Do you ever wonder why good stories stick to us for as long as they do? Have you ever found yourself so captivated by a good story that you don’t notice the time passing by?
Whatever form of media you love to consume and engage in - whether that’s a movie, series, book, or a podcast, audiences are all naturally attracted to a well-delivered story. We identify with characters and understand shared lived experiences.
But what is it about a good story that sticks with us - that we share our own and echo the stories we love with our community? This is part of the reason why podcasts work so well - listening to real people who have compelling experiences and the ability to tell a good story can help us feel less alone, and can inform us on how we can do better in our own lives.
Aspiring podcasters need to understand that podcasts aren’t recorded static speeches. They’re valuable and grounded story exchanges that audiences can engage with and gain important insight from.
According to Forbes, 57% of Americans over the age of 12 listen to podcasts – that’s 162 million people. Pair that with the statistics that audiences have better information retention and brand recall in podcasting, incorporating strategies like storytelling that make your podcasts become more memorable becomes key to the success and reach of a podcast.
Storytelling is both an art and a practicable skill. Podcasters and content creators alike all work hard to be able to convey their message, opinions, and expertise to their target audience. Knowing how to deliver messages effectively is how you increase your engagement rates which open doors into more meaningful connections with your listeners.
So what can we learn from successful podcasters?
Podcasting has become an increasingly popular medium for storytelling, thanks to its convenience and accessibility. While there are many factors that make a successful podcast, various storytelling elements make them compelling and engaging. Here are some storytelling elements that can be integrated into podcasting:
Great Narration. Pocadasting can just be you narrating a story from your perspective. Good narration is critical in engaging your audience, bringing out emotions, and getting your message across in a more connected way than something like journalistic reporting that provides context, background information, and helps capture the listener's attention.
Memorable Characters. Characterization is a powerful tool in any storytelling medium and in podcasting, strong characters make compelling stories. You want your listeners to relate to your characters, to empathize with them, and become invested in their story. Realistic and relatable characters can make your story narrative more authentic, as the listener can visualize what's happening by drawing their own parallel experiences.
Engaging Sound Effects. Adding sound effects, background music, or even ambient sounds enhances the podcast's overall quality. Sound effects help create a realistic atmosphere for your story, making your listeners feel as if they are part of the scene you’re describing. They can also signal a change in tone or indicate something significant is happening and help make topic changes feel less jarring.
Good Pacing. A podcast's pace should be understandable, with sudden twists and turns to retain your audience's attention. This skill is essential for storytellers to weave their story while keeping the audience engaged.
Exciting Plot-twists. A good plot twist is a game-changer for any story narrative. It's essential not to reveal everything in the story or provide clear endings as it creates anticipation and adds suspense to a listener, leading them to stay till the end of the podcast episode, wanting more.
Your podcast's narrative should always center around your listener, regardless of the theme or genre. It's crucial to understand who your listeners are, where they come from, and what topics will intrigue or enhance their lives.
By making your podcast relevant to your audience, you're effectively engaging them and making them feel individually connected to your content. Ludmilla Woodruff does this by titling her podcast episodes that immediately tell her audience what she’s focusing on and highlight important takeaways, like the episode “How to Navigate Emotional Availability and Unavailability in Relationships” from Deeply Connected.
To enhance your podcast's storytelling, make sure to paint a vivid image using your words. Rather than providing a dull statement, develop a relatable scene that engages and resonates with your audience by drawing from everyday experiences and incorporating small nuances that allow your listeners to fully immerse themselves in your content. This is also a great opportunity to insert references to history or pop culture that can further captivate your listeners.
Another layer to this is highlighting change. Paint how your own experiences helped you learn the lesson you’re sharing. Show how your ideas, expertise, or products can significantly improve and positively impact their lives and keep your audience invested in your podcast.
A great example is from Jessica Hurley’s Rich in Real Life. In talking to coach and founder of “Connect and Evolve,” Ben Holt shares a bit of his story from jock to healer and gives this nugget of a quote that perfectly describes that journey.
“Things often become more challenging before they become easy, right? It's really beautiful from the outside perspective looking in to see someone who is on the spiritual path, but little do we know, being on the spiritual path is like getting dragged through the valley of your shadow pretty often.”
According to a study by Pennsylvania University, people are more receptive towards stories than they are to statistics and facts. So using storytelling to help deliver data-backed information can help your audience remember your content better than if they were sitting in a lecture. Not to mention including important data in your story will help to boost your credibility.
Simplify your plot and concentrate on one or two storylines in a single episode. Avoid overloading your audience with multiple threads that may confuse or overwhelm them and having only a handful of experiences that are within the theme of the episode is more than enough to help make your point.
Another crucial element of your podcast episode is its rhythm. Play around with the sectioning of your talking points and learn how to transition between topics. The pace at which you deliver the content can either amplify or diminish its significance - too slow and it drags, too fast and you confuse the audience. Find a flow that works for you and stay consistent - consistency in your approach can make your listeners feel intelligent and fulfilled.
Storytelling is an essential element of podcasting that can make episodes more engaging and memorable. Podcasters should use as many effective storytelling elements as they can like narration, characters, sound effects, pacing, and plot twists to consistently captivate your audience. Podcasting has great potential for creativity in how it can connect great thought leaders directly with the audience that needs to hear their message.