Conducting Interviews

The interview format has much to recommend it but.

But it can be poorly done as can any format. The key to being a good interviewer is to be a great listener. This can come undone over a series of episodes if the same questions form the main body of the content. There is something to be said for some regularity, listeners know what to expect. Where it goes astray is when the interviewer is so wedded to the format, they miss the interesting side tracks, the tangents and the downright contrary. 

I’ve listened to shows where the host has pulled up the guest with something like: “We’ll come to that later.” and they never do. A better approach is: “ That’s something I was going to ask about later but since you’ve brought it up let’s dive into it.” 

This allows the guest to follow their own trains of thought. To express themselves as they wish too. 

Of course, if the tangent is irrelevant to the theme of the episode and series you might want to guide the guest back to your theme and book them for a second visit when their tangential idea will be the focus.

For example, your seasonal theme might be increasing engagement with the community through social education and the guest veers off into the lack of diversity in NDIS management. A perfectly valid topic but not what you’re trying to tease out for your listeners this time around. Indeed this tangent would make a great series of episodes and could, might I even say, should be scheduled immediately in your content plan.

Bringing the guest back on topic doesn’t have to be anything but done gently and neither does it have to be part of the published episode. There’s a reason we edit. It’s to create a great episode and also to highlight the knowledge of the guest.

That said, most people are happy to stay on topic, especially if they’ve been given forewarning. A pre-interview email would include a list of probable questions, the reason they are guests on the show and quick guide to making them sound as great as possible. 

This is especially so for remote interviews. There’s a setting in Zoom that will allow you to record each side of the interview separately and then drop those files into your laptop. This is known as a double ender. Meaning recorded at both ends. It allows you to edit much more easily. If the interviewer is making “yes” and “hmm” noises whilst the guest is talking, to let them know they are being heard, these can be removed from the final cut. It really does improve the listening quality of the final product. 

Given the, sometimes, questionable nature of the NBN here in Australia it is not unusual for one side to drop out and reconnect. If the other side keeps talking that audio is still captured and the end that disconnected still produces an audio file for the whole of the Zoom call with a bald spot where the drop out happened.

A few simple suggestions on sound capture, directions to face, away from hard surfaces and so on, and a quick tutorial on mic use can also be helpful. Not everyone will have a mic so they will use the inbuilt mics. Not ideal but with the twin tracks on Zoom you can generally clean up a less than perfect recording to an acceptable standard. 

Let your guest know these suggestions are to make them sound their absolute best and most people will be ok with your suggestions.

Interviews are a format that works, to perform at its best the format needs a thoughtful approach, a respectful encounter and preplanning.

With these in place great audio will result.

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