Let’s assume you have already chosen the theme and format of your podcast, and have written down your measurable objectives. Our work here begins with choosing your guests.
Choosing your guests
Sometimes the best expert is not the most effective interview guest. I learned this the hard way when I contacted a renowned expert via email and didn’t speak to her by phone before the scheduled interview. She had a PhD, was teaching at a famous university, and had credentials a mile long.
And yet, she was the most boring person I’d ever encountered, and spoke with a robotic monotone. Needless to say, the interview did not go well.
The lesson is: choose your guests wisely. If you’ve never met the person, be sure to conduct a brief pre-interview to determine if they speak well, and also to answer any questions they may have about the podcast interview process.
Plan the interview
Be honest about the angle of the interview, and who your intended audience is. Let the guest know the question areas in advance, but resist the urge to send all of your questions in writing before the interview. Why? You want to allow for spontaneity. If you provide all the questions, some guests will write out all their answers, and then want to read them on your podcast. Don’t allow this! Unless the person is a trained voice actor, reading can be the fastest way to ruin an interview. Remind your guest that she can keep relevant facts and figures at her fingertips. This is not live radio, so you can pause if she needs to check her notes or gather her thoughts.
Be sure that you and your guest don’t talk too quickly. Sometimes when we’re excited about a topic, we rush our words. Slow down. And remember to breathe.
Get the technology out of the way early in the game. When you book your guest, confirm the date and time (including time zone). Let him know whether the interview will be conducted in person, by phone or via Skype or other software. I don’t recommend phone interviews unless absolutely necessary. (And a landline will sound a little better than a mobile phone, usually.) 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 to capture remote interviews. Unfortunately, some podcast guests may not be familiar with these apps, and they’ll attempt to try them out at the time of the interview. This is never a good idea! So, if your guest is not accustomed to using such software, let them know the steps they should take to set up successfully. And offer to run a test a day or two before the actual interview.
Be sure to ask your guest to reboot their computer before the call, and ensure that no software is running except what’s needed for the interview session, and no notifications or alerts are making noise. For example, when I do interviews via Zencastr, I ask guests to open the Zencastr link I send them in the latest version of Chrome. If they use an old version or a different browser, the session might fail.
Set up your own microphone and headphones. If your guest is using a mic (and you hope they are), ask them to check their settings to ensure they have actually selected the mic (likely a USB mic), and have not let their system default to the built-in mic.
If you’re going to be conducting interviews, it will be worth your while to buy a USB microphone and headphones. This will vastly improve the sound quality of your interviews. 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 or your guest do not use headphones, the voices will come out of the speakers and may be picked up as an echo. This does not sound good.
If you have a noisy fan or air conditioner in the room, turn if off for the interview. Remind your guest to do the same.
If you have a dog, baby or cockatoo, do not do the interview with them in the room, unless they’re part of the story. I once conducted an interview in which I kept hearing an odd metallic sound. As it turns out, the guest’s Labrador retriever was lounging under her desk, and every once in a while would scratch, creating a jangling sound with her chain. The guest was shocked when she realized that this noise was being picked up and could be heard during the interview.
It’s a good idea to allow pauses between sections of your interview. If you allow space between a question and answer and the next question, your editing process will be smoother. Let your guest know that these pauses are a good thing. Any lengthy pauses will be edited out.
Before you begin editing, be sure all of your interview files are safely backed up. I generally order a transcript of the interview with a service like Rev.com so I can refer to the printout when doing my edits. If it’s a long interview, it might be easier to start with a paper edit.
When you edit your audio, feel free to remove excessive ums and ahs, but don’t take out all of them. No one speaks that way! And don’t take out the breath sounds, either, unless they’re excessive. Humans need to breathe.
If one voice is softer than the other, you can use a program like Levelator or Auphonic to even them out. Be sure to even out the voices before adding any music or jingles.
Add your ID3 tags to your MP3 file and upload your file to your hosting service. After you upload your file, share it on social media and elsewhere online. Be sure to include an obvious player on your site. Don’t make it difficult for people to find your podcast!
Let your guest know when the podcast is published. You can ask her to share it with her followers, but don’t be upset if she chooses not to.
More podcasting tips here