What To Say During A Recording

"What to say, what questions to ask, should I interrupt, what if I go blank?", so many questions that all of us in podcasting ask no matter how experienced we are.

The very first advice we give is, remember it's not live. You can "um" and "ah", you can bumble around (as much as is comfortable between you and your guest), you can reframe questions, you can take a break, you can do whatever you want as it is ... not live. Editing is your safety net when you feel out on the tightrope and start to wobble.

A quick note – if your show has just your voice then a whole stack of this article isn't going to apply – you do what you need to do, say what you want and you'll be fine.

Ensure you "put on the character" that invokes the voice you have chosen for your show, be explicit with your guest that you'll be asking them certain types of questions, start playing with your podcast voice. For us at Access Granted we make sure that our guests know it's a chat in a bar (or cafe, or wherever) with a few mates about why they do what they do, that we expect mistakes, don't worry about swearing and relax into it.

Turn on your equipment and check it's working – remember, CHECK THE BATTERY LEVEL (again)! It's at this point we make sure that the guests can see the red recording light is on and explicitly tell them we're recording.

We then tell our guests that we're just gonna check the recording levels with a classic TV/radio question, "What did you have for breakfast today?" – as they answer check your levels, ask them for more details if needed as, "Coffee" isn't going to give you much to work with :)

We do our opening by welcoming the listener to the show, who from the show is present, and explaining where we are. If you're at a regular venue, as we normally are with Golding's Free Dive, then welcome people back and give a shout out to your kind hosts.

We then introduce the guest, in our case name and where they are from (workwise), and then open up with our first 'secret' question:

What makes you happy?

We then go with the flow, have a yarn finding out WHY they do what they do and HOW, this is very much our style and the purpose of the show. We are looking, digging a little, for that gold that makes us interested, intrigued, and even a little shocked. When we have a moment in the recording that has us lean forward and go, "Wow, sorry, what was that ..." we know we're onto something.

To answer the question in the title of this article – we try and say as little as possible, unless it's clarifying something, asking for more details, or guiding the guest back to our "why and how" focus. The listeners aren't subscribed so that they can hear our voices, they want to hear the guests, we merely bring the structure and familiarity as we try and represent the listener at the table.

Of course, this is our style, you may have different styles, one with a more comprehensive structure, more set questions, perhaps even questions that have been prepared and sent to your guest beforehand. Remember the listener at all times, is this engaging, does this connect either on a, "This is an expert giving me guidance", or, "This is a person opening up to me" - either/both of these are what all us listeners love.

Some generic interviewing hints and tips we've picked up – always use “open” questions” that generally start with: how, why, what. where, when.

If you are totally and utterly stuck and go blank have some "emergency questions" that you can ask. Write these up beforehand with no particular guest in mind, either completely related to your podcast and it's mission, or (and this is in fact the most effective) questions that are so leftfield they are weird, bizarre, and shock the system into getting creative.

This is not our idea, totally stolen from UK comedian, Richard Herring. and his Emergency Question book – be aware, it's not a family read from adult comedian but some of the emergency questions are totally usable. There's a sample on the Twitter account, @emergencyq

There will come a time to wrap-up to which we have a fairly structured approach:

  1. Thank the guest for their time and insights

  2. Ask if there’s anything they would like to pimp out – events, new products coming, launched app – be aware of the episode publication date.

  3. Ask where can people find them to continue this conversation
    (prompt them for Twitter handle, LinkedIn page, website everything and anything – some people even give out physical work address)

  4. Thank them again and stop recording.

And that dear reader is a recording in the bag (or "in the can").

We find that once the red light goes off and we're definitely not recording you get the real goss ... but that's for another article.