Rule #1 for podcasting: Create a gripping open

Posted by Charlie Meyerson | Aug 01, 2022

No one gets to the end—or even the middle—of your podcast without listening to the beginning. And a long, wordy, boring open is one of the best ways to ensure people don’t stick around for long.

One key to engaging listeners—especially people new to your podcast (and who doesn’t want a steady flow of them, huh?)—is to open your show with some of the most interesting words from what’s to come.

Here’s a great way to craft a compelling intro for a typical podcast interview (and here's our PodWell podcast episode about this topic):

1. A one- or two-sentence preview, beginning with the most compelling words you can muster, leading into …

2. A short (20-30-second) excerpt from your guest or guests—the most exciting, emotionally powerful cut in the whole show.

3. An ID for the guest(s), yourself, your show and your underwriter or sponsor—mixed, if you must, with theme music (which, based on Rivet360’s groundbreaking data, often will prove a tuneout; keep it short if you use it at all).

Here’s a sample (click to hear audio):image02


Here are more examples:

1. Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! host Peter Sagal tells his not-favorite things

2. Barack Obama’s 1st biographer, David Mendell: Michelle didn't care for the book

3. Music journalist Jim DeRogatis: ‘Every system in this city failed … to protect these young black girls’

Tip: You can save yourself and your team production work by crafting your “live” intro (the one you read while you’re sitting with your subject), to include a brief pause where you can later insert a cut. The key is to write an intro that alludes to a question you’re sure you’ll be asking. If a stronger cut emerges, you can recut your first few opening words to match that clip and let the rest of your original recording flow from there.

Example: An interview with two veterans of the Second City comedy organization, Tom Yorton and Kelly Leonard(Photo credit: Charlie Meyerson.)

Tip: Spare your listeners the waste of time that is “Thank you for joining us” or “Thanks for being here” at the opening. That just brings things to a halt. (Because we all know what comes next: “Great to be here.” Or “Thanks for having me.” And then a brief, awkward pause.) Thank your guests as profusely as you like—before and after your recorded segment. If you must thank guests—it is hard to resist—don’t wait for an answer; just move directly to your first question. Keep it moving, start to finish.