250th podcast episode special

How we produced our ‘Radiolab’-style podcast episode

Written by Ross Garner
Published 24 June 2021
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250th podcast episode special
For five years, The Mind Tools L&D Podcast (formerly The Good Practice Podcast), has maintained the same conversational format. Every Tuesday, one of our team fills the role of host, a second acts as ‘contributor’, and an external guest joins us to share their experience and expertise.

For episode 250, we wanted to do something different.

Inspired by documentary-style podcasts like This American Life, Radiolab and Freakonomics, we set out to answer a single question: What can L&D learn from product management?

A niche question, perhaps, but one that keeps coming up on our show. We felt that by interviewing a range of experts in this area, and identifying where they agreed or disagreed, we could put together a podcast that would be useful to us and to our listeners.

Picking a format

We started with a conversation about format. Our regular show mirrors the structure of The Slate Political Gabfest: a three-way conversation about serious stuff, followed by a fun ending where we all share something we’ve learned that week.

Not a team to place too much emphasis on originality, we asked ourselves: what podcasts do we like, whose format we could copy?

Radiolab seemed the ideal fit. Each week, a producer will tell a story using audio clips of interviews they’ve conducted, while a host asks questions or makes observations.

This approach meant we could achieve the desired effect without straying too far from our regular host-and-contributor format.

We agreed that Ross Dickie would host, while Ross Garner filled the producer role. Regular contributor Owen Ferguson would turn up at the end to comment on the show.

Identifying guests

Next, we had to decide who would appear in the episode. As this process was new for us, we decided it was safer to speak to previous guests who we knew would have something interesting to say, rather than taking a punt on anyone new.

First up, we spoke to independent consultant Myles Runham, who had appeared in episode 227 (iTunes / Spotify). Known for his expertise in using digital technology for learning, we were certain he’d have valuable insights.

Sukh Pabial of Challenging Frontiers is one of our most frequent guests, recently appearing in episode 233 to discuss Covid’s impact on L&D (iTunes / Spotify). Sukh had written a blog post on product management that we thought could form the basis of a discussion.

Finally, we spoke to Gemma Paterson and Danny Seals. Although Gemma now works at Legal & General, she previously worked as a product manager on the learning team at BP. Danny is co-founder of a new product, just launched, called Venndorly.

For this final interview, we opted for a double hit: recording both a traditional episode (iTunes / Spotify) and tacking on some product management questions.

Creating a structure

As we brainstormed questions, it quickly became apparent that we had no idea what we were doing. In a traditional episode, we set four or five questions in advance that we may or may not stick to.

For this episode, we needed more of a focus. It would be no use talking to one guest about product management if what they said bore no relation to what the others had to say.

We decided that, to create a structure, the best approach would be to record one interview and see how it went. That took us to Myles Runham, who spoke so coherently on the topic that we could have just released his recording as an episode and been done with it. (In fact, we’ve released it as a bonus episode).

That recording then became the episode’s backbone. We used it to set questions for Sukh, Gemma and Danny, and inserted their responses where relevant.

Starting the edit

As each interview was recorded, they were passed to Ady Howes of Digital Skills People for the edit. We then had each recording transcribed using Rev.com, with timecodes.

We cannot overemphasise the importance of timecodes. Audio is a tricky format to work with because there’s nothing to ‘see’. You can’t tell, without listening, where a guest has made a particular point. Timecodes gave Ady precise timings for cutting the clips and made it much easier for Ross G to create a script.

Writing the script
We don’t normally script our episodes, but this format required that we be specific about the order of content, which clips to use, and how they linked together.

That took us to a script resembling the following:

script-snip.png

The text in bold, with the yellow highlight, acted as a waypoint. At a glance, the team could use these to track the narrative flow of the episode.

The blue highlight indicated the links that host Ross D and producer Ross G would record. These connect one point to another, or otherwise fill in the gaps between what our guests had to say. While recording these, we would literally say ‘Segment 17’ out loud so that editor Ady could match the audio to the script.

Finally, the interview transcript shows both a timecode and any edits within the clip. We struck these out, rather than deleting them, so that Ady could see what to remove.

The final edit

With the script complete, we passed it to Ady for the final edit. We listened back, gave feedback, and then recorded a less formal follow-up discussion with Owen that we stitched onto the end.

Key takeaways

  • Borrow a format from a successful show if you want to save time
  • Use one interview as a structure for the others
  • Transcribe the interviews with timecodes to make scripting easier
  • Use waypoints or markers in the script to make editing easier
  • Expect this process to take ten times as long as a ‘conversational’ episode.

Listen


Our 250th episode is now live on our podcast feed (iTunes / Spotify), with loads of tips from our experts on adopting a product management mindset for L&D.

For further insights into product management, and the process we went through to create this episode, we’ve also released all three interviews as bonus episodes. You can listen to these now on our feed:

We’d love to hear what you think of this episode and whether you’d like us to do this again. If so, please do get in touch with suggested topics and guests.

And if you’ve enjoyed our show over the past five years, please do leave us a review! We’d love to hear from you.

About the author

Ross Garner

Ross Garner

Head of Learning Experience
Ross has been working in L&D for seven years and he heads up the instructional design team at Emerald Works. In 2019 he completed a Masters in Digital Education and was named Learning Technologies’ Learning Designer of the Year. He is also one of the hosts of the Good Practice Podcast.

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