Let's say you’ve at least a passing interest in voting rights and voting access. You notice one of your political/social commentary podcasts lists an episode with Willie Nelson as their guest to help cover the topic. They do a good setup to kick off the episode and introduce Willie to the youngins, and then the interview starts with “Tell us how you got started in the music business, Willie!”
I don’t know about you, but I’m probably skipping that interview. And perhaps the episode all together. Because if they can’t even start on topic, how confident am I that they’ll ever get to the topic at hand?
Every Second Was Not Gold
Many podcasters find it very hard to edit interviews with their guests. They say This conversation was great from start to finish, and my audience is going to love every single word! I’m not cutting a thing!
I understand why this is a common refrain. Lots of very popular podcasts present seemingly linear interviews with guests, where episodes often contain little more than the interview, starting at “welcome to the show” and wrapping with “thanks for being here”.
But just because they can do that, it doesn’t mean you can. Also, it’s very hard to compete against already-popular podcasts if you just try to emulate what they do, instead of making a show that is uniquely yours.
I can already hear cries of Not me! from the fat-trimming podcasters. After all, they're actively cutting out the bad parts as part of their processes. They remove the excessive filler words (which by the way, can now be automatically removed), shorten up long pauses, correct stumbled or repeated questions, And yes, sometimes, they’ll even tighten up long-winded answers. And on rare occasions, they might even exorcise the boring parts of the conversation.
If that describes you—and it describes many of my clients—that’s OK. The listeners appreciate the cleanup and your commitment to get rid of the clearly bad bits.
But what about the not really necessary bits? What about the bits that aren’t germane to the topic of this episode? And all those parts that, while not bad, certainly can’t be considered good?
Six Steps To Advanced Interviews Your Audience Will Love
I don’t normally tackle How-To topics on Podcast Pontifications, but I’ve had a request to cover some more advanced techniques, and I’m always game to try something new. With that, here’s a new way I want you to think about and approach interviews for your show, in a nice step-by-step fashion.
Step One: Research
Yeah, I know it’s boring. But it’s a critical first step. I recommend carving out an hour of your time—or someone’s time—to just do pure research. Checking their website or Wikipedia entries. Reading the summaries of any notable works they’ve contributed to the world. Do this to get a well-rounded understanding of who your guest really is, beyond the topic you wish to cover with them during the upcoming interview.
Next, carve out a couple more hours (at a minimum) to listen to, watch, or read prior interviews your guest has given. You’re looking for common themes, angles you hadn’t considered, and also getting a feel for how your guest conducts themselves during interviews. Oh, and how they respond to the host, obviously.
Step Two: Prepare Questions
All of that research should make it straightforward for you to write out a list of questions for your guest. While a few “fluffy” questions are OK, make sure the bulk of your questions align to the angle of the episode. You know, the reason you're having this person on your show in the first place?
The best questions you can ask will often lead to your guest telling a story. Because we’re human, and we’d much rather hear stories than a recitation of facts. And if you know your guest has a great story to tell, but a story they’ve told countless times, ask them to build on it, maybe picking up where their story typically ends.
Step Three: Automatic Transcription (For Internal Use Only)
Take the entire interview—regardless of length and without any editing—and feed it to an automated transcription service, like Descript. When it’s done its magic, you can go through and do some light text editing to make it more readable for you, but only if you really need to. And sure, if you like, go ahead and let tools like that get rid of filler words. That’ll save you some time at the end.
Step Four: Paper Edit
You are not looking for bad parts in this step. You are not trimming the fat. In fact, you’re doing the exact opposite: you’re only looking for the best parts.
You’re on the hunt for nuggets of wisdom. You’re reading not just for those great stories you remember your guest telling, but the specific sentences and clauses that made that story great! And most importantly, you’re looking for the parts of the conversation where your guest had great insight on the topic of the episode.
Also, look for bits where your research really paid off. If you see in the automated transcript where your guest said Wow, that’s a great question or Gee, I’ve never been asked that before, that’s a bit you want to snip out and put in the Good pile.
There’s a lot more in this step than I can possibly cover in a way that doesn’t get highly specific. Some podcasters—like me—are good at searching for words or phrases using the “find” feature. Others can quickly scan the text readout to identify the good parts. Others need to do a more careful read-through.
Whatever works for you, know it’ll be a little slow to start. But you’ll be faster on your next attempt. And by the time you have a dozen under your belt, you’ll be slashing through paper edits like a pro.
Step Five: Assemble The Meal
Now that you have all the good parts nicely portioned out in front of you, it’s time to lay them out and see how your episode will flow. No, do not jump straight into your DAW of choice for this step. You’ll still do this on paper, likely right inside the tool you used to identify the good bits from the automated transcript.
Copy and paste the good bits, spending time to arrange them in appropriate groups and clusters, in a linear fashion. Remember, you probably only need one good bit to drive a point home, so don’t hesitate to drop a good bit in favor of a better bit.
You’ll likely notice gaps between sections. Resist the temptation to go back to the automated transcript to see how you bridged the gap during the interview with the guest. That was great when talking to your guest. But in the episode, you’re talking to your audience. So create new “connective tissue” bits out of text for you to voice later. Put down exactly what you’re going to say, even if you think you’re really good at ad libbing. Or even if you are and will only use the text you wrote as a guide.
Once all the text is there, a combination of transcriptions from the interview and the connective bits you’ve written in text, read the assembled paper edit. Out loud. Several times. Have your partner read it. Or read it aloud to them. Or a mentor. Or a trusted listener. You’ll probably have some additional edits to make, as you work toward the final copy.
Step Six: Make Audio Magic
When you're happy with the way the assembled paper edit flows from start to finish, you can now open up your DAW and start working on the actual audio itself, following that paper edit, recording your VO parts, and crafting an episode filled with stories that are perfectly aligned to the topic and angle you wanted to cover.
That is how you make an interesting interview podcast that people want to not just listen to once, but to come back and see what you have for them again and again.
Great Interview And Great Bonus Content
If you’re lamenting the loss of all the content that didn’t make it in the episode, I have great news for you: None of the other stuff has to go to waste. It’s possible to make a great-sounding, highly-edited interview so your podcast stays tight and on point and also give your audience an opportunity to hear the unedited (and perhaps unfiltered) interview. If they choose.
After the produced episode has aired, you can release the complete interview as a bonus or additional episode. Just be sure it’s clearly titled as such so people who got what they wanted from the original episode can skip this one. You can also release a video of the full interview. Or if the guest is OK with it, you could have live-streamed the interview. The choice is yours.
But if you really want to make your podcast episode more than just an interview, then the best way to do that is to only present the choice bits from the interview to your audience. They’ll reward you. And maybe even tell their friends.
Giving Value, Getting Value
The fine working podcasters in the Advancing Podcasting community are amazing, and I’ve been requested to cover some more advanced podcasting topics like this, with some actionable ways to become better podcasters and make better podcasts.
If you think that’s valuable content and wish to hear more of that from me, one of the best ways to let me know is by going to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra, buying me a coffee, and telling me what you would find valuable on future episodes. I’ll listen!
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.