Podcast Interviewing Skills Hall Of Shame | 12 min read

The Worst Podcast "Pre-Interview" Ever?

If you want 100% control of your podcast, you need to do it solo, without guests or input from other people. Anytime you bring somebody else into the mix, you lose some level of control.

Still, there are some podcast hosts who deny this fact. They like the "easy" content and built-in audiences guests and other collaborators bring to the table, but they don’t want to take any of the risks that come with them — things like bad interviews, poor recording quality, and wasted time.

You can’t have it both ways. Either you take the risk of bringing other people into your podcast, hoping to create something better than you could on your own, or you keep 100% control and handle everything yourself.

There is no middle ground.

The Worst "Pre-Interview" Ever?

The following is a document sent to people scheduled to be interviewed on a podcast I’m going to refer to as Podcast X.

I’m including this here, in its entirety, to show you what not to do. It's not helpful and probably makes things worse for the guests who receive it by complicating the process of being interviewed on a podcast.

Just to be clear on this: DO NOT USE THIS DOCUMENT AS A TEMPLATE FOR YOUR PODCAST INTERVIEW PREPARATION. IT IS NOT HELPFUL.

Tips & Tricks to CRUSH Your Podcast Conversation

Hi! Thanks again for being a guest on Podcast X! We truly appreciate your support and Podcaster X is thrilled to have you on.

Where most podcasts feature interviews with an interviewer and an interviewee, our podcast aims to be different by having you and Podcaster X get into in a conversation that naturally flows.

While Podcaster X will be asking you questions, he is more interested in talking with you. Please make sure that you pause for Podcaster X to add his thoughts to the conversation. Also, whenever possible, do what you can to involve him in the discussion. For example, you can ask questions to him.

People have little desire for a one-sided format. For example, a five-second question followed by a 10-minute answer. Because of this, your conversation with Podcaster X needs to be more like a talk show than a regular podcast interview.

If you have any questions, contact me, Podcaster X’s assistant, at [email protected].

Below you’ll find the equipment needed and instructions on how to dial Podcaster X via Skype.

EQUIPMENT YOU WILL NEED:

- Computer
- Skype Account
- Podcaster X’s Skype ID: podcasterx (please add him as a contact now please)
- Headset w/ Microphone (a headset mic is preferred)
- Podcaster X uses this gaming headset [affiliate link to buy]
- Ecamm Skype recording software (free)
- Find instructions below to download this free software

Please Note: If you have a PC computer you will not be able to record on your end. Our recording process is Mac-only.

Please contact me if you are not able to use a Mac computer.

DO THIS RIGHT NOW:

- Log into Skype and add Podcaster X as a contact (his Skype ID: podcasterx)

ONE THE DAY OF THE CALL:

- Log into Skype
- Click on the Contacts tab, then the call button, to call Podcaster X at the scheduled time
- Podcaster X will chat with you for about five minutes and then he will launch right into the recording. You can ask him any quick questions in the first couple of minutes.
Download Ecamm to your Mac Computer
(Free 7-Day Trial, No Strings Attached)

1. IMPORTANT: Please do not download this free trial more than seven days before your scheduled recording appointment with Podcaster X. The free version will only be available to you for seven days. If you’d like to purchase this product, it is only a one-time charge of $29.95.

2. Go to http://www.ecamm.com/

3. Scroll to Call Recorder and click on the Try Free button

4. Save the file to your computer

5. Double click on the downloaded zip file (locate this zip file in your downloads folder in Finder)

6. Click on Install Call Recorder Demo

7. Follow the instructions to install the software on your computer.

8. Once you open Skype, you will see the Call Recorder screen appear.

9. When you begin your Skype call with Podcaster X, click on the square RED button to start recording.

10. When the call is done, click the button again to stop recording.

11. Locate the file of the recording and share send it to: [email protected] (if the file is too large to send via email, please send a dropbox link or other large-file link).

12. IMPORTANT!! Please conduct a TEST RECORDING to ensure that your mic, computer, and the recording software are all working properly. During the test please confirm that both the input and output levels are registering (the green, yellow, and red lights are flashing)

Tips and Tricks for Better Recording Quality

These simple microphone techniques will keep help your podcast sound professional and clean as opposed to amateur and muddy. Please use them during your conversation with Podcaster X.

1. Get close to the mic.

Don’t be too far away from your microphone. This is a big mistake because it captures unwanted sounds including room reverb and background noise.

2. Don’t get too close to the mic.

Your microphone will pick up unwanted sounds, such as breathing. Don’t get too close to the mic or breathe into it.

3. Popping “P” sounds.

Pop filters help to reduce these sounds, which can ruin your recordings. If you don’t have a pop filter, angle your microphone so that you speak into the side of it rather than directly into its most sensitive part.

4. Don’t touch the mic.

Never ever touch your microphone and the microphone stand while you’re recording. If your microphone is on your desk, be careful of bumping your desk. All of these things creates loud booms in the recording, which will make it unusable.

5. No background noise.

Your microphone picks up all the noise around it, not just your voice. Don’t type during recording and avoid loud keyboards, squeaky chairs, televisions playing in the background, clicking pens, kids playing, and barking dogs.

Why This "Pre-Interview" Doesn't Help (And Probably Makes Things Worse)

First of all, let’s get something clear — your guests aren’t idiots. And even if they were, it’s not your job to babysit them.

I’m going to break this down, piece by piece.

Where most podcasts feature interviews with an interviewer and an interviewee, our podcast aims to be different by having you and Podcaster X get into in a conversation at naturally flows.

While Podcaster X will be asking you questions, he is more interested in talking with you. Please make sure that you pause for Podcaster X to add his thoughts to the conversation. Also, whenever possible do what you can to involve him in the discussion. For example, you can ask questions to him.

First paragraph is ok, although that’s not how I would have phrased it. There's no reason to mention “other” podcasts. Who cares? Tell the guest what you do.

The second paragraph is a bit insulting, in my opinion. It can also make a guest nervous, as it puts more pressure on him. Pressure won’t get you the best results. You want your guests to be relaxed.

It’s not the guest’s job to bring the host into the conversation. And good hosts don’t need to beg to be part of their own shows.

If you’re a host, handle your business. Don’t expect somebody else to cover for you.

I like the idea of having a “conversation” and talking with people, but if that’s what you want, don’t set something up as an interview — set it up as a conversation. Also note that the rules of conversations are already known by most people. There's no need to go over them.

People have little desire for a one-sided format. For example, a five-second question followed by a 10-minute answer. Because of this, the your conversation with Podcaster X needs to be more like a talk show than a regular podcast interview.

If people have little desire for a certain type of format, don’t make your podcast that type of format. Again, you’re the host, so act like it. Hosting your podcast is your job, not that of your guests.

This paragraph adds more unnecessary pressure for your guests that will affect the quality of content you get.

If you have any questions, contact me, Podcaster X’s assistant, at [email protected].

This statement isn’t bad per se, but it brings up a solid point about rapport with guests and doing what you can to make them feel comfortable before you record anything.

To have a good interview (or conversation) with somebody, you need a good level of rapport. Way too many podcasts have guests booked by “assistants” who put an unnecessary layer between guests and hosts they’ll ultimately interact with.

They send out form letters. They send out rules. They send out reminders.

Then, when time comes for the guest to be interviewed, he finally connects with the host and is immediately expected to deliver content that sounds relaxed and natural.

This doesn’t happen often.

Treat your guests like cogs in a wheel and those are the kinds of interviews you’ll get from them. Treat them like people whom you value and they’ll respond with in a similar fashion.

Below you’ll find the equipment needed and instructions on how to dial Podcaster X via Skype.

EQUIPMENT YOU WILL NEED:

- Computer
- Skype Account
- Podcaster X’s Skype ID: podcasterx (please add him as a contact now please)
- Headset w/ Microphone (a headset mic is preferred)
- Podcaster X uses this gaming headset [affiliate link to buy]
- Ecamm Skype recording software (free)
- Find instructions below to download this free software

Please Note: If you have a PC computer you will not be able to record on your end. Our recording process is Mac-only.

Please contact me if you are not able to use a Mac computer.

There are three types of people who can get away with using headset mics for work:

  1. Garth Brooks
  2. Pitchmen on infomercials (like, Vince Offer, the ShamWow! guy)
  3. People who work the drive-thru at McDonald’s

You’re an adult making a podcast, not a kid playing video games. So don’t use equipment made for Call of Duty.

Also, don’t let your limitations, like only knowing how to record on a Mac, become your guests’ problems. Your guests shouldn’t have to record anything, especially on a specific computer — recording your podcast is your job.

Podcaster X will chat with you for about five minutes and then he will launch right into the recording. You can ask him any quick questions in the first couple of minutes.

I had an office next to a booking agency once. It wasn’t uncommon to see actors and models lined up in the hall, waiting for a chance to audition for something.

I sat in on more than a few auditions. Once, they were bringing in females to a casting room and putting them in front of a camera with a stand-in guy. The instruction was, “Act like you’re in love with him.”

That was weird.

Outside the office, you had women reviewing scripts and nervously waiting. Inside, each had to forget about the dozens of other people competing for a single part, remember what she had to say, and make everybody else in the room believe she hadn’t just met the guy she was supposedly in love with.

Sometimes it worked. Most of the time it didn’t. And if you put the guests for you podcast in a similar situation, which is exactly what you’re doing if you give them just a couple of minutes to connect with you before you start recording, you’re going to get similar results.

If you want good rapport with guests, you need to build connection with them way before you start recording.

Download Ecamm to your Mac Computer
(Free 7-Day Trial, No Strings Attached)

1. IMPORTANT: Please do not download this free trial more than seven days before your scheduled recording appointment with Podcaster X. The free version will only be available to you for seven days. If you’d like to purchase this product, it is only a one-time charge of $29.95.

2. Go to http://www.ecamm.com/

3. Scroll to Call Recorder and click on the Try Free button

4. Save the file to your computer

5. Double click on the downloaded zip file (locate this zip file in your downloads folder in Finder)

6. Click on Install Call Recorder Demo

7. Follow the instructions to install the software on your computer.

8. Once you open Skype, you will see the Call Recorder screen appear.

9. When you begin your Skype call with Podcaster X, click on the square RED button to start recording.

10. When the call is done, click the button again to stop recording.

11. Locate the file of the recording and share send it to: [email protected] (if the file is too large to send via email, please send a Dropbox link or other large-file link).

12. IMPORTANT!! Please conduct a TEST RECORDING to ensure that your mic, computer, and the recording software are all working properly. During the test please confirm that both the input and output levels are registering (the green, yellow, and red lights are flashing)

Just when you thought this document couldn’t get any worse, it does.

Never ask people to install extra software so that you can create your podcast. This includes Skype. If somebody you want to interview doesn’t have Skype, do the interview via phone.

But this document goes the extra step, asking guests to:

  1. Download software to record the interview at a very specific time — not more than seven days before the interview, because that’s as long as you’ve got to use it for free.
  2. Test the software to make sure it works.
  3. Sign up for and learn how to use a file-transfer service, such as Dropbox.
  4. Upload a big ass media file.

As has already been mentioned, your guest is not your audio engineer. It’s not his job to record the interview for you.

Your guest is busy. He doesn’t have time to schedule downloading software at a specific time, testing everything to make sure it works, and transferring a huge media file to you.

It’s your job to record. It’s your job to make sure the recording is good. It’s your job to deal with files related to the recording.

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