As a producer, host or speaker on more than 300 podcasts, I’ve learned a bit about the craft. Here are 11 tips for making your appearance as a podcast guest the best it can be.
1. If possible, read the questions or script in advance
Unless you’re comfortable shooting from the hip, you should know what questions will be asked of you. Change or delete any questions you’re uncomfortable with. Hosts usually want you to sound your best and will willingly comply.
2. Jot down a few notes…
…but don’t prepare a script. If you script your answers, the interview will sound wooden and artificial. It’s better to work from talking points.
3. Find a quiet place
Avoid open windows and doors, shut off air conditioners for the duration of the recording and silence cell phones and computers.
4. Use a landline phone
When it comes to reliability and sound quality, you still can’t beat a wire.
4a. Use Skype
The quality of VOIP services absolutely rocks, but you need access and a few dollars’ worth of hardware to use them. Also, many corporations block Skype access and the service does you no good unless both parties on the call are using it. That’s why this recommendation doesn’t merit a full-blown tip.
5. If possible, use a headset
It’s more comfortable and minimizes the risk of distortion from contact with the microphone.
6. Speak at a measured pace
You’re talking faster than you think you are. Slow down and articulate. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. This is a recording, so we can edit out the pauses.
7. Be animated
Use your voice to add texture. Vary the pitch, speed and volume to emphasize or downplay parts of the message. Avoid speaking in a monotone. Nothing will lose a listener’s interest faster than that.
8. Don’t hesitate to start over
If you start a sentence and then get lost, stop, take a breath, collect your thoughts and begin again. Fumbles can be edited out.
9. Time your answers
Figure 60 to 90 seconds for an answer. Beyond that, you had better be interesting, because your audience’s attention span begins to wane.
10. Beware of verbal tics
These really stand out in a recorded interview. Some common bad habits include “Like,” “You know,” “OK” and “Ummmm.” Minimize them. No one is competing with you for the microphone, so take your time and speak deliberately and in complete sentences. Sometimes you can’t help your tics. In that case, they can be fixed in the editing process. If losing them is too distracting, don’t let this point trip you up.
11. Review the show notes
Podcasts should always include a written companion in the form of a blog entry. Be sure this information reflects accurately what you said. It’s the only information the search engines will see.
A note on length
The most common question I’m asked about podcasts is what is the ideal length? At the risk of being flip, my answer is “As long as it’s interesting.” I really mean that. If you look at the 10 most highly rated podcasts of all time at IT Conversations, they average a remarkable 55 minutes. Having listened to many of these programs, I can tell you that the speakers could easily keep me engaged much longer than that. In contrast, I have listened to excruciatingly dull podcasts that lasted less than 10 minutes.
What’s the difference? Uninspired content – often rooted in a product pitch – and lack of stories that bring the message to life. Storytelling is the most basic of human communication devices, yet it’s amazing how few communicators use it. A podcast is not a research paper or a collateral sheet. It is a human voice, which is the oldest form of rich communications. Use your voice to its fullest potential, tell stories and make the interaction personal. That’s what will keep your audience engaged. And when they’re engaged, no one cares how long you talk.