Podcast interview technique: what we learned at the Brighton Podcast Meet-up

We recently hosted the third Brighton Podcast Meet-up. It’s for people with podcasts or the podcast-curious to meet and share ideas and stories about podcasting and is organised by our senior creative consultant, Todd Jordan.

The guest speaker was Dr. Stuart Higgins – winner of Best Interview Podcast at The British Podcast Awards 2017 for his fascinating work on the Scientists Not The Science Podcast.

Scientists Not The Science focuses on the person behind the work and the theory. He interviews people from all career levels, from students to world famous scientists; exploring themes like identity and work pressure.

Stuart’s talk was about interview technique; what to do, what not to do, how to put your subjects at ease, and ultimately how to create excellent interviews for great podcasts.

Here are are some insights from Stuart’s talk and tips for hosting an award-winning podcast:

Have a purpose

Before you start researching, set a purpose for the interview. Ask yourself why you are interviewing this person and why the audience will care.

Prepare well and listen

Planning and research endears your guest to you. Listen to or watch previous interviews. Let them know about how you’re planning to edit the interview and what the next steps will be at the very start. This way you manage expectations and have full consent. It’s important you’re prepared but don’t let your guest prepare too much. If they have too much time to plan their answers, your interview will sound scripted and unnatural. Think of unique questions or a unique way to ask a common question. This will stop them giving scripted answers they may have used before.

The biggest variable is the guest

Plan questions – but be willing to stray from notes. Your guest might want to talk about something more interesting than you have planned, so stay open to flux. A good tip is don’t turn off the recording equipment until they’ve left because you might get more material when they’ve warmed up – or when they think the interview is over.

Recording at the start of the day is best

Energy is usually higher at the start of the day. Face your guest away from distractions like windows, doors and open office spaces so you keep their attention.

Summarise their points back to them

After your guest has explained something complex or has been talking for a while, summarise their point back to them by saying “so what you’re saying is…” and they’ll often respond with a more succinct version. This could be useful for getting good sound bites.

Have immaculate silence

Where possible, record your interview in a silent area because any noise will be heard in the recording. Air con, outdoor traffic and fidgeting will all come through. Wear headphones during the recording so you can hear what you’re recording.

Ask them how they felt

When someone is recounting a memory, you’ll get a more meaningful and interesting answer if you ask them how they felt at the time rather than just the details of the event.

Ask them to introduce themselves at the end

Getting your guest to introduce themselves at the end means they’re more warmed up and energetic. So you’ll get a better introduction recording.

Find out more about the Brighton Podcast Meet-up on the Facebook page and listen to the Brilliant Noise podcast on iTunes.