Since 2005 I’ve conducted hundreds of podcast interviews for my Trafcom News Podcast as well as client projects. Many of these interviews were in person, but most were conducted remotely.
Various factors affect the success of a podcast, both from a content and audio quality point of view. But you, as the interviewee, are the most important.
Here are a few tips to help you shine as a podcast guest. After all, you’re probably doing the interview to share your knowledge as an expert, to promote your business or your book, or to generate speaking gigs. So you want to be your best.
Check out the podcast to ensure it fits your needs. Ask the host what the angle of the interview is, and about the intended audience. If your target market is mega-corporations, and the podcast is geared toward home business, you should probably decline. Do your homework so you don’t waste your time.
Ask for discussion areas in advance, but don’t expect to get every question in writing. As a podcaster, I don’t share exact questions before the interview, because some guests get a little nervous and script their answers, and then expect to read them on the podcast. Trust me: Unless you’re a trained voice actor, reading can be the fastest way to ruin an interview. Of course, you do want to keep relevant facts and figures at your fingertips so that you sound like the expert you are. Remember: the podcast will be edited, so it’s all right to pause to collect your thoughts if you need to.
Get the technology out of the way early. When you’re booked as a guest, confirm the date and time (including time zone). Ask whether the interview will be conducted in person, by phone or via Skype or other software. If it’s in person, be sure you show up on time, just as you would for a radio or TV interview. If it’s by phone, try to use a landline, not a mobile phone. (Most professional podcasters shun phone interviews because of poor audio quality.)
These days, the majority of podcasters will use Skype or Zoom or Zencastr or other software for interviews. Unfortunately, some podcast guests may not be familiar with these apps, and attempt to try them out at the time of the interview. This will not end well. So, if you’re not accustomed to using the software, take the time to install it (if it’s not web based) and experiment with it with a friend, colleague or family member first. Learn how to fire up the program, plug in your headset and/or microphone, and turn off notifications so that you don’t hear annoying beeps during the interview.
Chances are that the podcaster will not ask you to record your own portion of the interview, unless you’re a podcaster too, and she knows that you are comfortable doing this. If someone asks you to do this, and you don’t know how, just say no. Let the podcaster handle the recording.
Sounding great. Don’t talk too fast. Sometimes when we’re excited about a topic, we talk too quickly. Slow down. And remember to breathe.
The right gear will improve sound quality immensely. If you’re going to be doing multiple interviews, it will be worth your while to buy a headset and microphone ($100 or so). This will vastly improve the sound quality of your interview. Even better would be a separate microphone and headphones. Still better: a USB microphone. In recent years USB microphones have increased in quality and decreased in price. Try the Blue Yeti or the ATR2100; both are reasonably priced. The worst audio quality will result from using your built-in microphone. If you must use the built-in mic, learn to use it properly. Sit close enough so that the mic picks up your voice.
No matter what kind of microphone you choose, learn to exploit it. A typical newbie mistake is to breathe too heavily into the mic. Many podcasters have learned the hard way to not huff and puff into the mic. If you position the mic properly, you’ll get a more pleasing sound. Aim for slightly to the side of the mic. Again, test this before the interview, not during.
Keep in mind that if you do not use headphones, the podcaster’s voice will come out of your speakers and may be picked up as an echo. This does not sound good.
Quiet on the set! Turn off all notifications that make noise on your computer. If you have a thunderous fan or air conditioner in the room, turn it off for the interview. If you have a noisy child or pet, do not do the interview if they’re within earshot, unless they’re part of the story.
Share your stories. Using a story to make a point can be very effective. But do be sure that your stories don’t run too long. Check with the podcaster; how much time do you have? Remember not to talk too fast. Sometimes when we’re excited about a topic, we speak too quickly. Slow down, and remember to breathe.
Pauses please. The interviewer might ask for pauses between questions and answers, which makes the editing process easier. So, after you say something, don’t be afraid of the silence, which will be edited out. When I do interviews, I usually warn the guest in advance about these pregnant pauses.
Have you ever been a podcast guest? What tips would you share?