out our complete write-up on podcast formats here: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Podcast Format

Or you can listen to any episode from the series here:

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