Your Best (Audio) Self: Preparing to be a Great Podcast Guest

You’ve been invited onto a podcast. Obviously this means you’re sophisticated, debonair, captivating and knowledgeable. Frankly it’s almost insulting it took this long for someone to notice. But no matter, for someday the history ebooks will link to the section of your Wikipedia article titled “Mastery of the Ultimate Content Marketing Strategy [citation needed]”. Before that happens, however, you should really figure out how to sound your best when being interviewed, lest some unscrupulous editor change that section header to “Failure on The Tim Ferriss Show, Slide into Destitution and Unfortunate Shorts Accident”.

Trust me, these guys don’t let anything slide.

So what can you do to make sure that your first foray into podcasting is memorable for the for right reasons? It’s actually quite simple:

Establish a plan beforehand

This one is the simplest and perhaps most overlooked. Unless you’re Jake Paul, the host hasn’t invited you on the show to fail, so work with them to come up with an action plan. This can be as simple as writing out a few talking points to jump off of, or it can be as detailed as coming up with every question beforehand. Communicate with the host to make sure you’re comfortable with, and prepared to answer all the questions.

This is a benefit for all involved, as it lets the host know exactly the things you know the most about, and saves them time in the editing bay later cleaning out all the “ums” and “ahs” from a question you weren’t sure how to answer. Which leads us into our next point rather eloquently…

Relax, Or at Least Think Out What You’re Going to Say

This is my second pass of this paragraph, as I realized halfway through that telling someone to “relax” is dumb advice, even if it would have facilitated a pretty well thought out virginity joke. But that is a luxury afforded to writing that you don’t have in a podcast. This might actually be my tenth attempt at trying to get this section right, but you’d never know. All you’d know is that I should’ve tried an 11th time.

At least it isn’t entirely my fault

However, in a podcast you only get one chance to really nail your message, so don’t be afraid to take a moment before responding. The artifice of wearing headphones while talking, speaking into a mic and looking at a computer screen during an interview can be offputting for first-timers, so plan out what you’re going to say before you say it. Too often when I’m editing an episode for a client, I can hear the guest rush to answer a question and spiral off into a million different subjects as new thoughts occur to them mid-sentence. Trust me when I say it’s much easier to edit out a 10 second pause than edit in a coherent thought.

Location, Location, Etcetera

Take a second, close your eyes and listen to your surroundings. There’s a dog barking outside, the air conditioner is humming, James from HR is collecting signatures for the company softball team and he’s laughing that fake laugh that everyone knows is fake because he watches episodes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at his desk during lunch and snorts into his Chobani cups. But at least the snorting is authentic. What I’m trying to say is that everything you can hear right now will be in your audio track and thus in your podcast episode, and that’s not a good thing.

Pictured: James from HR

So do your host a favour and find a quiet place where you know you won’t be disturbed for an hour or so. It’ll let your mind focus on the task at hand, and your audio won’t be punctuated with sirens or door knocks or a myriad of other things that have happened in the background of audio I’ve worked on. That being said, also make sure it good access to wifi, because dropped calls really kill momentum and become a headache to sync. Bonus points if you can find a place that is small with a lot of soft surfaces (like a cloak room or a walk-in closet) to reduce the echo of your voice bouncing off the walls

Jewelry

This might seem like a silly one, but jewelry can have a huge impact on the sound of your podcast. Settle yourself in your chair. Now shake your arms out. Did you hear any clinks of metal-on-metal? Again, your microphone will hear it as well. More than that though, the way audio is processed in podcasts (typically a lower bitrate to reduce file size) means that those high-frequency clinks, in addition to punctuating your sentences, will sound extra distorted and harsh, making for a very unpleasant listening experience. So do your listeners a favour and ditch any noisy adornments before you hit record. That being said, it seems like this won’t be a problem much longer…

I will update this article as relevant industries are decimated

Arm Yourself

Your webcam mic isn’t going to cut it. Phoning it in is an obvious pun to make in this situation, but is equally unacceptable. If you want to sound great on a podcast, you have to have a real microphone. Audio editing technology has come a long way, but there is still no way to make a bad mic sound like a good mic, and if you’re guesting on a podcast to promote something, you probably want to give off the appearance of being able to afford a good mic. The good news is, a good microphone setup will cost you $50 (and get a $6 windscreen for good measure), and plugs straight into your computer. If you ignore every other piece of advice on this list, and just do this one thing, you’ll be better off than 90% of first time podcast guests.

Record Locally

You ever notice how Skype calls kind of sound like garbage? It’s just a fact of life that we’ve all come to accept, our need for convenience superseding our want of quality. However, it also means that your audio will also sound like garbage on the podcast, negating all the good work we just did by buying a microphone.

The answer, then, is to record your audio on your computer and send it over afterwards. It really isn’t as hard as you think, and learning to do so will make you so much more marketable to other podcasts. The website Podcast Guest Guide has an excellent write up on how to get started.

Wear Headphones

This one is important. Popping on a pair of headphones ensures that none of your host’s audio gets into your voice track, possibly making that audio unuseable. Use common sense, pick out a pair that’ll be comfortable for the duration of the podcast. It’s pretty simple!

Left: Two people talking without headphones Right: with headphones

Going Below and Within

This isn’t so much a step to take, as much as a step not to take. In my experience, some guests will try to be helpful by putting effects on their audio before sending it over. Nine times out of ten, all they’ve done is created an extra job for the editor. If the show you’re guesting on sounds great week after week, it means they’ve got a process in place to deal with raw audio often. So don’t sweat it! Seriously, don’t.

Obligatory “Have Fun and Be Yourself” Wrap Up Tip

Did you know that your smile is the window to tomorrow’s success? Or that today is a tea steeped in unlimited potential? I don’t know for sure if those sayings are true, but what is certain is you can always tell when a podcast guest is having fun. Listeners love authenticity in their podcasts, so the more you can let your personality shine through, the better the response will be.

Fundamentally, podcasting is just another form of storytelling. Whether you’re scamming people into multi-level marketing schemes, facing off against a lich in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, reviewing Steven Seagal movies, or simply cataloging your day with a friend, listeners will forgive not following a lot of these tips as long as they connect with you and your story. So just have fun and be yourself, I guess.


Riley is the owner and lead editor of the podcast editing company Podigy. If you’re interested in more podcasting tips, check out Podigy’s Instagram or their recently published Complete Guide to Podcast Editing