Arranging an Interview

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You want to do interviews on your podcast, but that presents a bit of a problem: finding people who are willing to be interviewed.

Asking for interviews is a lot easier than it sounds. Most people are happy to get the attention, and will sit down with you for quite a while when asked. A technique that has worked well for me for people who are closer to “everyday” than “celebrity” is to just show up and ask to talk to them — it is far harder to say no in person than it is on the phone or via email. Just make sure you are confident and tell them exactly what you want from them at the beginning of the process.

I usually say that I’m interested in interviewing them for an “internet radio show” that is heard all around the world. This avoids the “What’s a podcast?” discussion and lends credibility right away. For my personal podcast, I’ll say something like “Hi, I’m here from BostonBehindtheScenes.com to request an interview.” If you put it like that, they may feel like they should know who you are and will assume that you are someone they want to talk to.

 

Plenty of podcasters go out and buy fancy microphones, only to use them improperly. This can be discouraging, especailly when they hear good recordings made with the same equipment and wonder what they are doing wrong.

I’ve been told a number of times that the sound quality of my podcasts rivals that of NPR. Yet, for almost all of of my interviews, I use microphones that cost far less than $100, and for Boston Behind the Scenes, I usually use a mic that cost me $15!

What’s the secret? Not fancy post-processing or editing, but simple microphone placement. This isn’t hard, but it ususally needs to be taught.

The simple lesson is this: put the mic to the side of the speaker’s mouth, and as close as possible without picking up unwanted noise. The distance varies from setup to setup, but a good rule of thumb is that a foot is almost always too far away.

Here’s a little demonstration video (I’m not a video guy, so go easy on me!):

 
icon for podpress  Microphone Placement Demo [2:59m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
 

Editing can be a sticky subject for some podcasters. There are those who say editing destroys the authenticity of a show, and there are those who say editing is a necessary component of almost any successful recording of any kind. I definitely fall in the latter camp, and I’d like to tell you why.

In my opinion, the biggest reason to edit audio is that it is audio, and is therefore about listening. When someone is listening to your podcast, all they have to hold their attention is the sound. They can’t see your expressions or gestures, and they can’t interact with you in real time. You may be an enthralling an dynamic speaker, but your listeners are only getting a small fraction of your actual performance coming through their headphones. As someone whose job is to be an enthralling and dynamic speaker and who has also produced well over one hundred audio pieces, I can say that I certainly need all the help I can get! This is similar to what I said when discussing podcasting lectures: too much is lost in translation for most people to pull off a good recording without help.

Of course, I don’t advocate using editing to completely change what was said. What I do think should be done is more of a “clean-up” job. If someone rambles on for too long, try to remove part of the comment without changing the meaning too much. Removing some ums, uhhs, and stumbles can go a long way to making someone sound interesting. As many of my guests tell me, editing “makes them sound smart.”

If you edit a segment respectfully and skillfully, you can improve the listening experience without changing the speaker’s meaning or manner of speech. To demonstrate this, please listen to the two samples at the end of this post. Your task when listening isn’t to figure out what I edited out or why, but to compare the clarity and feel of the first clip to the second.

If this were you talking, which would you rather have the world hear?

icon for podpress  Sample of Unedited Speech [0:37m]: Download
icon for podpress  Sample of Edited Speech: Download
 
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© 2010 Adam Weiss: Podcast Consultant