Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsWhat are some of the pitfalls that we need to avoid when we're making a podcast? It's important to understand basic things about audio as a medium. So audio is very good at things like telling stories. It's not good at telling facts, at giving numbers, and data. Your mind can't actually process that stuff in an audio way, at the moment anyway. So think about how to translate your story into a way that will work for audio. Think through your ears. Think about an interview might be at the core of what you do of your podcast. You're going to interview people. But how can you enliven that interview?

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsSo obviously if you're interviewing musicians, you would have bits of them playing, but also get them when they're tuning up. Get them as they arrive at the family and saying g'day because that becomes a little bridging scene that can really add texture and pace to your podcast. It shouldn't just be voice in the studio. I'm a great believer in using sound to tell a story in its own right. You know, just something like the sound of a crow. At the moment, I'm working with Aboriginal art material in remote Australia. And we've been talking about a massacre.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsNow, just letting the sound of a crow hang there can convey a kind of mournfulness, and it allows us to take on board what we've just heard. So that's the other thing, let it breathe. Don't butt things up together. We talked about timing is important. Use that factor when you come to craft your podcast. Obviously, find good people who can talk well as interviewees. There's no point in asking somebody to do an interview if they're so shy that they only speak in monosyllables. I mean, do them a favour and leave them be. Find somebody else.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 secondsSometimes you do have to go-- if you've got one witness to something that happened and there's only one person left, you have to go to that person. And in that case you just give them lots of time. The other thing is, as you'd know, what's the secret to getting a really good interview? There's one really obvious but crucial factor. Taking lots of time? Taking lots of time and listening. I call it aerobic listening. You have to listen really intensely to somebody. Pick up on everything. Yeah, but vibe back that you are listening. You're not just sort of thinking about what am I going to have for dinner tonight. You're listening.

Skip to 2 minutes and 44 secondsAnd the reason I call it aerobic is because you're exhausted at the end of it or you should be. And that person can feel your attention and your curiosity. And that's what makes people want to open up and tell you things that they might have told nobody before.

Common pitfalls

The best in the business have often had years to perfect their craft.

Tip for success:

Do your research. Make sure you know at least the basic information about your subject or interviewee before you start recording. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to come away with a half-baked interview. It’s a more professional look and you’ll be able to get more in-depth material to use for your podcast.

Failing to plan is planning to fail:

  • What is unique about your show?
  • What is your point of difference?
  • How many episodes will you have?
  • How will you transport your listener through each episode?
  • How will you organise the episodes?
  • How will you have each episode ready to release on time?
  • How will you find and introduce new stories?
  • How will you establish momentum throughout your program?

Make sure you have show notes that are clear, concise and easy to read. Mark up your script - note where the emphasis will fall, where you may need to pause for breath.

Consent is important to get from each person you record. What constitutes consent might be different depending on your geographical location.

Remember to press record. (Don’t get stuck on “pause”!)

Avoid interruptions. Try to record your interviews in the quietest place possible where interruptions are limited or non-existent. This could be in someone’s lounge room or a meeting room in a workplace. Avoid noisy cafes, windy outdoor areas or busy roads. You can’t erase background noise from an interview and it makes editing harder.

Expect the unexpected. Whilst it’s always good to go into an interview with a plan and set questions, it’s also vital to run with a line of questioning when something unexpected comes up. Active listening is one of your strongest allies when it comes to podcasting. Pay attention to what your interviewee is saying - because you might just pick up on something that you didn’t prepare for. And that’s often where you find gold - in the surprising bits.

Repetition is ok. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewee to repeat something they’ve said, clarify what they’ve said or direct them in general. At the end of the day, you have to craft this story, so if you feel like there are too many distractions in the room or that they were not entirely clear with their answer, politely instruct them on ways to make sure your audio is the best it can be.

Gather scene-setting audio. If you want to use sound as a scene-setter, record that separately from the interview part.

For example: If interviewing a football player, do the interview in a quiet neutral setting (home, or in an empty stand after training). Then follow them around as they train, on the field or in the gym, and get the crowd noise at the match. Interweave the sound effects with the interview when you edit - they will sit on a second track, just like music does.


Want to learn more?

Attached below is an article by Siobhan with more tips for using audio for storytelling.


Conversation starter

  • Have you had any podcasting or recording mishaps that you learned from?

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This video is from the free online course:

The Power of Podcasting for Storytelling

University of Wollongong