How to come up with your podcast idea



Lightbulb hanging from ceiling

So, what’s your show going to be about?

If you’re thinking “I definitely want to do a show but I’m not sure what it should be about,” I’m going to take you through a few exercises to help you refine your idea.  Or come up with one if you’ve got nothing.

So let’s get cracking…

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Identify your passions

The first thing I want you to do is get out a piece of paper divide it into two columns.

Label the left column “Passions” and underneath it list all the things you love e.g.

  • What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
  • What could you talk about for hours?
  • What are you always seeking information about?
  • What do you read books on or listen to podcasts about?
  • What do you love learning about?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with your time?

Think about all the things that really drive you or that you have a passionate interest in and write them down.  Even if they seem ridiculous or like they’re something you’d never do a podcast on, write them on the list.

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Identify your expertise

In the second column, you’re going to put “Expertise” at the top and in this section, you’ll write down all the things you’re good at.

This isn’t just expertise in the career sense.  It’s a list of all the things you do well e.g.

  • I’m good at public speaking
  • I’m good at teaching people
  • I’m an expert in (insert your specialty)
  • I’m good at entertaining people
  • I’m great with kids
  • I know a lot about (insert a topic here)
  • I’m a good interviewer

If you’re struggling to come up with things for this list think about what people bug you about all the time.

Are they always asking you about the best beauty products because you know a lot about makeup?  Are you gluten-intolerant so people are always asking for recipes or where you can get the best gluten-free bread?  Are you a mechanic and people want to know how to fix their car?

When your expertise is in something you’re not paid for, it can be hard to identify.

It’s also easy to underestimate how much you know when something comes easily to you.

But, if people are asking you questions it’s usually a good indication you’ve got knowledge worth sharing.

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Find where your passions and expertise intersect

To do this just draw lines between the items in each column that work well together.

For example, my podcast, You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere was the perfect match of my experience in the media industry and my passion for interviewing people.

Similarly, with PodSchool, I had a real passion for teaching and I had expertise in podcasting and radio so that was an easy match between those two things.

Finding this combination will be the sweet spot for your idea because you’ll have the knowledge to deliver the content but also the passion to keep doing it over a long period of time.

Pick your top three ideas and come up with content

Once you’ve got your top three ideas, write each on a separate piece of paper.

For example, for You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere I’d write: “interview well-known media personalities about how they got into show business.”

Or for PodSchool, I’d write: “teach people about podcasting.”

For each podcast write out as many topic ideas as you possibly can.

If you get to 10 or 20 you’re probably onto something.  If you’re struggling to come up with two it’s probably a good indication the idea doesn’t have legs.

This exercise can often show you where the content opportunities lie and which ideas don’t have as much life as you thought they did.

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Write a pros and cons list

If, after the above exercise, there’s one idea that stands out, great! Put that in your pocket!

If you’ve got a couple of ideas competing for the win, write a pros and cons list for each.

Think about what it would take to get the idea up and running. Think about whether you could do it by yourself or if you would need a co-host and whether that’s actually feasible.  Think about whether there are competitors in the market that might be hard to compete with.

If there are shows that already exist that’s definitely not a deal breaker.  In fact, it’s proof of concept.  But if you’re starting out and have no following it might be worth trying to come up with a niche within that area rather than staying general.

Does your podcast have to be niche?


Come up with your elevator pitch

This is just a wanky way of saying: come up with a single sentence to describe your show.

For You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere it would be “an interview show where I talk to well-known media personalities about how they got into show business.”

Sit on your idea so you know it’s the right one

Some of the ideas I’ve executed, I’ve sat on for months or years.

That’s not because I can’t get my shit together.  It’s because ideas often need to sit with you for a while so you know they’re worth committing to.

During this time you should share your elevator pitch with people you trust and gauge their reaction.

If you’re getting a good response it’s usually a solid sign you’re onto something.

You should also take note of how you feel when you talk about it.  Are you excited to tell people?  Or are you unsure and nervous?  If it’s the latter it’s probably a good indication it’s not right.

Ley your idea marinate. Work out whether you’re really passionate about it and if you still love it in a couple of months you’ll know its an idea you’ll be happy committing to for the long term.

Got a burning question you’d like answered on the podcast? Send me an email.

Need some help getting started or setting up your home studio?  Download my free podcasting guide.

Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to the show. Today's episode is all about coming up with an idea for your podcast. I often get emails from people who listen to this show who are trying to get as much of a sense of podcasting before they kick things off, so they jump in the deep end in a more prepared way. But they are still not sure about exactly what they want to podcast about. This makes total sense because at the moment everybody seems to be wanting to jump on the podcasting bandwagon and that often comes before a concept. So if you are thinking "I definitely want to do a show but I'm just not sure what it would be about" then I'm going to take you through a couple of exercises that can really help you refine your idea or come up with one from nothing. I'll also take you through how to test that idea. Because you don't know if the content is going to resonate with people until it's out there it's important to approach it in the most prepared way possible. You want to know the idea has legs so you can keep churning out episodes without pulling your hair out. You also want to make sure you can be passionate about it for a long time because if you're not passionate about it your audience is never going to be passionate about it. So the more preparation you do before you press record on your first episode the better set up you're going to be for success. So let's have a think about how to come up with an idea that you love but also that an audience will love.

The first thing I want you to do is get out a piece of paper and I want you to divide it into two. On the column on the left, you're going to put everything you love, that you are super passionate about. What do you love doing in your spare time? What do you love learning about? What do you like reading books on? Listening to podcasts on? If money wasn't a problem and you could do whatever you wanted, what would you do with your days? What are your hobbies? Think about all of the things that really drive you and that you have a serious interest in and write those down. Even if they seem ridiculous or like you'd never do a podcast on them. If you're a mad bandit for macramé. Write it down on the list. Jot down ALL of the things you love to spend time doing talking about and doing. That's the stuff that's going to be fuel for a show that will be best hosted by you. When you're going through this list of your passions that's what we're trying to find. We're trying to find the "nobody else could do this but you" idea that will mean you'll not only love the content you'll be able to sell it well. You'll have the requisite expertise, understanding and knowledge that you need to communicate it. So don't worry if ideas seem too ridiculous or small. This is really just a brain dump exercise and you want to put as many things down in that column of passions and things that you love as possible. Just let it roll out of your mind and onto the page.

In the second column, you're going to put your expertise or what you're good at. This isn't only the "what you're doing in your career" kind of expertise. These are personality things as well so things that your friends and family would say about you. This stuff can include...I'm really funny, I am good at public speaking, I'm good at entertaining people, I'm really good at teaching people things, I'm great with kids. Any of the things that describe you as a person. All the things you've gotten good at in your life. This will help you work out what you'd be good doing a show on. So for example for me my area of expertise would be radio, media, television, podcasting, entertaining people and teaching people.

When I started this podcast and this business I did this exercise. I'd been teaching at a radio and podcasting school for a couple of years and I was really loving it and I was really good at it. So that was one of the things that I put down on my list and it was one of the reasons why PodSchool, both this podcast and my online course, was born because I realized that it was a perfect match up of my experience in media and teaching and my passion for helping people out and also podcasting and radio. So we're really looking for an intersection of your passion and expertise.

Again with this expertise and experience column write everything down. One great thing to ask yourself if you're sitting there thinking "What am I good at?" is...what do people ask you about? Before I started this business I was actually toying with starting a health and fitness business because I've always had a real love for health and fitness and because I'm an allergy kid who's allergic to just about everything I would always get asked questions from people who were starting on a gluten-free diet or who were trying to lose weight or get healthy about how they could change their diet or what exercise was really good. I thought "gosh I'm not trained in this" (which is always a little bit problematic in those spaces) but it was certainly something that a lot of people were asking me about. Because I wasn't trained and because I obviously worked in media rather than the fitness space I wouldn't have thought about it as an option for something that I might be able to turn into a show or a business because it wasn't how I saw myself. That was such a fundamental part of my life but it was a habit. It was my hobby. It wasn't something I'd spent much time focusing on even though subconsciously I really enjoyed it so have a think about the things that people ask you all the time and the stuff that they want your advice on. Because that can really open up some doors to great content opportunities.

Another good example at work at Mamamia.com.au, we've just started a beauty podcast called You Beauty and it's hosted by Leigh Campbell who's our Executive Editor but also has been a beauty journalist for 15 years. That idea really sprang out of seeing how many people went to her desk to ask her questions about products. And you realize "okay there's a show in that" because obviously it's something people are interested in and they want to know more about.

Remember as you're doing this exercise, it doesn't have to be done in one sitting. You can brain dump a bunch of things and keep coming back to this list because sometimes ideas can take a while to percolate. Most ideas I've had that I ended up executing there's been a period of months, maybe even longer, prior to starting it where I've let that idea marinate. I've taken it out and shared it with people and seen what the reaction is. I've tried to get a sense of whether after a few months I'm still passionate about it. So don't feel like you need to knock this over in one sitting. It's great to start the process but then to give yourself a little bit of time to sit with an idea and see if it works because once you start you want to have a long life. The more prepared you are and the more you've thought about it the better it will be in the long run.

So, once you've got those two columns down I want you to sit down and link up with arrows anything in the passion column that matches with the expertise column. So, for example, something in my columns that's a good example of how my show You've Gotta Start Somewhere started is that I am very passionate about interviewing people. I love it. I really enjoy it and I also have experience and expertise in the media industry as I've been working in media for over 16 years now.

That was a perfect marriage for my show You've Gotta Start Somewhere because I had a lot of media contacts and a lot of friends in the business. I also knew, because people asked me all the time about how I got into media, that people were interested in those origin stories and how you get into media. And I loved interviewing people. So it was a no-brainer of a match up there for me in terms of passion and expertise. And that's how that show was born. Similarly, with PodSchool, I had a real passion for teaching and I had expertise in podcasting and radio so that was an easy matchup between those two things. So sit down and think about what in your passion column matches with your experience column. The sweet spot of your idea is going to be a mixture of those two things because you will have the knowledge to deliver the content but also the passion to keep doing it. It is so important because podcasting is a huge commitment, that you really love what you're doing otherwise those weeks are going to roll around real quick and you're going to be thinking "Do I really have to come up with something else to say?".

Match up those columns, pick your top three ideas and write them out in a way that it makes sense. So "an interview show about how people got into media" might be my sentence for You've Gotta Start Somewhere or "teaching people about podcasting on a podcast" would be a great example of what sentence would be for this show. Then take those top three and on separate pieces of paper pop a little sentence at the top and underneath try to list out as many ideas for topics as you possibly can. These topics will end up translating into episodes so set yourself a goal of 52. That's a huge number and you'll probably not make it there but that would be a year's worth of content for a weekly show. If you get to 10 or 20 you're probably onto something. If you can't come up with two ideas let's just scratch that and put it in the bin. Coming up with ideas is a huge part of your podcast so it's very important you really can easily reel off ideas. Of course, when you get into the meat and potatoes of the actual show you're going to spend more time researching and planning episodes but you want something that opens up the idea tap pretty easily. So this exercise can often show you where the content opportunities lie and which ideas are not so great.

Once you've found the ideas that you think "okay there's a lot of content here" if you've got only one idea left, that's great! Put that in your pocket and I'll talk you through some of the things you can do after that. But if you've still got a couple of competing, maybe you've got two that seem equally good, sit down and write a pros and cons list for both.

Think about what it would take to get the idea up and running. Think about whether you could do it by yourself or whether you would need a co-host and whether that's actually feasible. Think about whether there are competitors in the market that are already doing it that it might be really hard to compete with. If there are shows that already exist in the market that's not a deal breaker but I always advise finding, if it's at all possible, a niche within that market. If you are a health and fitness person and you're trying to compete with big-name health and fitness types it's probably going to be really hard especially if you don't already have a profile. If you've got a really big profile and people are interested in what you do already then it's a no-brainer. You've got an audience there ready to go. But if you're just starting out and you're trying to build that profile then maybe it's best to have a niche within that topic so that it appeals to, potentially a smaller amount of people, but people who will be passionately looking for your content.

Once you've got your idea it's time to come up with an elevator pitch. That's just a wanky way of saying a one-sentence way of describing it. So for You've Gotta Start Somewhere...it's an interview show where I talk to well-known media personalities about how they got into the business.

When I first came up with that idea I sat on it for a while. I wanted to see whether I still liked the idea after I'd thought about it for a while but also whether people I told liked it. I only told a few people but I really respected their opinions and the response that I got every time was: "That's a great idea for a show!" If you tell people over a while and you're getting a good response back that's usually a sign you're on to something. But you'll also notice when you tell people whether you're excited or whether you're a bit embarrassed. Sometimes I've had ideas where I think "I'm not sure I want to tell people about this." If you're thinking that it's probably a good indication it's not right. If you can't sell it before it's even a show how will you do it once it's live? If you're excited to tell people about it, however, it's a good indication it's an idea you're passionate about.

Ideas are a bit like tattoos. At first, we love them and think they're so great but then a month and a half later we're like "that was the worst idea I've ever come up with!" It can be a moment in time. So sit on things let them marinate. Work out whether you're still passionate about them and work out whether people you respect think it's a great idea. And then when you feel like "yes okay this is it" you'll be itching to get the idea recorded and into the ether. That's when you know you've got something that is going to stand the test of time but that also you are going to really love doing every single week.

I hope that has helped you work out how to come up with the idea for your show. I will put examples of these exercises and a written explanation on the show notes page which you can find at PodSchool Podcast.com. Just type "idea" into the search bar and it'll pop up. And if you would like a bit more help coming up with your idea and then turning it into a show make sure you check out my online podcasting course PodSchool you can find that a PodSchool.com.au. Thanks so much for joining me. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

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