Before an archer can win a competition, she needs to locate the target. On a shooting range, her target is the bullseye.
This is no different for communicators. Their target isn’t a bullseye but something like attitudinal change or new knowledge. Their tool isn’t a bow and arrow, but a carefully crafted message. But they’re shooting for a target.
If you want to create a terrific podcast, you need to have a target to shoot for and be clear about what you’re aiming for.
What’s your bullseye?
Some of the best media content is created by producers who explicitly know what they want their content to achieve. Their bullseye might not be a round target but a carefully defined editorial goal or purpose.
For example, to convince voters to support a local social action project, persuade teenagers to quit smoking or convince motorists to buy a new model car.
Each and every technique they use to communicate will have been chosen because they’ve carefully calculated how it will help them achieve their editorial purpose – or hit their target.
Such techniques include words, music and sound effects.
Create a learning outcome first
In the learning profession, our bullseye isn’t an “editorial purpose” but a learning outcome.
A good learning outcome follows a very specific grammar. It explicitly describes the task your learner will be able to perform at the end of her learning.
It describes the context in which that task will be performed. And the standard to which that task will be performed.
This is the first thing you need to do to create a phenomenal learning podcast.
What is it that your listener should be able to do when he or she finishes listening?
In what context will they perform this task? And to what standard will they be able to do it? Before you even start planning your podcast, you need to be really clear – actually very explicit – about what learning you are trying to achieve.
A question about your podcast
Once you’ve located your bullseye – in other words you have explicitly described the task you want your learner to perform – you need to ask a few key questions before starting production.
The most important question is: is audio podcasting the most ideal learning method to achieve your learning outcome?
If you’re teaching someone to lay ceramic tile, audio is probably not the most effective method. Consider video instead. But sharing a new sales technique might be.
I meet a lot of enthusiastic types who blindly believe that audio podcasts will save their world. OK, perhaps that’s an exaggeration.
But many falsely believe that podcasting is suited to every learning situation. It’s not. Audio is great for narrative. But it’s lousy for complex detail. It’s great for knowledge but lousy for learning psycho-motor skills.
The key to successful podcasts is knowing when they’re going to work for you and when they won’t. Professionalism is typified by the discipline not to use audio when it clearly will not help you.
Once you have determined that audio is the best method, you need to break your task down into easy-to-learn chunks of information and create a structure. Structure is another conversation.
1. Explicitly describe the task your learner will be able to do at the end of your podcast. For example, “identify potential barriers to selling life insurance…”
2. Be explicit about the context in which this task is being performed. For example, “…to Generation X teachers…”
3. Be explicit about the standard to which this is performed. For example, “…to increase closing rate.
4. Ask yourself, is an audio podcast really the best method for your learners to learn this task? If it is not, consider your alternatives. If it is the best method, it’s time to think about structure.