Podcasting Tips

The Art of Storytelling

Telling stories has been a part of human nature since the invention of language. In fact, the oldest written story known to all humankind is over 4,000 years old! (Bonus points if you know the story!)

Podcasting is yet another creative medium. A place to share stories and connections with others in our world. Mastering the careful art of storytelling can elevate your podcast to new heights. Let’s dive in and explore this oft-forgotten art form.

Why Tell Stories?

All of humanity is threaded with stories. Who we are, what we want, and how we get there are the crux of human nature and our stories. We could wax poetic on the importance of storytelling, but we’ll jump right into the good stuff!

Storytelling, in podcasting in particular, is an excellent way to engage with your audience. People tune into podcasts not just to learn something new but to be entertained. Droning on and on about a complicated subject like it’s a school lecture is a quick way to lose your audience. Of course, this isn’t to say educational podcasts are boring (it’s the opposite!), but you want to be aware of how you’re sharing this information with your listeners.

Weaving a story together can help to explain complex concepts in easier, more digestible ways. Your listeners won’t get lost or zone out when you’re spinning a tale about the math behind black holes instead of rambling off equations.

Telling stories can also help your listeners resonate with your show through their emotions. Stories can appeal to the listeners’ emotions and help them fully understand the impact of the situation. Let’s take True Crime podcasts as an example. Podcasts in this category are wonderful at creating engrossing episodes. They often delve into the lives of the people involved with the case, interweaving their motivations and their backgrounds, creating a more compelling episode than one that simply reads the notes from a case file.

Storytelling in podcasting also helps immensely with Host-Read Ads. The best-performing Host-Read Ads are those that come along with a personal anecdote related to the product. Many of our top-performing podcasters make sure to craft their own narratives to reflect their authentic experience with the product. They know their audiences well and understand the best way to share with them.

Story Structure

Now that we understand the value of stories in podcasting, let’s focus on how to craft one!

All stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. But let’s go a bit further and explore what actually makes up a beginning, middle, and end.

  • Beginning – The beginning of a story typically starts with what’s known as an inciting incident. An inciting incident is pretty much what it sounds like; an event that occurs that pushes the main character (or characters) into action. This is what propels the story forward and initially drives the plot. The beginning ends when your character(s) resolve the first plot point and arrive at the second.
  • Middle – The middle of a story is where much of the development occurs. The character(s) face the second plot point, which usually pushes their goal/motivation a bit further away from them. The Middle is also where rising actions take place. A rising action is an event or plot point that leads up to the climax. Rising actions build tension, they introduce new conflicts and characters that may create obstacles for your main character(s) to overcome before the final act. The climax is the highest point in your narrative. This is where all the rising actions culminate and the end is on the horizon.
  • End – The end of the story is composed of two parts: falling actions and the denouement (pronounced “day-new-maan”). Falling actions are the opposite of rising actions. These actions are where loose ends are tied up, smaller plot points are resolved, and the tension eases. Finally we arrive at the denouement or resolution. This is where the story fully wraps up. All conflicts are resolved and the audience is left with closure.

But the Beginning, Middle, and End are not the only pieces of storytelling. You also want to include things like setting, characters, etc.

  • Setting – The setting is where the story takes place. Depending on your content, this can be a real place or a totally fictional one!
  • Characters – Again, this depends on your content. If you’re sharing a personal story, or you have a guest sharing their experience, then real people are the characters. You yourself can be the character!
  • Plot – This is the overall point or goal of the story. Think about what you want to share with your audience and why.
  • Conflict – There is no story without conflict! What are your characters trying to overcome? What’s keeping them from reaching their goal? And how do they get past it?
  • Theme – Sometimes confused with Plot, the theme is usually the key takeaway you want your listeners to have. What’s the overarching message for this story? Why share it?

Having a basic outline for the story you wish to tell, whether it’s real or not, can help you to craft a compelling narrative that’s sure to grab the attention of your audience.

Tips & Techniques

Podcasting is such an interesting medium for storytelling since it can engage the senses in different ways than the traditional written word. Use the audio focus of podcasting to your advantage with these tips!

  • Use vivid descriptions – To capture the attention of your audience and help them visualize your story, use words that better portray the scene you’re setting.

    Instead of “Michael walked over to Carol to share the news” try instead “Michael jogged through the throngs of people on the busy street to share the news with Carol. He was bursting with excitement by the time he reached her, the words pouring from his mouth before he could even catch his breath.” In the second sentence, we can feel the excitement from Michael as he makes his way to Carol and shares the news with her.

    Descriptive words are powerful tools when it comes to crafting narratives.

  • Podcasting is a multimedia art, take advantage of it – The unique part of podcast storytelling is the ability to craft a story with different senses. Not only can you use vivid words to set scenes, but music can help to create the mood of the story. If you have a visual podcast, then create a visual environment around you to properly set the tone.

  • Invite guests – Guest hosts are not only a great way to grow your audience, they also have amazing stories to share with your audience. Tap into their talents and share fascinating stories with your listeners.

  • Keep pacing in mind – Great stories make every moment count. Keep the attention of your listeners by ensuring your story continues at an even pace. Be careful not ramble into a tangent or you may end up losing your audience. It’s a fine balance between entertaining with anecdotes and droning on and on!

  • Have a clear takeaway – The best stories stick with you long after your time with them. Make sure you have a clear takeaway for your audience so they keep your story in mind. Think about what you want your listeners to remember from your episode and ensure it’s expertly weaved into your narrative.

Telling a story through podcasting can be a challenging yet super rewarding endeavor. It can help to better engage your audience, improve your Host-Read Ad performance, and convey complex concepts in easier to understand bites.

Never underestimate the power of a good story!

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