By Dan Moren
February 28, 2017 4:22 PM PT
By Request: Preparing for Podcasts
Between us, Jason and I do a lot of podcasts, and reader John asks:
I’d like to hear either from Jason or Dan on what you do to prepare for each of your many podcasts. Research, remember what the hell you said last time, etc.
I suspect that our methodology varies greatly, not only between shows, but also just in the way that we approach them. Here’s a breakdown of how I prepare for the various shows that I participate in:
The Incomparable: Prepping for The Incomparable depends largely on what the topic is. Since it changes from week to week, each episode requires something slightly different in preparation. For example, if we’re reading a book or watching a movie, I’ll generally try to consume that media as close to recording as possible. (As Jason and other panelists will tell you, I am somewhat notorious for finishing up a movie or book minutes before the show starts.) That’s the best chance I have of it staying fresh in my mind. For more complicated formats like drafts or (dear god) the superhero bracket we did a while back, I will make notes—these days in Apple’s Notes app—for my picks, and sometimes flesh them out with specific ideas, though most of the time I rely on a few ideas in my head and then things that get triggered by discussion with my fellow panelists.
Clockwise: With a 30-minute show, time is of the essence. We have a spreadsheet where the week’s guests can enter their topics alongside our own. Coming up with a topic is, for me, just a function of what’s being talked about in the news or on social media that week. I generally don’t prepare much for the other topics—if it’s something I’m not familiar with, I will look it up (sometimes our guests provide links), but most of the time it’s an off-the-top-of-the-head affair. Fun fact: Coming up with bonus topics and the intro line on the weeks where I’m the lead host generally takes more time than coming up with an actual topic.
The Rebound: Saying there’s very little preparation for this show is probably overstating it. I can’t speak for my co-hosts, but for me it’s an entirely fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience. Since I’m keeping tabs on what’s going on in a given week, I usually have things that I want to talk to Lex and John about, in the same way that you probably have things that you want to talk to your friends about. They bring their own topics, and between the three of us, we usually find enough for a show. More than anything, though, it’s an opportunity for the three of us—who rarely get to see each other in person—to catch up and shoot the breeze.
Speedy Arrowcast: Obviously, recapping Arrow each week (when it’s on air) involves watching the episode in question. I’ve started becoming more diligent about taking notes while the show is on, though that sometimes lessens my enjoyment of the show, since I often pause to write something down, so I don’t miss what comes next. The detail of the notes depends on whether or not I’m going to do the recap during the episode that week, as we rotate between the three of us. I use the Notes app on my iPad, which has a keyboard case, to write things down, and then I refer to the Notes app on my iMac when we’re recording.
Inconceivable!: This is far and away the show that requires the most preparation for me, since I not only have to line up six guests and schedule the show, but also write the entire thing from start to finish. I have a specially formatted Google Spreadsheet that I use to prep for the show, which includes meta sheets on panelists and game ideas, as well as two sheets for each episode: one for the questions, and another for the scorekeeping. Writing the show is often a time-consuming process, but it varies tremendously: sometimes I’ll spend weeks agonizing over ideas, only to have them all spit out over the course of a day or two. But I also then run ideas by my girlfriend and/or other trusted friends to make sure that the games and questions work. Some of the questions are also submitted by listeners or by my fellow Incomparable panelists, and I do some tweaks on those to make them fit in.
Total Party Kill: My prep for TPK depends entirely on what my role is in the episode in question. Obviously, preparing as a player is far less time-consuming: I often need to refresh my memories about my character sheet, and sometimes look back at the last episode to see where we left off. As a Dungeon Master, it’s much more involved: you need to familiarize yourself with the adventure and plan for what the players might do; create any maps, tokens, and other digital resources that you might need in Roll 20 (the digital game table site we use); schedule the show with your players, and so on. But no matter how much you prepare as a player or a DM, a huge part of D&D is improvisation, so you can never plan for every contingency.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]