Many podcasters, usually the "old-school" people, believe that podcasting needs to be unscripted and spontaneous. Just get in front of a mic and go! Although the people who can do this are admirableand we certainly wish we were that talentedwe believe those people are few and far between. Content rarely erupts from people that easily, and most of us need some sort of outline to follow.
If you have no outline prepared, it's difficult to stay on topic, remember everything you wanted to talk about, and stick to a time schedule (more on that later). Once the RSS feed is updated with the latest podcast, you can't modify it if you forgot to add something important to your file. Well, you can add something new, but uploading an edited file means your listeners might download two copies of your podcastthe good one and the bad oneand that annoys some people. They don't know which one to listen to, and if they've already listened to the wrong file, it's unlikely they will want to listen to it again to hear the new stuff you put in. Podcast listeners' time is valuable.
Not to mention that uploading a file and then realizing you've forgotten something to put in it makes you really want to kick yourself. Trust us.
Preparing an outline keeps the show on topic. By considering your topics carefully, you can segue smoothly between topics and make the show sound better. You can go off topic (especially if you forget something in your outline), but using the outline is a good bare-bones approach.
Reading from a Script
Several podcasters read some or all of their podcast straight from a script. This can add a professional tone to your podcast, as you deliver the information in a smooth and prepared way. It shows you've done your homework, and your podcast is free from the dreaded "um" and "ah" factor. It is a pleasure to listen to a podcast that is well-scripted and well-delivered.
Reading from a script is a touchy subject with podcasters, however. Many believe that a script is not in the spirit of podcasting, which they say is raw and off the cuff. Podcasts are not mainstream radio, they argue, and don't need to sound like mainstream radio. The argument holds only if you want the raw, conversational sound to your podcast. Podcasting is whatever you want it to be, and if a script works for you, then great.
Other arguments state that few people actually work well with a script and instead read the text from a script like a sixth grader reading a book report. When absolutely everything is scripted, even the jokes and the apparently off-the-cuff comments can sound sterile and without soul. A dry reading of a script can kill whatever passion you wanted to get across to the listener with your podcast.
If you do decide to go with a script, read it out loud a couple times before recording so you don't have any odd phrases you will stumble over (Mur has this problem with her essays a lot). The brain will often have no trouble reading a sentence that the tongue can't handle. Have you ever gotten tripped up just reading tongue twisters silently? No? That's our point. Get acquainted with the text, and deliver it with a conversational tone.
Scripting jokes is also a touchy subject. It's difficult to pull off reading a joke and delivering it properly. This is another reason to get well-acquainted with the textput the joke in, but be familiar enough with it to ad-lib it, thus making it sound more natural. Whatever you do, however, don't read it word for word; it will sound forced and unnatural.
Going off Bullet Points
Bullet points are perhaps the nonscripted podcaster's best friend. They lack the slightly anal detail of a full outline, and they don't take up as much time as a script. You can jot down your thoughts before you podcast and keep your notes with you.
Remember to keep your best part for last, just as grocery stores put the milk in the far corner. If you make your listeners wait for the best parts, they will listen to the whole thing. Put the best part early and they might turn off the podcast when they are done listening to just that one part.
Bullet points are also an excellent reference when building your show notes. Although we believe you should listen to the final version of your podcast after you are done with it, you don't have to worry about building your show notes through that final listen if you already have them in front of you.
The third thing bullet points do for you is allow you to put your show into a logical order. If you jot down the things you want to talk about, you might realize that your topics are in the wrong order. This enables you to reorganize your show ahead of time. Trying to do this in the middle of recording is possible, but it often shows up in the quality of the podcast, with clumsy segues, your best topic coming second instead of last, and so on.