Best Ways to Invent and Plan Powerful Podcast Topics
All podcasters do it. Try to come up with the next best idea for the show. Some procrastinate until show time and hope the lightining bolt will strike. But what if you pre-planned the podcast without even knowing it?
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Every show you see on TV starts with a morning (or weekly) planning meeting. Weeding the bad ideas from the good. Bouncing ideas to make sure nothing is done or said wrong.
So how do you as a podcaster go about doing that?
Put Topic Ideas in a Book
On writing songs: “What I find important are two other things – inspiration and craftsmanship. Those are things you cannot compromise. When an inspiration comes to you, it doesn’t matter how inconvenient it is, you must take advantage of it at the time. So I keep a notebook all the time and always force myself to write down any cogent thought, however sketchy it might seem, whether it’s a title I like or a phrase I like or even just an image that I would like to develop or a theme I would someday want to address. So by the time we reach the writing period, I’m prepared.” – Bruce Pollock interviewing Neil Peart for Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Oct. 1986
Yes, we take a step from the great Neil Peart of the band Rush. The prog-rock trio has sold 40 million records worldwide and has been around for 40 years. Even during a dark time when Peart lost his wife and daughter passed in separate incidents, his band helped bring him back to his passions (as told from Ghost Rider: Travels on a Healing Road).
First thing: Your idea notebook needs to be an actual notebook. Don’t pull up notepad on the computer or notes on your iPhone – we need something tangible here. Something that is at your desk and ready for you to open. It has to be dog-eared and sketched on. You have to go hunting for a pen or Sharpie to put your latest idea – however odd – into this book.
Then, when it’s time to plan your next episode, open up the book. Look inside for inspiration and possibly create future ideas. This book might direct you to the most viral of episodes.
Ask the Audience and Then Engage
Don’t just say “Got a great topic? Let me know!”. They might never respond. Of course we do that anyway just to make sure its been done. But keep in mind, there are other ways to do this.
Case in point: 6 months ago I engaged someone on Twitter for something else. They were so happy with my response, they threw out a great topic to podcast on. It was regarding podcast interview microphones. Not only did they suggest I do a review of another microphone, the company saw the tweet and sent me a microphone to compare. I was then able to implement and construct an episode that has brought some great evergreen content. And all I had to do was interact.
Going back to the planning meeting: If you are a one-person podcaster, working your audience is a great way to create a morning brainstorm. Invite some in on a morning Google hangout. In my show Wearable Today, I’ve done a few of those brainstorm hangouts.
Go to Forums
“What is a master but a master student? And if that is true, then there is a responsibility on you to keep getting better and explore all avenues of your profession” – Neil Peart
Whenever a show from TWiT (This Week in Tech) is recorded, they poll their audience for titles and sometimes if they should talk about a topic. The group also has their own Reddit sub-page to get news ideas from.
If you don’t want to create your own forum, then join another and be active. I’m always asking questions on my Google Podcasters Community on Google+. The responses I get can not only help me create new topics for HTRP, but also can give me quotable moments from all types of podcasters.
Search the Internet
“I want to be an improviser, and I’ve worked very hard at that. It’s an art. You don’t just play whatever comes into your head; you have to be very deliberate about what you do.” – Neil Peart
I can’t tell you how many times I go on to the Internet and type a search term in to get inspiration. I might even find some news and information that slipped my radar from time to time.
Last month I was doing a search on something (not related to podcasting) and found out a friend of mine had passed away. I felt bad that I didn’t know at the time, but was also able to get my condolences out to his family.
There are other times I just need to shake things up, so I’ll do specific searches on topics to hopefully find some gems.
Speaking of which, did you know you can set a Google Alert to certain keywords and get notified if new content comes up? Not only do I alert “Podcasting or Podcaster”, but I also have alerts on “Geekazine” when anything new comes in. That alerted me last week to a website that tried to use my podcasts to create link porn malware. I was able to report and Google was quick to remove this site.
Meditate to Clear Your Mind
“To me, drum soloing is like doing a marathon and solving equations at the same time” – Neil Peart
Taking five minutes to clear your head is probably the best way to come up with new ideas. You don’t have to sit cross-legged and “umm” a lot. Your meditation could involve getting up and walking around the block. It could include reciting a mantra or watching an inspirational video. You can even check out my Podcaster’s Prayer for inspiration.
Here’s a great trick to try: Sit in your chair upright with your arms to your sides. Close your eyes for 5 seconds, then open them and without moving your head, move your eyes to the left, then right, then left then right. This is a small trick to get both hemispheres of your brain going. After all, one side will be coming up with new ideas and the other will be writing them down. You need the coordination so you don’t loose a train of thought.
However you meditate, put that in your plan when you brainstorm or even before you podcast.
There are many other tricks into planning the perfect podcast. What do you do to get the juices flowing? Let me know!
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” – Neil Peart