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A Hidden Trax Guide: How to Nail a Podcast Interview!

Our #hiddentraxchats are bursting with interviews – ranging from friendly conversations between pals, to probing discussions about emotive topics. A good interview can be the backbone of a great podcast, and getting the dynamic right between interviewer and interviewee is crucial!

We’re definitely still learning and improving. In fact, an interview can be so unpredictable and varied that we probably always will be!

So, we thought we would share some (hopefully) helpful top tips. We’d love this to start a conversation around interviewing, as it is something that we at Hidden Trax are truly passionate about. So do drop as a line with any thoughts, tips or advice you’d like to share!

1 – Do your research!

How will you hope to have a meaningful or insightful conversation with someone unless you turn up prepared. It is through research that we’ve been able to construct interesting questions and decide on a shape and structure to the interview.

When preparing for our ‘A Chat with Edinburgh’s Coffee Shops’, I met with Axel (our guest host) for the afternoon, to decide upon the perfect questions together. We used his incredible coffee knowledge, his familiarity with the guests, and my research into the coffee industry to write the questions. 

2 – But, also be ready to go with the flow!

Interviews in podcast terms are really conversations, and conversations are unpredictable, evolutionary things that dive off on tangents, take U-turns or simply take a while to get going. Because of these facts, we’ve found it is vital to be prepared to adapt your questions, think up new ones on the spot and generally go with the flow.

This couldn’t be better illustrated than with a story from the Festival, during our List Festival podcast recordings. Host and organiser Gareth, due to a hugely important personal emergency, was a couple of hours late on one of our busiest days. Our multiple guests – all Festival performers – were on a tight timetable, fitting in rehearsals, marketing and other PR commitments to their performance days. So, Hidden Trax employee Kenza decided to interview two of the Fringe Festival performers before they had to leave, in Gareth’s absence. 

She didn’t know who they were, what his questions were going to be about, what their show was about, or have a single question written down. She just had to totally wing a twenty minute interview on the spot!

But it went ok, and was still better than no interview at all! The ultimate going with the flow, we think!

3 – Put your guests at ease!

This is a big one. People can often feel nervous in front of a mic or in a recording studio – especially when they’re talking about something personal, often with total strangers!

It is crucial you make your interviewees feel welcome and comfortable. Make a joke, offer them a drink, tell them to make themselves at home. We were amazed at the difference in responsiveness when it came to interviewing a guest, when we’d been organised and un-rushed in the build up, allowing us to put all our effort into making the guest feel totally at ease. 

Make sure you’ve got some biscuits ready: sweet treats are an easy way to break the ice!

4 – Don’t be afraid to get out and about!

The studio is a great place to host a podcast interview, of course. But, we’d also suggest cracking out your Handy Recorder and getting yourself out into the world once in a while.

First, you might find yourself with access to guests who could not or perhaps would not have been able to make it to the studio. Field interviews take you to someone’s place of work, home or somewhere convenient to the interviewee. This can be dynamite when setting up the recording. 

Second, due to these types of settings – more often than not, the guest is far more comfortable and this creates a more natural conversation! 

And finally, there is an added audio interest when it comes to background noise; interviews done out and about do wonders for ‘painting an audio picture’. Radio production eat your heart out!

5 – Guide the conversation!

Our final tip is most useful when interviewing groups, but still helpful when you find yourself in a one-to-one situation. You’re hosting here, and you have to make it clear when you are hoping for answer and who you are hoping for an answer from!
Use your guests names constantly, use gestures to indicate who you’re speaking to, and have some phrases at hand to cover any awkward silences. 

This is your space and your interview, so whilst it is ideal when a guest runs away with the chat – you’re also in charge of keeping an eye on the time, making sure you get your key questions asked and making it clear who’s turn it is to speak!

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