Kids are the worst storytellers.
You don’t have to be a parent to understand. Comedian Tom Segura illustrates this (in a borderline NSFW) comedy routine. It goes a little something like this:
(cleaned up for this “family friendly” blog…)
You: Did you go to the park today?
You: Did you have fun?
Kid: Umm, yea… I ran into Uncle John. He had his arm around a lady and it wasn’t Aunt Marie. Who’s that lady, daddy? Oh, Jenny was playing with bubbles, but she wouldn’t let me play with her American Girl doll. And then Amanda wouldn’t stop talking about how her brother keeps trading things from her Roblox. And when we finally made it to the swings where Johnny was already playing, all I wanted to do was run get an ice cream cone from the Mr. Tasty ice cream truck.
Wait a minute. WAIT. A. MINUTE. Uncle John. And a mystery woman? Now, THAT is a good story.
The rest? Meh. Bless this sweet child’s heart, but many podcasters make the exact same mistake. Whether it’s going into the recording unprepared, getting lost in the passion of the topic, or laughing and bantering with co-hosts, most podcasters just beat their topic to death.
The outcome? What could have been a great story or an informative tutorial turned into a dumpster fire because of unnecessary details like bubbles, Roblox, dolls, and the ice cream truck.
How do we overcome this struggle?
It’s in the preparation. Early on in my run as a radio on-air personality, a talent coach taught me the valuable skill of starting backwards when preparing a topic. Before you even sit in front of the microphone, plan how you are going to wrap up the topic and get out of the episode.
Given that stories are told in chronological order, this concept probably sounds counterproductive. It’s a lot like planning for a vacation. Normal people don’t start planning by envisioning setting up the GPS on the phone, putting the keys in the ignition and stopping to get snacks. The first place your mind goes is of all of the things you’ll do when you arrive.
Start with the punchline of your story, for instance. Perhaps it’s first identifying the story arc and planning on how to “twist” your way into the poignant lesson that you desire your podcast listener to walk away with.
When you know “the destination” of the story or topic, you’ll be in a better position to determine how to get there.
And most importantly, you went through all of the effort to developing a plan. So, stick with it. Don’t allow yourself to get derailed by bubbles and ice cream trucks. Make the main thing the main thing (Uncle John’s mystery friend) and forget the extraneous details (bubbles and ice cream trucks).
Doing so, you’ll avoid the endless tangents that would otherwise make you sound like a storytelling child.
And that will make you an exceptional podcaster.
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