First Impressions Matter

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Woooahh ooohhh *bang*

Have I got your attention? Good. 

If you’re trying to work out where you’ve heard that opening before, I’ll let you know at the end of this article.

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression. And they would be right. Whether you’re going for a job interview or out on a date, making a good impression early on is going to make all the difference.

The same is true in podcasting.

Imagine downloading a new podcast, pressing play and the first thing you hear is a glum, pessimistic perception that no one is probably listening. 

Now imagine that the first thing you hear is an upbeat, bright welcome from the presenter as a cheery piece of music fills the background. 

You’d probably turn the first podcast off, right? And the second one you’d keep listening to. 

The first 15 seconds of your podcast are the most important to a new listener. It is the first time they have chosen to press play on your podcast. This is your chance to impress them and maybe even make them a subscriber.

Hit me with your best shot

My podcast, It’s All Cobblers To Me, starts before the opening music kicks in. I always try to come up with something short and sharp to say to excite the listener. It’s usually a reaction to a defeat, typical of a fan walking straight out of the ground at the final whistle. Sometimes it’s an observation on something that has happened during a game, like a sending off. Whatever I decide to go with, it’s always something designed to grab the listener's attention and keep them listening while the opening jingle plays out. 

After the music the synopsis of the episode is given and introductions to the hosts are made before I choose to ask things of my audience. In this example I request the listener subscribes and leaves us a review on their podcast app. In other shows I’ve introduced bonus episodes and advertised t-shirts we have for sale. The important thing I keep in mind is that the beginning is where you can gain or lose a listener.

Drama

Other podcasts go straight in with the story. In this episode of Criminal, you hear a male voice say - “Ruth doesn’t come home”. Then silence. Just for a brief moment until the music starts and the voice continues. In less than 5 seconds your hooked. Who is Ruth? Why doesn’t she go home? 

Everything from the music, the tone of the voice and the intriguing story compels you to keep listening. In this particular episode, the fact that the first voice you hear isn’t that of presenter, Phoebe Judge also hooks you instantly. The first time you actually hear from Judge is after those first 15 seconds. A ploy, perhaps, to deceive and intrigue the dedicated listener.

Tell me about it

No matter the genre, your opener is still the most important part of your podcast. In this example from one of my favourite podcasts, Being Freelance, host Steve Folland comes straight in with a message about the sponsor. The message isn’t particularly important in this context, listen to the enthusiasm. Steve talks to the listener like they are the only person listening and is happy and welcoming in his tone. By the time you get to 15 seconds, Steve has managed to tell you about the sponsor, fulfilling his contract no doubt, and introducing you to his guest.

Being Freelance then previews what is to come in the episode by playing short clips from the upcoming interview. This sets up the main body of the podcast well and introduces the guest to those listening.

The thing I love about all of these examples is that they are for different types of podcast. They all sit in a different category and have a different format. The one thing they all do though is pull you in and give a good first impression. 

Make it count

So next time you are planning your podcast, devote some time to how you open your episode. Does it entice, engage and excite your listener? Your episode might be a brilliant interview or an intriguing story but without a good first impression, will anybody hear it?

The opening by the way is the beginning to The Greatest Showman by the way. But I’m sure you knew that already….