Posted on August 17, 2020
Welcome to my first blog series!
My senior year at UW-Madison, I started a podcast with my friends Lukas and Chase. The podcast is called the What Am I Doing Here? podcast (WAIDH). You should check it out – we ask UW-Madison professors questions relating to their purpose, success, and happiness, all to help our listeners (and ourselves) figure out what they want to do with their lives.
In this blog series, I’m going to elaborate on the main lessons I’ve learned from hosting and producing the podcast. The topics will range from the soft skills of guest management to the hard skills of editing and publishing.
If you’re considering starting a podcast, this is the blog series for you.
WAIDH is an interview-style podcast. In this type of podcast, you have a new guest each episode. Often, this guest has never been on a podcast before. Managing the guest on an interview podcast requires the balance of two main ideas – comfort and quality.
First and foremost, the guest needs to be comfortable. This includes physical and intellectual comfort; each plays into the other.
For physical comfort, the seating arrangement needs to feel conversationally natural. Preserving the feel of a normal conversation is difficult with all the microphones and recording equipment in between you and your guest. Being able to maintain typical levels of eye contact and body language is crucially important to unlocking the most valuable conversation.
Intellectual comfort means that the guest has to be comfortable speaking to the topics that come up. Sometimes these topics can be controversial (depending on the theme of the podcast). Reassuring the guest that they will have the final decision on the inclusion of something they say will ensure they stay comfortable. If the guest is worried about being “outed” for speaking about a particular topic, you could miss out on valuable related conversation. More often than not, guests don’t have problems with the things that they say. However, providing them with this reassurance guarantees the conversation will flow naturally no matter what.
Quality refers to conversational quality and raw audio quality. Conversational quality is derived from how comfortable your guest is. As I explained above, a comfortable guest will be more willing to talk about anything than an uncomfortable guest.
However, if the guest is too comfortable, raw audio quality can become compromised.
If your guest hasn’t been on a podcast before, they might not be aware of the sensitivity of recording equipment. Everything from tapping the table to drinking from a water bottle can compromise the audio quality of the podcast. Make sure the guest is aware of this – any and all noises in the room will be picked up by the equipment.
You can use your body language to unconsciously show the guest how to act. Keep your hands on your lap, don’t take drinks from your water bottle, and stay a constant distance from the microphone. Briefing the guest with these tips before the interview begins is a good idea. Don’t be too serious about them, though, or you may scare your guest into an uncomfortable body posture.
Balance is Key
Through this balance of comfort and quality, your guest will provide you with valuable interview audio. In my next post in this blog series, I’ll get into the specifics of leading the conversation to a valuable place.