Interview Basics – Part 1 – Getting Ready

Charlton Heston
Yes, that is Charlton Heston being interviewed. By a very young Victoria Fenner

Interviews are building blocks for every kind of communication project. Whether you’re doing an interview for a podcast, a video or as the basis for a text article, the principles are the same.

The more prepared you are, the stronger your interview will be. Do research before turning on the camera or microphone. It will save hours of editing and writing time if you only get the information you need. And you will impressed your guest with your ability to focus the conversation.

Here are a few tips:

a) Know WHY you’re doing the interview. This is also known as “focusing” your interview. What exactly do you need to know from the person you’re interviewing? The clearer you are about why YOU think this is an important subject, the clearer it will be for your listeners.

b) Do a Pre-interview – Call your prospective interviewees on the phone before showing up to film or recording. Do they know their subject? Are they good talkers? Can they talk about their subject in a way that ordinary people can understand? Are they available when you need them? If yes, book them for an interview. If not, thank them for the useful information and look for another guest.

c) Set the time and location for your interview – Where and when will you do the interview? If it’s an audio interview you will want to think about background sound. If it’s a video interview, you have to think about both the visual background and the sound background.

d) PLAN your on air questions in advance. Every good interview has a beginning, middle and end. By planning your questions in advance, you won’t have to make it up on the spot. If your interviewee is a good talker, you will need less questions. Figure on six questions for a ten minute interview if your guest is reasonably verbose.

There are only six questions in every interview that really matter: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Next time: Doing the interview

A Big Thank You!

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I met Linda Dessau about five years ago through a mutual friend in Hamilton, Ontario. I was very impressed at the time that she was able to take a relatively new communications tool, blogging, and create a whole methodology to help people and businesses get their message out. A forward thinker, to be sure.

So I was really happy when Linda asked me if she could interview me about podcasting. Her blog post is now out. She did a great job of taking my ideas and condensing them into a format that works with her blog. One of Linda’s strengths is her ability to take many ideas and summarize our conversation in a concise form. Because that’s what blogging requires.

She was really specific about what she wanted to hear from me. I can talk for hours about podcasting … all kinds of podcasting. Interviews, documentaries and the whole range. Linda wanted me to talk about podcasting in the solo voice. I appreciated her sense of focus, and her ability to take a large idea and narrow it down to one specific topic.

That’s why she’s been so successful building her business around blogging for business.

Thanks so much, Linda!

Your Very First Podcast

By House of Sound and Story’s Victoria Fenner, founder and creative director

The focus of House of Sound and Story is to help you tell your story. Literally. Tell your story. Using your own voice, the voices of your clients, customers and people whose opinions you value.

I help a lot of people launch their own podcasts and audio blogs.

One of the most common things people ask us is “How do I get started?”

There are a lot of answers to that question. The first thing we do is take it back to basics. You have to have a good story to tell, and you need to be able to tell it in an engaging way.

I often suggest that you start out by doing audio versions of a couple of their favourite blog posts. The reason why this is a good place to start is that a) you’ve already got the material written b) blog posts are short and therefore c) a good way to start working with your voice in a way that won’t take up a lot of your time.

Here’s what I suggest as a way to get started.

a) Pick out one of your favourite blog posts. Start with one that’s only about 500 words. Short, concise, to the point. And since you’ve already written it, it’s no extra work at this point. For the purpose of this exercise, you can focus entirely on your words, which will be right in front of you.

b) Read it out loud to yourself. Don’t turn on the recorder yet. Read it over a couple of times so you’re familiar with the words. The purpose of reading it through a couple of times first is that your words will just roll off your tongue if you’ve already rehearsed them.

c) Turn on your audio recorder. At this early stage, use whatever you’ve got. We can talk about what kind of recorders to buy in a later episode. Right now, the purpose of the exercise to be able to listen back to yourself.

d) Talk your words into the recorder. Don’t worry too much about getting pristine audio quality yet. That will come. To begin with, make sure your recorder is no more than 6 inches away from your mouth. Not too far or too close.

e) Listen back to yourself. Do a bit of a self-critique. You’re just getting started, so be gentle with yourself. You’ll be able to hear things that you want to change next time. And that’s good but don’t bog yourself down yet by needing to sound like you’ve been working at a radio station your whole life. The point is to get started.

Another reason why I’ve suggested you start out recording little bite-sized pieces rather than a whole 30 minute podcast — listeners like it. What you’re listening to is an audio blog style of podcast. Short, sweet and to the point. This podcast is about five hundred words. It doesn’t require a long time commitment for your customers and clients. Just a quick little bit of information that they can use without having to invest a lot of time. In future episodes, we’ll explore some of the other kinds of podcasts you can do. Like interviews, documentaries and even things like audio newsletters.

I love working with voice.  I can help you launch your podcast and also find the people who want to hear it. I can teach you how to write, record and produce your own podcast. Or, if you’d like, I can do it for you.

Talk to you next time with some other ways to help you get your voice out there on the internet.

Here’s an audio version of this blog post.