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Three Things to Avoid When Doing Face-to-Face Podcast Interviews

by Tom Johnson on May 15, 2007
categories: technical-writing

I've been roaming around interviewing people at the STC Conference (yesterday I posted about 10 short interviews on Tech Writer Voices). When doing live, face-to-face interview podcasts, I've learned several things you should definitely not do when podcasting:

  1. Never let the subject hold the microphone. I brought two mics -- one for the subject, one for me. But interviewees never hold the mic in the right spot. They either hold it too far away, or they move it close and then far, distant and then off-center. In their nervousness and gesturing, the mic never remains still. This makes the audio fluctuate in frustrating, hard-to-fix ways. Better is to have one mic that you hold out for them to speak into.
  2. Never let the person leave without writing down their name. It's not enough for the interviewee just to say their name on the podcast. How will you actually spell that seemingly simple name? You'll be googling it trying to find the right one.
  3. Don't hide in your room. Instead, loiter where others loiter. At times it's hard to fit podcasting into the flow of the conference (there's always an event going on, or people are eating, or going somewhere), but you just have to loiter where others loiter and then introduce yourself to them in a friendly way. Two people sometimes feel more comfortable being interviewed than one.

Overall, podcasting here at the conference has been an incredibly interesting social experience. It gives a purpose to networking, allows me to meet and talk with all kinds of people (whom I would probably never meet otherwise). It is also making me quite visible.

What's most challenging is simply having the courage to approach someone I don't know and ask if I can interview them. Another challenge is figuring out ways to lengthen the interviews. After about 5-8 minutes, I run out of questions. Still, it's very much like a conversation. Podcasting is like having a conversation with everyone at the conference — talking with each of them one-on-one. I am starting to feel like an STC ethnographer.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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