The first 15-30 seconds of your podcast could determine its success long term. How you open your podcast will affect your audience growth, while determining if you thrill or frustrate long time listeners.
Given that, you need to do it right. I’m going to give you some dos and don’ts of openings that Aaron and I have learned over the years, but first let’s talk theory.
The Power Opener
I, Ron, am a Toastmaster and first learned the concept of the Power Opener while trying to improve my speaking. It came from the book Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln. In this book the author explains how only at the beginning of your speech can you be sure you have the attention of your audience. They are waiting. Sizing you and your abilities up while deciding if you are worth paying attention to. Once you start talking they decide quickly if they need to keep listening.
Speakers make a lot of mistakes here. Mistakes that find their analog in podcast openings as well. Conventional wisdom that is just wrong. We’ll talk about those mistakes in a minute, but more importantly what should you do you open your podcast.
As a speaker you want to grab your audience’s attention and make them want what’s coming next. Speakers want to hook them in and keep their cellphones in their pockets. This is called a Power Opener. Personally I like to open with a direct provocative question. For example in a recent speech the first thing I said was, “How good do you want to be?”
Open Your Podcast With Power
Jane has heard about your podcast, from a friend or on another podcast. So she opened her podcasting app and found your podcast. She looks at the list of episodes, picks one with a title she’s interested in, or maybe just the last one you uploaded. It downloads to her phone while she’s tying her running shoes. She hits the play button and heads out on her run.
What’s the first thing she hears?
You’d love for her to get hooked in immediately. A teaser statement or question that makes her want to find out the answer. Some personality that compels her to stick around. At the least she should find out what’s going to be happening in her ears for the rest of her run.
3 Ways To Get Listeners To Skip Your Podcast All Together
Jane’s downloaded your podcast, but she’s got a phone full of other podcasts she could be listening to on her run. How can we get her to skip your episode?
I know you never want that to happen, but lots of podcaster’s actions do exactly that. Here’s the three big offenders.
1. Start with a commercial.
You’ve got a sponsor! Awesome, this thing may make money after all. They ask to be as close the the front of your podcast as possible, so you put them right there at the beginning. Guess what? You’ve given them the most important 30 seconds of your podcast and your listeners will hit the skip button almost immediately.
2. Let’s play a long, boring, prerecorded intro.
You have the coolest musical intro ever. There’s this great voice over actor you hired that makes you sound super professional. You want to make the best first impression possible, so that’s what you open your podcast with.
3. A boring rambling discussion of your cat’s breakfast.
“Hey guys. It’s been a really busy week here at the podcast HQ and the cats are running amok. But I found this great new brand of catnip..blah..blah.blah.” Eventually you’ll get to the interview with a world renowned scientist on your diet and fitness podcast.
Here’s the big underlying problem with these mistakes, there’s too much YOU and not enough listener in those reasons. You’re focus should be on what benefits your listener and not what benefits you.
Commercials are important to the viability of your podcast, but they aren’t important to your audience.
The prerecorded intro does great work establishing your brand, but it is repeated in every episode. How long do you think it will take your listeners to figure out exactly how many times to hit the 30 second skip button to get past your intro?
Establishing a rapport with your audience by letting them know a little about your life is great, but get to the fracking point already. That’s what they are there for.
3 Must Haves At The Beginning Of Your Show
Now that we know the common mistakes, what should be there?
1. What this episode is about. Really that’s what they are asking themselves when they hit play.
2. Be a tease. There’s the concept of an open loop in communication theory, where you start a thought but don’t finish it in a way that makes the listener feel compelled to find the answer.
3. What’s in it for them? Or put another way, what’s the benefit of this episode to the listener.
You have to do these three things, but they don’t have to be over the top obvious. In the “The one where…” power opening formula below we accomplish these in a pretty simple way.
I’ve created a one page PDF with 5 Power Opening Formulas. Just click here and I’ll email it to you.
Power Open Formulas For Your Podcast
Here at Launch A Pod we teach a basic starting outline that goes something like this:
1. Teaser open.
2. Short prerecorded intro.
3. Standard show welcome.
We teach more about this outline in our Jumpstart course, but I wanted to mention it here. The Power Open is #1.
There are a lot of ways to do the power open but you need some kind of variable but repeatable formula when your open your podcast. Think of it as a fill in the blank script for the teaser at the beginning of your show. There are lots of ways to do this. Probably as many as there are quality podcasts.
To help you we created a PDF of Power Opening Formulas for you.
The First 30 Seconds
Hopefully this post has opened your eyes up to the importance of crafting the first 30 seconds of your podcast to really catch the attention of your audience. By taking some time and thinking about what a new listener wants to know as soon as they hit play, you can dramatically increase the likelihood they will stick around and listen. Give them valuable content, or at least entertainment, and they will subscribe and follow your podcast.
Know any good examples of Power Opens for podcasts? Comment below.