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How to record a great podcast interview remotely

April 10, 2020
Even when you and your guests are at a distance, it doesn’t have to feel that way.

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Here’s how to stay connected and record a great podcast interview, no matter how far you are from your guest.

Streamline the logistics

Unlike talking in person, remote interviews require a few extra logistics and additional coordination to keep the conversation smooth for you and your guest.

When you’re setting up the interview with your guest on email, text, or social, try to keep communication as clear and organized as possible. In your initial outreach, be sure to mention who you are, why the guest would be a great fit for your show, and what you plan to interview them about. Gimlet Academy offers an important tip for booking podcast guests: be a regular human. Use language that you and your guest are comfortable with, be concise about what you want, and be polite.

Find a time that works for both of you, and keep things organized with a calendar invite that includes instructions for how you’ll get in touch during the actual interview — down to the details of who will call who on which platform.

When it comes to the actual recording process, Anchor’s Record With Friends feature is designed to make interviews easier for hosts and guests alike. When you’re ready to record your interview, open up the Anchor app and invite up to 4 people to join your conversation. Guests can easily join your recording from any device on web or mobile by clicking the invitation link and typing in their name — they don’t even need an Anchor account or app to get started.

No matter how you choose to record your interview, try to make the plan intuitive for your guest and be sure to communicate any crucial technical steps in advance.

Give your guest as much guidance as possible beforehand. Tell them to record in a quiet room and do everything they can to control the atmosphere. Get rid of all the “yeahs” and the “ums” by scripting your intro. All of these little things make such a big difference. — Mesh, host of Talk Money with Mesh Lakhani

Research and practice your conversation

If you don’t know your guest well already, take some time to research their work and their background so that you’re prepped and ready when it’s time to hit record. Think about what you want to get out of the interview and how the conversation might enrich or entertain your listeners. Considering these questions will guide you toward a more focused and lively discussion.

Once you’ve settled on the interview topics, practice your questions and talking points by reading them aloud. You’ve usually got a limited time with podcast guests, so preparing in this way will help you make the most of the conversation. You may also want to send your guest some interview questions ahead of time so that they can prepare as well.

Find a quiet space to record

If you’re recording your interview from home, there’s bound to be some noise around you: pets, the air conditioner, jewelry, the refrigerator, neighbors. You may not notice these sounds in everyday life, but odds are your microphone will. Find a quiet place to record and encourage your guest to do the same. A spare bedroom or closet makes a great recording booth, and you can do some makeshift soundproofing by covering the door with curtains or blankets. Wherever you choose to record, be mindful of extra movements from your hair and clothes—subtle sounds that can be easily picked up by a mic.

If your kid is crying downstairs during one of your interviews, that sound could be picked up in the background. One thing we do to combat that problem is mute our side of the conversation on Zencastr or Skype when our guest is talking.” — Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna, hosts of Crawlspace

Test your WiFi connection

Remote recording software works best when WiFi is strong and stable. To make sure your interview sounds great and doesn’t require a second take, test your internet speed in advance and see if you can move your router a little closer to your recording spot. For the most stable recording connection, try to avoid changing rooms in the middle of your call. Make sure your guest has a solid internet connection as well and encourage them to use WiFi, rather than cellular data.

“We use a variety of equipment, some are just for backup. With certain services having interruption issues during this time, it’s nice to have more than one way to record should the first option go awry for any reason.” — Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna, hosts of Crawlspace

Use headphones with a microphone

To isolate voices and minimize background noise and overlapping sounds, it can help if you and your guest wear headphones while recording. Any pair of headphones with a microphone will do the trick, or you can spring for optimum sound by purchasing a USB microphone for a little less than $100. Whatever set-up you settle on, try to use the same recording method as your guest if possible. That way, your interview will sound clear and consistent all the way through.

Consider a video call

Some interviews benefit from a face-to-face connection. Seeing your guest’s expressions and reacting to each other’s body language makes for more dynamic and engaging conversation. Your audience may not see this footage in the end, but they’ll be able to hear your sense of connection in the audio.

Set up a call using Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or your other favorite video conferencing app. If you’re recording your interview using Record With Friends, you can go ahead and mute yourselves on camera and stick with Anchor as the only audio source.

Ease your way into the interview

When you and your guest start the podcast interview, take a few minutes to ease into the discussion. If you haven’t met in person before, introduce yourself. Chat about how your guest is doing, and maybe give a quick overview of the interview to set expectations and help them feel prepared.

“Do a pre-interview to give your guest a sense of what you want to talk about and more importantly, what they’re comfortable talking about. This gives you the ability to ask questions that you already know you wanna get the answer to, versus you trying to navigate the answer while recording”. — Mesh, host of Talk Money with Mesh Lakhani

This pre-interview portion is an opportunity for you and your guest to get to know each other and warm up to being recorded. You’ll probably trim or edit out the whole segment later on, and that’s okay. Setting aside some time to loosen up and understand what your guest is comfortable talking about will make for a more organic and intentional conversation.

You can’t plan for everything

Things don’t always go as planned. Maybe your guest’s WiFi connection isn’t as good as they expected. Maybe you only got to your first interview question. Be flexible, stay present, and remember that conversations are alive. Often the most engaging moments in a podcast are the most surprising, so be open to the dynamic and don’t feel like you need to stick to a script.

It can be tempting to keep looking at your list of questions and try to check them all off, but it’s more crucial to listen to what your guest is saying and how they’re saying it. Follow-up questions that arise naturally can be even more interesting than the ones you planned to ask, and these moments are only possible if you’re actively involved in the conversation.

Say thanks

When the conversation’s winding down, remember to thank your guest for joining your podcast. If they’re working on something interesting or have a podcast of their own, maybe give it a nice plug. Give your guest an estimate of when the episode might get published. If you’re using Record With Friends, they’ll receive an automatic notification when it goes live.

Finally, when you publish and promote the episode, be sure to tag your guest and give them a friendly nudge to promote the episode from their channels.

Even when you and your guests are at a distance, it doesn’t have to feel that way. For more tips on how to podcast remotely, click here.

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