Everything’s better together… well, sometimes.
Going solo isn’t so bad. Especially when you have an important message to get across. That’s why the Sweet Fish team recommends sneaking a solo podcast episode into your regular queue of interviews.
Don’t dive into your monologue just yet. Let’s answer the big question first:
What does a solo podcast format look like? To make a successful solo podcast episode, consider these 6 key ideas:
- Come up with a list of potential topics.
- Create an episode outline.
- Begin the episode with a hook.
- Share a unique POV (point-of-view).
- Recap the episode.
- Use the right tools.
Before we jump into how to create a bang-up solo podcast episode, let’s check out why solo podcast episodes work so well.
Why You Should Use a Solo Podcast Format
A solo podcast episode is an episode consisting of only the host elaborating on a topic they’re an expert on. Think of it as a TED Talk but without the live audience and all the pressure.
Normally, a solo episode is shorter than an interview because, well, there’s only one person talking. However, just because they’re not as long doesn’t mean solo episodes can’t have equal amounts of rich, thoughtful content.
There are 4 main reasons why you should consider doing a solo podcast episode once in a while.
1. Fill up down periods with content.
Solo episodes are great backups for slow content seasons. Sometimes a guest will cancel suddenly or there’s a blank spot in the queue — try a solo episode!
Even if you have a solo episode recorded and produced doesn’t mean that you need to publish it right away. Save it for a rainy day when the content’s slow.
2. Keep things fresh.
An interview-only show can get a little stagnant for your audience. Throw in a curveball here and there.
Keep listeners engaged with solo episodes. Who knows? Maybe some listeners will prefer the solo episode format over interviews.
3. Create a stronger connection.
A solo episode featuring just the host can seem more organic to the listener. It’s a great way to cultivate a more intimate connection between host and audience.
To come off even more organically, try recording voice memos on your phone. When you have an idea for a solo episode, record it at that moment. This method will preserve your inspiration and just might make for natural, insightful content.
4. Fill in the gaps.
Let’s face it: Guests aren’t always going to say what we want them to. Interviews can often leave gaps in the information we want listeners to walk away with.
Use a solo episode format to supplement tactical insights for your audience. This way, you can clear up any confusion around a topic quickly and without the diversion of an interview.
How to Make a Bang-Up Solo Podcast Format
Now for the How! Creating solo episodes for your podcast can be a fun and repeatable experience as long as you keep the next 6 keys top-of-mind.
1. Come up with a list of solo episode topics.
If thinking up solo podcast ideas doesn’t come naturally to you, never fear. There are numerous ways to brainstorm a list of episode topics. Try these:
FAQs Your Buyers are Asking
Use the insights you gather from contact forms and recorded Sales calls. What are the common questions customers ask? Could you elaborate on some of these questions for 5-10 minutes?
Webinars, speaking engagements, workshops, written blogs, videos, LinkedIn posts: These are all sources of content that you could repurpose into a solo episode. Why make it harder than it has to be?
Google Alphabet Soup
Our team uses a process we like to call Google Alphabet Soup when brainstorming podcast topics. Here it is in a nutshell:
- Type a high-level keyword into Google’s search bar. Use B2B marketing for example.
- After B2B marketing, hit [space] a. Write down all the relevant autosuggestions for B2B marketing a.
- Then, delete a and put b. Write down all the relevant autosuggestions.
- Continue this process for the entire alphabet.
- Stare in awe at all of the topics you’ve just generated.
Still not convinced? Watch James Carbary and me discuss how to plan episode topics your audience wants to hear using Google Alphabet Soup. Or, listen to us talk about it here.
Solo Podcast Idea List
Still stumped? Use this nifty idea list we came up with:
- Favorite books
- Favorite podcasts
- Lesson learned from a mentor
- Your favorite people to follow on LinkedIn
- Failure story
- Opposite stance on a commonly held belief
- Productivity hacks
- How you hire people
- How you fire people
- Your WHY
- Your thoughts on work/life balance
- Talk about someone you admire & why you value them
- Share a lesson learned from one of your first jobs
- Characteristics you look for when hiring someone
- Your goals for this quarter
- What are you afraid of?
- How do you recharge?
- Lessons learned from bad bosses
- Your advice to young leaders
- Answer a commonly asked question you get from customers
- Explain one of your professional pet peeves
- Your favorite TED Talks
- Ask your audience what they’re currently reading
- A goal you failed to achieve & what you learned from it
- Your morning routine
- How you handle difficult customers
- Top priorities for your role
- Your strengths vs. weaknesses
- Share something you’re currently doing to improve your leadership
- How you take vacations
- How you build new habits
- How you ended up in your industry
- A piece of advice you give frequently
- An explanation of your Myers Briggs type
- Share an element of how you were raised and how that impacts your life today
- A recent mistake you made as a leader
- Who inspires you?
- Questions you often ask other leaders
- Questions you ask during 1-on-1’s w/ your team
- What you learned from a recent event in culture
- An aspect of your story that surprises people
- The last piece of critical feedback you received
- As your audience to share one of their favorite industry conferences
- 5 lessons learned in the last year
- Ask your audience to tell you their favorite podcasts
- How to make big decisions
- How you stay focused
- How you prioritize your inbox
- How you lead meetings
- A creative solution to one of your recent problems
- Your best advice for networking
- Explain one of your strategic partnerships
- You best advice for keeping customers
- Share a story where you had to make a significant pivot
- How you handle rejection
- The best conference you’ve ever attended
- Share a long-term goal
- A recent conversation that inspired you
- The scariest risk you’ve ever taken
- A skill you’re in the process of honing and how you’re mastering it
- Share something you’ve learned from a child
- Your company’s core values
- Advice you’d give to your younger self
- Your thoughts on company culture
- A decision you made that changed the trajectory of your life/career
- Ask your audience to share questions they have about your expertise
2. Create an episode outline.
We’re not talking about an outline worthy of your 10th grade English class. A solo episode outline is for your eyes only — you’re the only one who needs to understand it.
The episode outline also doesn’t need to be a full script. In fact, it’d be better if it wasn’t. Solo episodes sound more natural and authentic when the host isn’t reading from a script.
Here’s a (very) simple framework for outlining your solo episode:
- Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em
- Tell ‘em
- Tell ‘em what you told ‘em
Trust me, it works every time.
If you’re repurposing written content, put your own flair on it. After all, the topic should be something you’re an expert in. So, bring in your expertise.
Pro Tip: To quickly record a rough outline for your solo episode, type docs.new into the URL bar. Then, type Ctrl+Shift+S to activate Voice Typing. Start talking to create a general framework for the episode.
3. Begin the episode with a hook.
Here’s where you might be able to apply the wisdom your high school English teacher bestowed on you. Hook them in!
You might as well start your non-traditional episode with a non-traditional opener, right? Begin with a funny quote, a relatable anecdote, an intriguing question, the pinnacle of the story you’re about to tell. Then, move into your regular intro:
“Welcome back to [Show Name]. I’m [Your Name] and I’ll be your host for this episode on [Episode Topic]. That’s right: It’s just me today! Now, let’s explore the best ways to… etc.“
No matter what hook you use, remember to tell listeners what they’re going to get from the episode. Then get into the meat.
4. Share your unique POV.
Why should listeners care about your point-of-view or your personal story pertaining to a topic? They’ve probably heard other podcasts covering the exact same topic, anyway.
They should care because your POV is unique. As long as you share your individual story, the topic should hit listeners differently, even if they already have opinions about it.
Don’t regurgitate other people’s insights without including how you feel about them. Bring something new to the table — your listeners will appreciate it.
Pro Tip: If the thought of being the only voice on an episode freaks you out, we suggest bringing in another co-host or expert counterpart to enhance the dialogue. Think less interview, more conversation over coffee with a friend.
5. Recap the episode.
Here’s where you tell ‘em what you told ‘em.
Wrap It Up
Wrap up everything you’ve said into a nice package of applicable takeaways. This will help the information to stick in your audience’s minds.
Once you’ve recapped the episode, make sure to offer your contact information in case listeners have questions or feedback. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a review or rating. Frame it something like this:
“That wraps it up for today’s episode. If you’d like to go deeper on this topic, we have additional resources linked in the show notes. If you’re getting value from this show or have feedback, feel free to reach out to me at [contact info/social handles]. Or, leave us a rating. Thanks for listening!”
Then, leave some dead air at the end. This ensures that the recording doesn’t cut you off mid-sentence and gives the audio engineer some margin to work with.
[RELATED: Just getting started w/ Sweet Fish? Here are a few pointers.]
There will be times when you’re recording a solo podcast episode and you need to start over or rephrase something. It happens to everybody!
When Sweet Fish customers find themselves in this situation, all you have to do is say, “Hey Sweet Fish team. I’m going to restart that.” Then, silently count to three before you start again. That way, our awesome audio engineers have some margin.
The same method can be used if you’re not a Sweet Fish customer. Whether you’re outsourcing the audio engineering or doing it yourself, it helps to verbalize when you’re starting over and leave a pause.
6. Use the right tools.
If you’ve been podcasting for a while, it’s likely that you already have some tried-and-true tools in your arsenal. Nonetheless, here’s the software we recommend:
- Online Voice Recorder (for solo episodes)
- Riverside.fm (for remote interviews)
- GarageBand (for editing/mixing)
For a full list of podcasting equipment, check out this blog post.
“Here I go again on my owwwnnn… “
Hopefully you’re a little inspired to go solo by now. If not, just look up Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again on YouTube.
Not into 80’s hair metal? Take down the 4 big ideas from this post instead:
- Use solo episodes to fill in gaps of information and gaps in the content queue.
- Keep a list of topics you could gab about on your own.
- Don’t read directly from a script.
- Don’t be afraid to mess up — there’s always editing!
If you have any questions about solo podcast episodes, contact your Sweet Fish producer, or chat with us here.