how to do a podcast interview

How to do a podcast interview, step by step

One of my goals for the new year is to start a podcast. To prepare, I’ve been doing some homework.

The first place I went to learn more podcasting was the podcast I listen to most: The Tim Ferriss Show.

Specifically, the pair of episodes where Tim interviews Alex Blumberg, the creator of Startup and Reply All, and former producer of This American Life.

There’s about 2.5 hours of audio between the two, and they cover a lot of ground. I took a ton of notes and pulled out just the actionable pieces. They are written out below, in an attempt to mimic the exact process one would go through to create a podcast episode, in chronological order.

Here it is:

How to create a podcast episode

Brainstorm session 1-2 hours: what’s the story, who do we want to interview, what is the angle, what’s the NEW thing we’re trying to say? Is it interesting?

While brainstorming, ask: what are you going for? What’s the goal of the interview?

  • Ultimately: authentic moments of conversation, of emotion, of realization
  • More specifically: stories & narrative

Prepare really great questions that either:

  • elicit an honest emotional response, or
  • prompt a really good story

Avoid yes or no questions.

Questions that honest reflection and/or emotion:

  • “How did that make you feel?”
  • Good therapy and good tape are very similar.
  • You are trying to get them to articulate their emotion in words.
  • If you notice feeling in their voice, call that out in the interview with a question.
  • “If the old you could see the new you, what would the old you say?”
  • “You seem very conflicted about X, why is that?”
  • “You seem very confident about X, was that always the case?”
  • When they say something emotively, but without much logical explanation: “What do you make of that?”
  • “Why is X story meaningful to you?”
  • Give voice to an emotion that we all share.

Questions and statements that elicit a story:

  • “tell me about the time when…”
  • “tell me about the moment when…”
  • “tell me about a day when…”
  • “tell me about the day when you realized…”
  • “tell me the story of…”
  • “what were the steps that got you from there to here…”

(each step can elicit another story)

When going to a new place, town, neighborhood for an interview — how do you get an idea of that place?

  • Identify the person who has the mainstream view of the town
  • Identify the counterculture person (“goth kid”) who holds an opposing view

Creating the podcast

After preparing the questions…

Start with the script –> written in a Google doc, collaborate and write on it

Read it out loud.

Get a bunch of feedback from your team.

Know the basic information better than the other person.

Conduct the interview (I recommend Taylor Pearson’s podcast SOP for setup / interview protocol).

Producer does the first pass through of the tape.

Looks for “good tape” (those things you want to elicit, mentioned above):

  • Go for the specific, authentic moments, where emotion has been expressed. Emotionally resonant, in the moment, unexpected = good tape.
  • Other great tape: great yarns and narratives (anecdote, little story)

1-2 people sit around and do the edits: “this was good, this wasn’t, this dragged on, etc”

Outsource the transcript.

Engineer does all the editing to make it sound good: compression, levels, transitions.

When you’re editing, be aware of your own boredom. 

Symptoms of boredom:

  • When are you confused, even slightly? Demand an explanation.
  • When are you drifting?
  • Tell your friends, when editing: just point out what. isn’t. clear.

One moment of confusion can destroy an otherwise-beautiful story.

What does a producer do?

  • Helps me think through the interviews you’re going to do
  • Listens back to the tape
  • Transcribes the tape
  • Pulls the interesting pieces of tape (with or w/o consultation with me)
  • Thinks through the structure of each episode
  • Help build the story with the reporter
  • Producer handles details (plane tickets, bookings, and releases)

Hosted on Soundcloud, which tracks web plays AND podcaster downloads (iTunes, Stitcher, etc)