Podcast Makeover: The Prancing Pony

While radio broadcasters are routinely critiqued and coached by their program directors in aircheck sessions, podcasters usually don't have the same opportunity to get feedback from professionals. In this blog series, we invite a panel of broadcasting professionals to critique up-and-coming podcasters.

If you would like to have your podcast critiqued by professionals, you can submit it here.

Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese host The Prancing Pony Podcast. I invited three broadcasting professionals to listen to the first ten minutes of one of his podcast episodes and offer feedback. You can hear the episode here:

Here's what our aircheckers had to say:

What’s Working:

  • My first impression of the podcast is that the chemistry of the hosts is quite strong. This is something to not take for granted, as many shows take years to build a chemistry with a natural camaraderie. The back and forth is smooth and engaging.
  • They are obviously passionate about the subject matter which is an important criteria for content in any form that is being distributed today. We all have a high BS-o-meter for content that is jive and with hosts who don’t believe in the topic and very clearly these hosts pass that important sniff test. Passion breeds great content!
  • I like the fact that this podcast is thinking of other platforms to promote such as merchandising. Very smart to appeal to a fan base and engage them in this manner.

Ways to Improve:

  • Could they set the stage for the podcast for newcomers and illustrate for them what the point of the show is? Kind of a re-set as to what the focus of the content is? I always want to be accessible to all audiences either loyal or fringe fans of the topic.
  • There are moments that it meanders a bit too much. Focus is a key to hooking people with content and a bit more would benefit the podcast.
  • Sometimes I feel like I’m being read to by a school teacher. I realize the subject matter is literary but maybe there is a middle ground in terms of tone of delivery.

What’s Working:

  • I appreciate hosts willing to throw in some good ole’ medieval banter. It definitely played well with their theme and showed off their sense of humor — although I’m pretty sure these guys still play Dungeon and Dragons in their basements on Saturday nights.
  • Their content is 100% unique and really highlights the beauty of podcasting. I mean, where else can you find a 10-minute conversation about names of creatures that end with the suffix “ling”? You know, halfling, firstling and such. Personally, my favorite is “gelfling”, but that’s a Dark Crystal reference and I’m pretty sure I’d be drawn and quartered for even mentioning that name in these circles.
  • I think these guys were uber-smart to promote their website, shop and merch in the middle of their shows, as opposed to waiting to the end.

Ways to Improve:

  • Full disclosure. I have never seen The Lord of the Rings. I was supposed to read the book in high school, but quit when the cliff notes became too much of a commitment. Ironically, I did play “Fili”, one of the brother hobbits, in a high school play. But Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet, so good-luck finding proof on Facebook. Considering my extensive knowledge of all things Tolkien, I was surprised to find myself a little lost in the beginning of this episode. I give the hosts bonus points for being in character, but I originally thought this was some sort of renaissance podcast. A simple sentence in the beginning with the hosts declaring life long allegiance to Tolkien would completely set the record straight.
  • I also think it’s a good idea to welcome “halflings” to the show, and I define halflings as people that know half as much about Tolkien as our educated hosts.
  • I enjoyed the segments, but I also struggled a bit in not knowing where the episode was going and what to expect next. And that brings us to the reading from the “Council of Elrond”. Yes, I had to Google it.

What’s Working:

  • This podcast is working well. The people are likable and pleasant to listen to. Very conversational and well-versed in their content. The overall presentation is good. It has momentum when it gets going. It’s clearly directed at a specific audience and serves them well.

Ways to Improve:

  • As a first time listener to the podcast, I was a little unclear what the podcast was about. It’s open was not as strong as it could have been. Opening with small talk and insider quips doesn’t grab the listener’s attention
  • Open with a clear statement about what we are about to hear. “Welcome to the podcast where today we are going to explore ______and answer questions about_. They jokingly did that but it wasn’t attention-grabbing the way they did. Open with a big billboard to what it’s about. The mission of the podcast. It felt like I was joining it in progress and missed something. It’s worth noting that the “promo” that happened a few mins into the episode talking about upcoming stuff was good. That concept needs to happen at the start of the current podcast to draw people in.
  • Make sure you’re being authentic in your presentation. There were times where it almost felt scripted and the “throw-away quips” were not necessary. As I said earlier, conversational and likable overall-just felt at times like a planned lecture rather than a discussion.
  • I acknowledge that this is a content-specific podcast and might not need to have a more in-depth set up at the start. The audience is likely already in-the-know. In general, I feel that podcasts need to draw in listeners by saying what they are about to listen to and what the mission is

Want to have your podcast critiqued?

If you would like to have your podcast critiqued, you can submit it here.

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