Before the Interview:
To get ready to record, here’s what you’ll need
- A quiet room or small space with lots of soft surfaces like carpet or bedding. Inside your closet or sitting on your bed are ideal. Be sure to turn off the air conditioner, fans or heaters that are making sounds. Shut any open windows.
- A fully-charged or plugged-in computer or laptop. Exit all programs except Chrome. This keeps your computer fan from starting to run and make noise during the interview.
- A set of WIRED headphones that can plug into your computer/laptop’s headphone jack. Bluetooth/wireless headphones don’t sound as good.
- An external microphone that plugs into a USB interface (if available). If you don’t have this, be sure that your headphones have a built in microphone (like Apple earpods).
The goal is clarity — clarity of content and clarity of the message. You want to be trying to deliver it as though you would explain it to people in a conversational way.” and in a way that’s sort of easy and comfortable for them.”
FOCUS ON TONE AND PACING – DON’T SPEAK FAST!
BREVITY IN YOUR ANSWERS
DON’T SPEAK TOO SLOWLY AS ITS PATRONIZING
SPEAK EACH SENTENCE CLEARLY FROM END TO END
BREATH IN GENTLY
TRY HARD TO STAY AWAY FROM FILLER WORDS SUCH AS UMM, AHHHH, WELL, SO,,,YAKNOW….
A/C off, windows closed, PHONE OFF, dogs fed, no one vacuuming, be in a dampened/furnished room.
▢ Good mic: Test their headset mics or earbuds vs holding the phone, because the sound quality from those can change from day to day.
▢ Mic placement: DON’T TALK DIRECTLY INTO THE MIC. TALK ACROSS THE FRONT OF THE MIC to avoid “plosives’ that make a popping. Avoid the “pizza slice” position,. Professional microphones can be used close up (still talking ACROSS the front), to get the fullness of the person’s voice and avoid room reverberations and plosives from the P letter.
▢ How are they listening? Use over-ear headphones or earbuds. Never use a speaker. This is a must!
▢ Turn video off using Zoom, Skype when we start recording, as the video uses a lot of bandwidth.
▢ Background noises: Listen for rustling clothing, finger tapping, desk bumps, chairs squeaking and noisy jewelry. Make sure the source maintains proper distance from the mic, and keeps it in position, as much as possible while staying comfortable. If you use earbuds, keep both earbuds in both ears to avoid dangling the mic side
▢ Biological noises: Make sure you are fed fed (no tummy rumbles!) and has some water on hand, and maybe a box of apple juice for dry mouth clicking and have used the bathroom, etc.
What makes a good guest for an interview?
- Make your voice break, crackle and emote. It’s just more powerful in the audio experience. Don’t be flat, bland and unemotional with your voice. Something has to happen with your voice every two minutes!
- Build a scene with your voice. Obviously, scenes transport listeners to another place and time. Scenes make good interview show great. Scenes that convey your interior feelings are often gripping.
- Scenes help listeners take a sensory journey. Once humans are on a journey, we are compelled to stick around for the conclusion. We are engaged.
- DO NOT SPEAK FAST! WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN CONTROL, YOU SPEAK TOO FAST.
- TAKE YOUR TIME.
NOW FOR THE TECHNICAL STUFF
YOU MUST USE EARBUDS OR HEADPHONES.
SORRY, BUT NO EXCEPTIONS.
WE DEEPLY CARE ABOUT THE AUDIO QUALITY OF YOUR VOICE AS WE WANT YOU TO SOUND YOUR VERY BEST, WHICH HELPS ENGAGE OUR LISTENERS.
- Park your pets elsewhere, have a glass of water nearby to keep your voice smooth. SPEAK SLOWLY.
- Be in a QUIET room, preferably with carpet, drapes and lots of pillows to absorb sound. PLEASE USE AN EXTERNAL MICROPHONE.
- Speaker sound is picked up by the mic that you use, be it in the computer or external mic and sent back to my recording equipment creating echo and feedback with your audio.
- Make your interview resonate with our listeners.
- Take five minutes to set up your recording in a room with a rug, maybe some books on the shelf, bath towels stacked around you and with low ceilings!
- If you can’t get an external mic, we can try your computer mic, but they sound terrible so as a backup we will do it on the phone.
- NPR REPORTERS RECORD IN THEIR CLOTHES CLOSET!
- Please make sure you have stacks of bath towels right next to you to deaden any echoes on the desk, on your lap and on either side of you. Please get or use earbuds. This is a must! The speakers get in the way amd make for a terrible sound. Sound isolation is paramount.
Prepare at Least Three Stories You Can Unfurl at Any Time
The truth is that being a great guest isn’t only about answering questions, it’s about telling stories. People love to hear real-life stories that reveal the real personality behind the show’s guests.
1. Prepare for your interview.
Your message will be stronger if it’s at the forefront of your mind while you record. To prepare your message, review any previous email/Twitter/snail mail communications with your host to get a lock on the topic or message, whether it’s “creative writing is amazing” or “Here are the reasons you should advocate for this cause.” If you like, jot down a few notes to refer to, but don’t prepare a script.
2. You don’t need to invest in a $600 microphone to be a good podcast guest. But do be aware that a podcast is an audio medium, and a podcast is judged by the quality of not only its content but its audio. So if you have a mic, hook it up and use it—your host will appreciate your attention to sound quality and be more likely to invite you back. But if you don’t, that’s ok. Use the best phone or built-in laptop mic you have access to, make sure you’re speaking clearly and directly into it, and try not to touch or bump any audio cords or cables. Or record on the subway, in a crowded restaurant, etc.
3. Use towels to dampen the sound.
If you’re recording your side of the interview from an office or desk or anywhere with lots of hard, flat surfaces and 90-degree angles, do what you can to dampen the sound. Those hard, flat surfaces create a tinny, echo-y sound while dampening helps create a richer, more intimate sound for listeners.
Lay a towel over any hard surfaces in the immediate recording area, close the curtains over nearby windows—basically, do whatever you can to absorb excess soundwaves. Again, your host (and listeners) will appreciate it.
Use the bathroom ahed of time, banish the pets, drink water before sitting down. We don’t want to hear smacking lips. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.
Be on time.
Turn off the phone
Try to avoid saying “um”, “ahhh”, and “you know”.
1. Know exactly who you’re talking to before starting the interview.
I don’t mean just the host or the show – the listeners! When I think about podcast interviews, I think about it as the host and their guest having a conversation, and you want to sort of “bring the public radio listeners in” to the conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask the host if you are unsure about their listener profile either – while they may not always know (especially if it’s a newer podcast), do your best to get as familiar as possible. You don’t want to be uncertain about who you’re talking to and who the audience is.
I often like to take it one step further and ask hosts, “What is the goal takeaway you want listeners to get from our conversation?”. If they have it, I always love to know what title they have in mind for the episode so I can structure my answers around it too.
2. Listen to the show before your interview (and BEFORE you pitch yourself!)
This might be the MOST important strategy on the list. In my opinion, it’s a MUST. Please never go on a show blind. Even if it’s just 1-2 episodes, dig in and get familiar with how that host interviews, what types of solo topics they’re doing, read reviews for the show, etc. Basically – do your research!
This is even MORE important when you are pitching yourself as a guest. As a podcast host myself, I can tell you that hosts can smell it from a mile away when you message saying you’re a listener. Still, then your favorite episode is just the most recent one (and it’s bolded or highlighted because you’re just using a generic pitch template you’re sending to everyone). I could honestly do an entire episode (or even an online course) on pitching yourself, but for now, I want to encourage you to listen to the show before you pitch. Sincerity around this comes through, and it will probably help you get picked as a guest (especially on shows that are pickier with their guest selections).
Your pre-episode task list:
- Listen to 1 interview
- Listen to 1 solo episode
- See what they’re doing on TwitterX lately
More research will make the interview better, I promise!
3. During the interview, compliment the host or the listener base if it feels natural.
Everyone loves a compliment, right? If there’s a natural way for you to compliment the interviewer, do it. I know it may feel cheesy, but it does help lighten things up for everyone (and, again, connects you to both the audience and the host). To add to this strategy: if you listen to the show, say that too! It makes you more relatable to the listener base.
Examples of Compliments You Can Give As a Podcast Guest:
- Make one of your points relate to a recent episode, content piece, or product of theirs that you enjoy
- Tell them you love their talking for wprnPublicRadio
- While this might not be a “compliment,” use the host’s name during conversation as well!
4. Have a space on your website where hosts can see your images, links, topics you’re keen on, and your official bio all in one easy spot.
Trust me – this makes everything easier on you and on them! While each host will likely have you fill out a form with information like your bio, headshots, and topic, you can still help the host further by having all of your info in one place. I promise we don’t mind if you’re also linking to a page on your website as you’re filling out the form.
Quick tip for my podcast hosts: if you’re not asking guests to fill out a form… start! It will make your podcasting process easier. We use ClickUp for ours!
This is where a media page or media kit works so well (for both podcasting and speaking).
On your media page, you’ll want things like your bio, your social media links, and your headshots. Those are the musts! Beyond the essentials, here are some extra things to add to your media page:
- Fast facts about you (your location, how to pronounce your first name, how long you’ve been in business, what your family looks like – you in a nutshell!)
- Two options for a bio (a long version and short version)
- Topics you are experts at speaking on
- MULTIPLE headshot options (ideally wearing different colors so I can choose the ones that work with my brand colors best and create a VARIETY of graphics to promote the episode)
- Your logos or other things they may need (like if you’re an author, add book images.
- Links to some of your favorite interviews so they can getou, familiar with y too!
5. Share about the episode when it airs!
Share about the episode and be an advocate for their show. It’s that simple. As a host myself, I can tell you… it really stinks when the episode airs and the guest never posts or emails their audience about it. I’ve had that happen to me personally with some guests and I’ve had others that are promoting the episode just as much or even more than me!
Trust me – it makes a difference in the number of downloads and definitely will impact the relationship you have with that host. Podcasting is all about relationship building, and if your relationship with this podcast host starts with you pitching to come on their show, getting to be a guest, and then never sharing it with your audience is sure to leave a bad taste in their mouth.
If there’s a reason why you can’t share about the episode when it airs, tell them upfront.
A little bonus tip for Podcast hosts: Try to set your guests up well to share too! Don’t just send them a Google Drive link the day of with a graphic and hope for the best. You don’t need to give them weeks of lead time, but I would definitely recommend letting them know 3-5 days before. I’ve also started DMing my guests on the day the episode airs with a few graphics too to make it even easier to share!
Ready to be a great interview guest?
Here’s a recap:
- Know exactly who you are talking to before your interview!
- Listen to the show BEFORE you interview
- Compliment your host
- Share about the episode when it’s live!