Tips for preparing a perfectly polished podcast interview

by Heather Cowper on September 30, 2010

If you’re planning on recording a podcast interview, you may find it useful to hear about my preparation and planning for a recent podcast interview I recorded over Skype.

By doing just a moderate amount of advance preparation, you’ll get a great result, sounding professional to both your interviewee and your audience and end up with a polished end result that will give the best BBC interviewers a run for their money. If you try and wing it on the day, you’ll probably end up feeling nervous and sounding flustered in the interview and have to spend extra time trying to edit out your fluffed lines. Here are the stages I go through for a professional sounding interview;

Recording your audio podcast

Recording your audio podcast

Research your subject

You should do your homework on the person you are interviewing and on the topic of the interview before you record the interview and in some cases before you issue the invitation – here’s why;

  • If the person you want to interview is busy, well known or even famous, they will probably be selective about the interviews they give. You should do your homework so that you can be more persuasive when you issue your invitation, demonstrating genuine interest in what they have to say.
  • With a busy or well known interviewee, you’ll be more likely to get a ‘Yes’ if you take some trouble to build up a relationship in advance, commenting on their blog or facebook page and mentioning them in Tweets. It’s more difficult for them to turn you down if you have already demonstrated yourself to be part of their fanbase.
  • By reading the interviewee’s blog posts and looking around their website you will be able to come up with an appropriate list of topics to cover in the interview.
  • If you’ve done your homework about the person and the interview topic and bring this into the conversation, you’ll also build up your own credibility as a knowledgable traveller and interviewer.
Recording your interview

Recording your interview

Set out the interview structure

Around week before the interview I write an interview outline covering themes and areas of questioning, but not necessary detailed questions. Here’s an example of an outline for a travel related interview;

  • Introduction & welcome
  • Interviewee talks about their background & current activities to put the interview in context
  • Overview of the interview subject e.g. summary of their trip
  • In depth questions about the interview subject e.g.Talking about all the different places they visited on their trip
  • General questions that relate to the interview subject e.g. What was the food like, what were the highlights of your trip, who was the most interesting person you met on the trip, how did you travel around
  • Key points/advice for listener e.g. What would your advice be for people visiting the area?
  • Next steps/call to action e.g. where can the readers find out more about your product/service/website
  • Thanks and close.

You can tailor this general approach for the specific interview, using the research you’ve already done to decide the general topic areas. I normally send the specific outline to the interviewee to allow them to prepare and be more fluent in the interview. Even if they only give it a quick glance, it may help them to subconsciously form answers to the questions you will ask.

Write out your interview questions

A day or so before the interview, I write out the detailed questions I want to ask. You may like write the questions word for word or just as some bullet points if you are already an experienced interviewer.  I personally always write out the introduction and the closing words in detail, as these are crucial parts of the interview. Even if you don’t say the words exactly the same way it will give you more confidence at the start when you are more likely to be nervous.

Example of an introduction

This is Heather from Heather on her travels and I have with me today (Josie Bloggs), who is a travel blogger at ( and has joined me to talk about her recent trip to (The Back of Beyond))  –(Josie)- welcome to Heather on her travels

Example of interview close

(Josie) thanks so much for telling us about your trip to (The Back of Beyond) – it sounds like such a fascinating and diverse country – it’s definitely on my list to visit very soon.

The number of questions will determine the length of the interview and I typically find that each question will take around 3-5 minutes to answer. You should decide in advance how long you want your interview to be and then prepare questions based on 5 minutes for each one, then add some secondary questions to ask if time permits.

Recording your interview

Recording your interview

Prepare your equipment

In the week before the interview you should prepare and test your equipment allowing you to purchase anything you need or sort out any issues. Here are some examples of what you might check

  • Do you have spare batteries and memory card or clear storage space for your hand held audio recorder?
  • Do you have your recording sorftware in place and have you tested it recently?
  • Do you have all the phone numbers you need for the call?
  • If using Skype you could make a test call to check the audio recording and if necessary make adjstments to microphones or recording settings

The ultimate nightmare is to set up and record a call, only to find out that the call has not been recorded or that the quality is so bad that it can’t be used.

Before the interview starts

Once you are ready with the interviewee, you may like to check that they’re happy with the type of questions you will ask and whether there are any additional topics they’d like to cover. You could also discuss some of the topics before you start recording, which will give you both a chance to ‘warm up’ and break the ice, leading to a more relaxed interview.

During the interview

During the interview, you’ll want to have a clock to hand to check how the time is going and ask more or less questions accordingly. Another tip is to resist the impulse to make lots of encouraging noises of agreement while the interviewer is talking, as it will give a cleaner and better quality audio if only one person talks at a time.

Hopefully your preparation will have paid off and you’ll end up with an interview that sounds professional yet relaxed and with the minimum of fluffed lines or tongue tied moments. If you do get more mistakes than you’d like, you’ll be amazed what a bit of editing will do to clean up the recording and restore it to a fluent conversation.

Photo Credits: zoomar , leejordan , m-c .

Listen to some of my Travel Podcast interviews

11 South America Backpacking with Indie Travel Podcast – podcast
10 Tiny campsites and eco-travel – interview with Dixe Wills – podcast
Podcast 09 – Voluntary work in Ghana, West Africa

This article is originally published at My Blogging Journey. You’ll also find lots of great travel stories, videos and podcasts at my travel blog at Heather on her travels .

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