3 Steps for conducting a successful remote podcast interview
Let’s face it. Starting a podcast is a really easy thing to do. Free services which proudly bill themselves as the easiest way to make a podcast are wildly popular. Using a mobile app, you can schedule a call with a guest and have a real-time conversation which then automatically gets published as a podcast interview within minutes. All you need is a phone and a basic internet connection. To fan the flames, podcast advertising revenues are growing at almost 20% year on year. With so many people publishing casual chats with friends as podcasts, how do you make your show stand out? By sounding more like a podcast interview with a guest who is actually worth listening to. Here are a few ways to coach guests into delivering good podcast interview material. Ready? 3…2…1…record!
Do multiple retakes and deeper editing
“I’ve never been on a podcast interview before,” says your guest. Don’t roll your eyes! You were once there, too. To get great conversation from an inexperienced guest, be a therapist. Reassure your guest with constant encouragement and praise. Use phrases like “That was great!”, and “you sound good when you relax”. Put the guest at ease.
Retakes are the secret sauce for conducting a podcast interview with an inexperienced guest. Not even A-list actors nail all their movie lines the first time. Encouraging retakes relaxes the guest, and the second take is almost always more coherent. Use phrases like, “sorry to interrupt, can we do that part again…?” Your inexperienced guest will be relieved, will start to relax and speak with more confidence and freedom.
But there’s a catch: you then have to edit out all the first takes and bloopers. Yes, that means more work. Yes, that means you can’t make ‘the easiest podcast’. The truth is that unless you and your guests are both experienced speakers, editing your podcast to remove fluff and waffle is an essential step to being perceived as quality.
To make editing easier, time your recording session and keep an eye on the clock during the recording. Every time a retake happens, jot down the timestamp. That way, you don’t have to re-listen to the whole episode from scratch and hunt for the unusable material later. Yes, it’s extra work. But the result? A natural conversation that is relaxed and free of nervous rambling. In other words, a great interview that makes your listener pay attention and follow your show for more riveting content.
Get better guest audio quality
When recording a podcast interview with someone remotely, it’s best if your guest records their interview audio separately from the call audio. The call audio (eg via Zoom or phone) is for communication, while the second device (Audacity, a DAW, a handheld audio recorder) should aim for higher quality and also serve as a backup recording. Then, after the call, the guest sends you the higher quality audio, which you synchronize to your own voice and edit.
Before recording, give your guest a checklist to complete:
- The room your guest is in while recording is quite important. A broom closet lined with curtains is the best. A large room with lots of furniture is OK. A small room with tiles and bare walls is the worst.
- If the guest is just using a phone, they’ll need to speak more carefully (no hard ‘p’, ‘b’, or ‘t’ sounds). They should also not be holding the phone in their hand, but rather place it on a table.
- The guest should wear headphones to prevent the sound of your voice from bleeding into their recording.
- The guest should record 15 seconds of test audio and send it to you before the recording begins. This often allows you to pre-identify background noises, room noise and other problems so that you don’t have to spend time and money fixing them while editing.
Download our Free PowerPoint/PDF free guest checklist
Good audio quality is an obvious signal that you and your podcast mean business. Trying to hook repeat listeners by publishing phone recordings signals that your show is a hobby or test project (or that you just don’t care about your listeners). To make a podcast worth sharing, you have to get better audio. Interview guests seldom know what ‘good audio’ means. They’re probably new to recording and haven’t got the time to learn. As a podcaster, a lot of your job is coaching interview subjects into how to get the best audio possible. At the very least, your recording setup should continually be improving.
Get more organized
Despite how easy it is to find free scheduling solutions, it’s can still be difficult to schedule interview guests.
- Time zones are often not clear and can shift with regional Daylight Savings Time adjustments.
- Guests might not show up to your appointment due to an emergency (often ‘medical’ in nature, a conveniently difficult excuse to challenge.)
- Technical troubles on the day can force a postponement. Recording software like Anchor, Zoom and Microsoft Teams can be unfamiliar to guests.
- Manual email scheduling threads can cause confusion.
- Your guest might decide that when it’s time to get a recording, they have something better to do or get cold feet.
Whew! So how do we get around these challenges when interviewing a remote guest?
- Using services like Calendly, you can set multiple appointment time options and send your guest a list of available time slots for their podcast interview. Calendly will factor in regional time differences, Daylight Savings Time and more.
- Having multiple guests in the pipeline is a great idea. If a guest cancels, you can give them one chance to reschedule before moving on to the next guest. Don’t be afraid to write off a guest as unwilling to participate. Better for your show if you do. And besides, guests that blow their chance usually come back to you on your terms.
- Technical troubles can mostly be avoided with a subscription to user-friendly, browser-based podcast recording services like Zencastr. The audio quality is good and their free tier allows up to 8 hours of recording per month.
Automating the process in this way gives you more control over your schedule and also helps you appear professional. Most guests want to feel that being your show is more than just a friendly chat. Having a professional, clear process in place will persuade them to take you and your time more seriously. When trying to lock down guests for a podcast interview recording, it’s super important to appear professional.
The impression being made on most newcomers is that podcasting is a reverse money jukebox: you put your voice in, and you get coins out. So it’s no wonder that everybody and their mother-in-law is starting a podcast. Don’t kid yourself. Shows which do grow only stand out by regularly delivering good, high-quality audio with experienced speakers on subject matter that the listeners care about. Anything less than that will likely stagnate fast. If you’re serious about using podcasting to grow your brand, get it done right and nail the interview process.