Welcome back to the Creative Studio where we conduct podcasting experiments. This is the fourth episode in our series on narrative podcasting. If you haven’t listened to the previous episodes, you can visit CreativeStudio.Academy or subscribe to the podcast to get those episodes.
My name is Joshua Rivers and I am your host on this extraordinary journey into the world of narrative podcasting. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not an expert. I’ve been learning these things along with you.
This episode is a continuation through the podcasting workflow and is kind of a part 2 to last week’s episode where we talked about planning your narrative podcast. This week we will take those plans and begin to make actual preparations. We’ll be getting things set in place so we will be ready to record.
In a previous episode, we heard from Jessica Abel, the author of the book “Out on the Wire” and the host of the associated podcast. She shared some things about planning and creating the narrative arc. We won’t rehash those things now, but she helps us take the next step.
7 you have a character who's going to be at the center of the story, you want to think about what are these stages that they've gone through, and the change that you want to depict in your narrative, right?
8 you figure out when the turning points are, when do they go from one place to another place, where were their dilemmas, where were their decision-points, and then when you go to the person you want to ask them all kinds of questions about those decisions that they had to make, and about those moments of change, and how was it before, and how was it after. So your preparation is often figuring out the bare outlines of what this person's story is, and then deciding where do you want to delve in further.
4 In our case, we very specifically targeted certain individuals that we wanted for their knowledge-base and their experience in the industry.
Corey Coates joins us again. He is from Podfly, helping podcasters with their podcast production. He also works with Jessica Rhodes in creating The Podcast Producers podcast.
It's tough because in a lot of cases you have folks that are the most boisterous, or the most vocal, the most prominent in some of the communities and Facebook groups, that may not necessarily be the ones who are bringing the best information,
We know, because I've been in podcasting for 10 years, Jessica'd been doing this for two, three years, as well, so we kind of got a sense of those, you pass kind of the sniff test, if you will, you can kind of tell when you talk to folks that they're either really legit, they know their stuff, and they're really making a contribution, or they're kind of jokers and they're coming in and they're just sort of marketing themselves and not really the skills that they may have acquired
Dave Jackson from the School of Podcasting also does a lot of experimenting and testing of different things in the podcasting world. He chimes in on this as well.
9 Well for me, I've done it where I have chosen guests who had the background I was looking for,
So by doing that, I kind of knew that the information they were going to provide, I wasn't going to really have to sift through much, it should all fit the goal of the episode,
you have to listen to it all again, in fact, by the time it's over, you're so sick of hearing the same thing over and over, that it can be a little crazy, but I think if you have the right guest, that I guess in a way, I asked people that I think I know the answer.
I'm trying to--not get them to say what I think, but maybe reinforce what I think. And then I'm always open-minded, so if they bring in something that I'm like, ooh, I didn't know that, that's even better.
Erik K. Johnson refers to the popular podcast, Serial, to help draw some conclusions here.
12 Finding people to interview really comes down to the story that you want to tell. If you're interviewing, if you're creating this serial podcast, you need to talk to the guy that did it, or didn't do it, the guy, the accused. That's the key. Then you might want to try and talk to the individual that made the arrest, or people close to the story. People that have intimate knowledge of the story that you're trying to tell.
you simply have to make sure you find the people that will help contribute to the story.
Rye Taylor can get excited about telling stories and brings it back to core of the matter.
18 So, you've got to stick with your theme, and you've got to play with that idea of how do other people play into the hero's story, because you've always got to keep that as the main focus, that main theme and also to focus on the hero during that event.
Whether you are doing a narrative podcast or and interview-based show, finding and securing the perfect guest can be a lot of work. If you don’t have the time or connections to do this yourself, you can get some professional help to take care of the heavy lifting for you. Jessica Rhodes, one of our featured guests this season, started Interview Connections to help podcasters connect with guests. Jessica and her team work diligently to get to know both the podcasts and the guests so they can be a matchmaker. If a guest isn’t quite right, they strive to find out more so they can present only the best matches. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Check out InterviewConnections.com today.
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As with coins and stories, there are two sides to this issue of who to interview. Much of what we have heard so far emphasizes the importance of starting with the hero and main theme of the story. Then you target specific people to help tell the story. Rye Taylor looks at the benefits of both of these.
16 I think that you never know where the gold is going to come from when you're interviewing people. It depends on the narrative again, what type of story you're telling and where you are. If this is a live scenario, I would definitely make sure that you talk to numerous people, even if you think that they're not going to be a good part of this story. You'd be surprised. I'll give you an example.
I'm going to be releasing a show called Daring & Rye, which is my story that's talking about me as a fat, middle-aged guy with a young family, who's ready to recapture an adventurous life. That is me. Okay? That's my desire. I'm the hero of that story. Now, just because I'm the hero of that story doesn't mean that I don't need supporting characters or other people to actually play a role in that.
So during a trip to Colorado, during this whole narrative, I actually went and interviewed people during a day called the Penguin Plunge. Now the Penguin Plunge is a blast of an event because what it is, is these individuals from all over this part of Colorado actually come together, in the middle of February, and jump into this frigid, freezing cold water for a specific charity, okay? Now, I interviewed several people that jumped into the water for a specific charity, and I had a blast doing it.
They had some amazing stories.
I learned all of these things. Now, could I add that all to my narrative? Of course not, but I learned some amazing stories, and I was able to weave the best parts of that story throughout my own narrative and how it applied to me. It's not about them, it's about me in this particular instance, because I'm the hero of the story. Does that mean that their stories aren't important? Of course not. But you've got to have a variety of interviews--a variety--and then choose the best pieces that actually are the most applicable to your story, okay?
21 Sure, well, I think a lot of it just comes down to recognizing that, in this point, you are literally documenting everything, every interaction...
This is Geoff Woods. He hosts the Mentee podcast where he records and shares raw conversations with mentors.
...and so all these conversations that you have with people, I think you just let them know, hey, do you mind if I record this? Not only for my own retention, I like to listen back, but oftentimes I find little snippets of gold that could go into my podcast, and if I come across something, I would be sure to reach back out to you and ask for your permission specifically, would that be okay?
And more often than not, people are going to say yes. Very rarely have I gotten a no. And the only times when I've gotten a no is when it was an incredibly personal and private conversation on their end. They just did not want that documented. Which I could respect.
22 you end up with a slew of content and recording, and at that point it was just a matter--you got to document it, you got to form some system of marking the date you sat down, what you talked about, maybe moments--you'll know when you're in that conversation, like oh my gosh, that was a golden nugget--to be able to look at your recorder and say, hey at 19 minutes and 27 seconds, I need to go back and listen to that moment. Being able to just have some type of a system for that, and as you go forward, all of a sudden you wake up one day and you're like, hey, I want to do an episode on this, and you remember, I had this one conversation with Josh, and I remember there was a gold nugget, and then you pull up your Evernote, for example, and you look at the Josh Rivers Interview note, and you see like, ooh, 19 minutes and 27 seconds, there was a golden nugget, and you fast-forward straight to there, and you go boom, there it is.
1 I work in the tape a lot, that's the biz talk for the way that I do it, which is I go through the tape and I find areas that are really strong in the tape, that I'm definitely going to use, and then I find some areas that are weak.
Bryan Orr hosts the Podcast Movement Sessions podcast. In fact, he’s the one that introduced me Jessica Abel and “Out on the Wire.”
I'm not too choosy. Meaning that I'm not Ira Glass, so I can't get anybody I want. So anybody who's willing to talk to me about something that's related to my topic, I turn the recorder on for them, because why not? It's not that big of a deal. The interview podcast world spends so much time focusing on prepping for interviews and making sure that you're all set up, and sitting their at your desk, but I rely a lot on having my mobile set up with me, and I can do a cellphone interview or whatever, because the point of these kind of secondary voices, is just to create some bounce. So it's okay if it's on a cellphone, it's okay if it's not perfect, or if you're using the Ringer app, or whatever, to get the content.
So I just say get a lot of tape. You'll know pretty much right away whether there's some good parts in there or not, and if there's not, then you just don't use it.
Part of Brian’s perspective comes from the fact that his podcast largely has been pre-recorded - it was a reflection of the sessions at Podcast Movement 2015. He would take parts of the recorded sessions, and then he would try to get a short interview with the speaker. He would also try to get some snippets from some of the attendees.
2 Yeah, because you never know what you're going to get, so sometimes you'll get really, really great stuff from really unexpected places like, a perfect example is, I interviewed Adam Sachs, he's the CEO of Midroll and Earwolf, so he's this significant player in podcasting, but he doesn't do a lot of interviews,
I only used a couple small clips from him, but the clips I did use were really good clips,
3 But if you had listened to that entire 30 minutes, you would have thought it was a pretty poor interview in general. That's where using the kind of ethos of the one-take interview show doesn't translate into narrative.
10 But I think if I just picked anybody, and now I got to go through their story, and their history, to find out why they did what, that's all great, but again, the more I have to listen through and cut out the stuff that doesn't fit, the more time it takes, so I'd rather have a guest that I was pretty sure is going to hit the nail on the head.
That was Dave Jackson again. This is a good point to keep in mind - if you try to go too wide and capture everything from everyone, there’s that much more stuff to go back through later on. But sometimes, it’s the best that you can do. Like Rye said - you never know where the gold is going to come from.
When talking with Corey Coates, he shares his concern about some people that are careless about who they talk to.
5 I know a lot of other approaches might be how many people can we try and get to capture in a really big wide net, and bring them in, but I can tell you now--and Jessica can speak best to this as a guest booker--that the more specific you go towards somebody as a guest, having knowledge of who they are, their programming, their background, what have you, the more likely they are to agree, because they know that you're not just coming at them with a form-letter that you send to everyone.
they basically build an email list, and they blast it like a newsletter that they're doing a show, who wants to get involved?
every aspect of humanity you can imagine is out there in the podcasting sphere, and you get the good, the bad, and the ugly every single day, but for me a lot of those referrals, like hey, who should I talk to, really respond from having a really good conversations in interviews for the show, and then them mentioning to me, it's like, hey by the way, you might want to talk to so and so, and because they really have a lot of great information on this, and they're fun to interview.
So far in our planning and preparation, we’ve discussed several things about creating the story arc and finding the right people to voice the story. Most of the time, you may be looking for people to add to the story directly. Daniel J. Lewis makes some interesting observations about another potential reason to connect with others.
20 So as far as getting other people into your conversations, it's having those conversations, it's recording them, of course, it's finding people who would have some kind of feedback. Now, it could be as simple as someone being a sounding board, and you're telling them, I want to tell you this idea, I want to bounce some ideas off of you, please give me your feedback, don't just sit there and go uh huh, yeah, yeah, uh huh, uh huh. But feel free to ask me any questions, challenge anything I say, add anything that you think of. It's okay if you're not an expert, I just want another voice here with me, and that can sometimes turn out pretty good, because not only does it mean it's another voice, but it's a completely different perspective that could potentially bring something to the conversation that you would have never thought of including in your narrative storytelling.
One thing that we as podcasters worry about - or probably should worry about more - is using various audio clips legally. I am certainly no lawyer, so you’ll want to talk to your own about your particular situation. Music is usually one of the biggest issues when it comes to using audio legally, but using clips of people could pose a potential problem. There are a couple simple solutions that you could try.
19 it could be as simple as just starting the conversation where they see the recorder, and you say, hey, I'm recording this conversation, I might use this in a podcast, are you okay with that?
Erik K. Johnson adds to this a little more.
11 When you recruit the people that you're going to interview for your podcast, I think it's important to let them know, this is going to be part of a longer story, I'm putting together a piece, a story, an expose on x-topic, where I'm interviewing various people for the project, and I'll use part of your interview within the project. If they know that it's not simply an interview podcast, and that their entire interview won't be used, that we're using bits and pieces of your interview, I think that's good to know up front, I'm not sure it's going to change any of their answers, but I think it's wise for you to tell them that, so they're not surprised when they hear the show come out. I do think it's important that you let your guests know that nothing they say will be taken out of context, which comes down to your editing, you need to make sure you edit so the pieces that you're including from your guests are actually what your guest said, you're not changing their words in any way.
Another thing that you’ll likely come across is when multiple people tell you the same story or details.
13 Now, if you find multiple people who are giving you the same story, you can use bits and pieces of each one, but I think you might be spinning your wheels trying to find individuals that are giving you the same information. One of them really isn't necessary, because you've already got the information. So find the most credible one, the one that will be the most entertaining, and use that particular individual.
This next tip from Erik will probably apply more to the next episode when we talk about recording, but it’s wise to keep this in mind now.
14 You will find when you go to edit down your podcast, to put it into parts, you will find it easier to edit when they've given you complete sentences.
15 this is where the art of interviewing comes in.
You need to ask questions that will generate answers that are complete sentences when taken by themselves, will stand out in a narrative podcast. The answer has to stand on its own without the question setting it up, and I think it's most important that you find guests that can provide that for you, than it is finding guests of any particular genre or nature, or knowledge.
A great question you can ask when you're trying to get complete sentences, is if you're interviewing somebody who's not giving you complete sentences, use the complete this sentence for me. The most important aspect of interviewing is blank. And then have them repeat that first part. They would say I think the most important piece of interviewing is, and they'd fill in their answer.
So if you run into somebody who won't give you complete sentence, use that trick on them.
I didn’t do this when I interviews most of the guests. Sometimes I got complete sentences - sometimes I didn’t. It could be helpful to also talk about this with the guest when you start. Maybe say, “When we record, it would be helpful if you’re able to speak in complete sentences. I may ask you to repeat something so that we can get the information in the best way.”
Doc Kennedy mentions another place that would be good to find some good voices.
6 I think there's a number of podcasters out there that'd be willing to help, and one of the keys there is that we know they have the audio set up to be able to record and give you a high quality voice coming back. You don't want to have somebody on that doesn't have the right setup. They might have the right voice, but if they don't have the right setup, then it's not going to work out. So find people that you can work with all the way, and I would reach out through whatever means you have, connecting through social media, listening to other podcasts, listening to maybe even another narrative podcast. Just find people you can connect with that fit that right tone, maybe it's somebody in your family. Just have them come over and do some recording with you, make sure it's going to work, and then just compensate them fairly, at the worst, dinner or something. That's how I would go about casting.
Not only may you need help with the voices, but you may need help with some other parts of the production process. You may have noticed that this series is not being released weekly. In fact, the release schedule isn’t regular at all. This is because I didn’t plan this part of the process well. I didn’t think I would need help. I felt like I could handle it.
While I might be able to do everything in a technical sense, time is a definite disadvantage. I didn’t think my schedule would get as busy as it did, and I didn’t think different parts would take as long as they did either. Like many podcasters, “life” has gotten in the way of the podcast production and delayed the release.
I have outsourced getting transcripts for the upcoming episodes - at least transcripts of the clips I may use. It helps to see, in writing, the different things that the guests are saying. Then I can mark which parts to cut and rearrange the clips in a logical way with greater ease. I can then script the parts to narrate, edit the clips, and mix them together.
If you’d be interested in a behind the scenes look and lending a hand in this podcast, I would love to hear from you. Simply go to CreativeStudio.Academy and click “Contact” on the menu or you can email me “email@example.com”. If you’d like a peek behind the scenes, but you’re not sure if you can help, you can go to the website and join the mailing list. I’ll be sending some things there soon to show some of what I’ve done, including how I’m taking the transcript and working it into a final script. I also have another thing going on in the background that has been taking some of my time, and I’ll share a little of that next episode.
Thanks again for listening, and I’ll catch you on the next episode of the Creative Studio. God Bless!