12 Things I Learned from Recording My First Podcast Interview

No matter how much you plan when doing something for the first time, it’s never going to be exactly what you expect.

Here’s what I learned from recording my first podcast interview with photographer, actor, musician, writer and friend Adam Maher (coming soon!):

1. Plan to arrive early for in-person interviews.

I drove to Adam’s apartment for the interview and was 10 minutes late (thank you, LA traffic). Although he didn’t really care, I still felt badly on the inside because I thought it made me look unprofessional.

Next time, I’ll plan to arrive earlier.

2. Print or write out the interview questions ahead of time.

When doing a podcast interview on your laptop, you need to pay attention to the recording software in real time to make sure everything is working smoothly. While it is definitely possible to have questions open on a Google doc alongside the recording software, I thought toggling back and forth between the two would be a hassle. Having the questions on a separate piece of paper would be much easier.

Despite my best intentions, I failed to print out my questions ahead of time because I was still finalizing them the day before the interview. Naturally, my apartment printer was out of ink too. I guess I could have written the questions out by hand, but I was still figuring out how to properly record the podcast right up until I had to leave for it! After I decided that I was just going to wing it, I lucked out because Adam had a printer at his place.

Again, I felt that this lack of preparation made me look disorganized, so I will be sure to have the questions printed or written out for my next in person conversation.

3. The whole interview recording process took longer than I thought.

I anticipated the interview lasting 1–1.5 hours, but I really wasn’t sure how long it would go since it was the first time I asked someone my set of podcast interview questions. It ended up taking an entire afternoon! I spent the first 45 minutes arriving a little late, setting up the equipment, and engaging in friendly small talk. By the time the interview was finished, we had recorded a little over 2 hours of conversation.

I loved every minute of it, but I’d like to strive for more efficiency next time and set better time parameters with my interviewee.

4. Take breaks.

Talking for 1–2 hours straight can be tiring. We took a couple of breaks here and there, notably one about halfway through to grab lunch locally. I probably would have done the interview straight through, but I wanted to respect how my guest was feeling, so I did. Grabbing lunch ended up being a great idea because it gave us energy to come in fresh for the second half of the interview.

Even if I plan to shorten the length of future interviews, I think it’s a good idea to offer to take breaks at regular increments to make sure my guest is feeling comfortable.

5. Finding a balance between letting my interviewee speak and moving the conversation forward is an art.

Just because I had a list of questions to ask within a certain time frame didn’t mean I had permission to cut my guest short when he was giving his answers. Plus I didn’t mind the spontaneity of having our conversation take us somewhere else interesting. However, as the leader of the discussion, it was my responsibility to move the conversation forward.

Next time, I’ll try to be on the lookout for more natural pauses in my guest’s responses as well as be a little more sensitive to the recording time so I can steer the conversation back on track. I can even consider eliminating questions on the fly and revisiting them later if time allows.

6. Document more behind the scenes.

Everyone loves a good peek behind the curtain when it comes to creative work. I only captured one photo of Adam and me before we got started, but I know I could have done more. For example, I could have filmed the entire podcast and planned to cut video clips to help promote the show. Or taken a cool headshot of him right before the interview.

Next time I do an in person interview, I will come with a more thoughtful content capture plan.

7. Be myself.

When it was time to hit the record button, I just had to jump in and go for it. And that I did. I felt really engaged in the conversation and was happy with how I moved it along. I think it really helped that we had the prior context of being friends too.

If I was curious about something Adam said, I would ask a follow up question, even if it took us a little off script. I wasn’t afraid to crack silly jokes throughout or embrace the unexpected things that happened during the interview.

While I know that the content of my interviews has to be compelling in order for listeners to stick around, I also know that I need to make them fall in love with my on-air personality. The easiest way for me to do that is to continue to be my weird self.

8. Not all questions worked.

If you’ve never asked someone a set of questions before, you don’t know if they’re going to work the first time you do it. Naturally, some questions led to better answers than others.

I don’t think I’m going to throw any of my questions away just yet since this is only my first data point. I will take note of the ones that didn’t work as well and see if I can reword them in a way that tees up a better answer the next time.

9. It’s not easy to take notes and be active in the conversation at the same time.

In an ideal scenario, I would be able to take notes during my interviews to help me either improve the conversation in real time or mark down important moments / things I learned to be used in future content.

That proved much harder in reality as I was multitasking the whole time: actively listening to Adam’s answers, preparing to ask the next question, and checking the recording software. The only notes I took throughout the entire interview were during one of our breaks when I wanted to make sure I addressed a couple of points when we resumed recording.

Hopefully, the more interviews I do, the easier it will be for me to take notes. Fortunately, I can always figure out what my favorite parts of the interview were during the post-production phase.

10. Embrace the unexpected.

One of the most exciting things about producing an interview is that you never know where the conversation might take you or what unexpected moment will occur.

During my conversation, we had several of these moments, whether it was his cat Meatball meowing in the background or the two of us commenting on the football game that was muted on the screen in front of us. Instead of letting these distractions throw me off, I embraced them wholeheartedly, and I think they made the conversation even more interesting. I can’t wait to see what else happens in future interviews.

11. I enjoyed summarizing the key points Adam was making and inserting my POV on top of it.

A great podcast host will do much more than just ask his or her questions. I was really proud of my ability to distill what Adam was saying throughout and try to take it a step further by adding my two cents. That way I’m reinforcing what my guest is saying to my listeners and inserting my personality and mindset into the equation so my listeners can get to know me better too. I look forward to continuing to hone this skill moving forward.

12. Interview someone you know first if you can.

Like I mentioned earlier, it was fortunate that I already knew Adam and he represented the exact kind of guest I want to interview on my show. Since we are friends, I felt really comfortable with him and found it easier to be myself. He was super supportive throughout the entire process, and we shared a lot of laughs. I think it would have been a lot harder to interview a stranger for my first interview.

Moving forward, I’m going to try to continue to tap my personal network for interviewees so I can build up my confidence and skill set to get ready to take on guests I don’t know well (yet).

Have you ever thought about launching a podcast? If so, what would it be about?

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