Build Trust and Engagement with Show Format and Show Flow – Part 1

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Susan Bratton, author of Talk Show Tips, host of the Dishymix podcast and CEO of a publishing company called Personal Life Media that produces 40 different podcasts, is sharing some of her expertise in podcasting with the Digital Podcast fans.

In this guest post, Susan writes about Show Format and how to use it to build trust and engagement with your audience.

Here’s part one of advice from Susan Bratton, author of Talk Show Tips:

Show Format
In order to create trust with your audience, you have to consistently deliver both in frequency and format. Once you pick a schedule, keep to it. (I work ahead 3-5 episodes so I always have a significant buffer to weather guest cancellations and my own busy life.) The same with a format – keeping it consistent pays off by generating a level of credibility, professionalism and certainty. Sure, you can morph the format over time. I’ve tried show highlights and removed them because of audience feedback that they were confusing. Choosing and sticking with a show format allows your audience relax into the content, rather than wondering what the game plan is for every episode.

The 5 Divas: Sharon, Suzanne, Carrie, Julie and Amy

Carrie Runnals, Words to Mouth

Ryan Oelke and Vince Horn, The Buddhist Geeks
Ryan Oelke and Vince Horn, The Buddhist Geeks

On our network, we have many formats and lengths:

  • The DivaCast and Business Success Tips are a group of hosts who convene to discuss salient issues. The DivaCast is five “forty-something” women discussing life. Business Success Tips is as many as six male hosts talking shop.
  • Family History and Tantra and Kama Sutra are single host/guest format.
  • Joy of Living Creatively, Inside Out Weight Loss and Your Purpose-Centered Life are single host spoken word shows with huge followings.
  • Camera Dojo, Buddhist Geeks and Digital Photography Life are dual-host and single guest format.
  • Music for Midnight is very lightly hosted and mostly ambient and lounge music.

Some of our shows are 8-12 minutes long, some go over an hour! Some are loosely formatted discussions and others follow very organized question/answer formats. There are hundreds of formats and styles successfully employed. Don’t just choose one of the styles we use on our network, choose the one that supports your content, personality and Persona. (more about Personas in the main eBook.)

There’s a style for everyone. Some people love the conversational nature of our multi-host shows. That drives others crazy and they vehemently reject it. You must develop your style and find your audience. Your future fans are out there, as long as you keep your show tight, the content valuable and you don’t waste your viewer’s time.

Your Show Length
First, select your show length and format. My weekly show is about a half hour. I’d like to do a twenty minute show, but I can’t get as deep as I want in that amount of time. A hallmark of my show is depth, so I need that extra ten minutes to fully develop the character of my guests. My audience gives me that time because they like that character development too.

I also need to have pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll ad slots because a big part of my income is advertising revenue. Sometimes I run six or eight ads in a single show. (My audience is marketers and they understand the sponsorship model. I never get any negative feedback on this number of ads because my audience “gets it.”) To generate the revenue for my show, I need thirty minutes of content with a break fifteen minutes in. I don’t believe my listeners, who are busy professionals, have more than a half hour, but there are a LOT of popular shows that go longer. Some of the shows on our network are always over an hour. If you are working in video, your duration is significantly abbreviated — typically :30 seconds to 4 minutes… You have the luxury of overlay ads on your video, whereas audio is more linear.

So pick a length. Then stay within that by 20% every episode. Internet shows have the luxury of being approximate, rather that exact in length. But don’t take advantage of that and go off format. It’s sloppy and erodes audience trust. Ninety five percent of my shows are thirty-ish minutes long. A really long show I did with Tim Ash about landing page conversions recently was a show with a lot of listener questions. I got great feedback on that show from many people. But I like those “bonus material” shows to be the exceptions, not the rule.

On the next guest post, Susan will show you exactly how she handles her show flow and give you a cheat sheet for customizing it to your needs.


Susan has launched Talk Show Tips: 72 Secret ‘Master Host’ Techniques as a training system for anyone who hosts a podcast, vidcast, radio or talk show or for experts who create information products that include interviews as material.

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