My Interview and Podcast Production Process on the Hanselminutes Podcast
Hey! Did you know I have a podcast? A few actually but Hanselminutes has been doing for over 700 episodes over 13 years and it's pretty good if I may say so myself. It's a 30 min show meant for your commute. It offers fresh faces and a fresh perspective on lots of topics. While it's often tech and programming-focused, I do often have guests on to talk about less techie things like relationships, mental health, life hacks and more. I model the show after Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
I recently got a tweet from Xi Xaio asking how I host my show. The planning, the content, the restricted timing, the energy, avoiding wasted time and words, etc. Getting a good question is a gift as it leads to a blog post! So thank you Xi for this gift.
If you work for NPR, you're welcome to put all 350 hours of the show on any public radio station. I'm also available to host Fresh Air or, ahem, Science Friday, and I'd do a good job at it.
Here are Xi's questions and my answers. You might also like my article How to start your first podcast - equipment, editing, publishing and more as well.
How do you keep up the number of guests for a weekly podcast?
I haven’t had too much trouble as I just watch hacker news, Reddit, Twitter, etc and if I see someone cool I will invite them. I have 8 guests "in the can"right now so I like to stay a month or two ahead. I also prioritize quieter people. Lots of folks have a PR or press person (I get a dozen pitches a week) but the most interesting people aren't doing podcasts because they are making amazing art/tech. So I like to talk to them. I know I've gotten someone good when their response is "me? Why me?" Well, because you're making/thinking/commentating!
What drives you to keep publishing even when you are on holiday, for the promise of a new episode each week - for better audience engagement, or for the demands of the advertisers?
Consistency is key and king. If you publish regularly people start to (consciously or unconsciously) come to expect it. You can fit into their life when they know your show is every week, for example. Others “publish when they can” and that means their show has no heartbeat and can’t be counted on. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and step one is showing up. I like to show up every week. When I took a few months off last year to stay in South Africa, I had 12 shows already recorded and scheduled before I left.
You introduce the guest on their behalf. Why not let guests do it themselves?
Because most people aren’t good at introducing themselves, advocating for themselves, or talking about themselves. I like to take a moment, be consistent and talk them up. It starts the show well because it reminds them they are awesome!
You keep the episode length within 30 mins. Guests are different, some keep talking and some are succinct. How do you achieve this goal?
A typical show has 6 bullet points, 5 minutes each, as I plan the content. I'll do a lot of research (think 50 tabs open, etc) and then I work out the story arc (where do we want to take the audience) with the guest ahead of time, and I optimize the show and conversation for that process.
We bounce bullet points back and forth over email for a while or have a preliminary Skype/Facetime.
Would you mind sharing your content producing procedures after recording? I'd love to learn what steps you take from editing to publishing, and tips to be more efficient.
I store everything in a workflow of folders in Dropbox. I have an “input raw shows” folder and an “output produced shows” folder. I use zencastr to record, and the result is a WAV file for each speaker. Then my paid producer Mandy will level the audio, edit and merge them in Audacity, then add the music, produce the MP3, add the ID3tags, and put the result in the output folder. Then she uploads it to Simplecast and schedules the show for Thursday. My custom-built podcast site then pulls the show from the Simplecast REST API and it shows up at http://hanselminutes.com.
In addition to your perseverance, what other recommendations do you have to new tech podcast hosts, like me?
Perseverance is key. No one listened to my first hundred shows. Do this for yourself first, and the audience later.
Also, audio quality is everything. If it’s low or bad or hard to hear you’ll lose audiences. One other tip, as you get better as an interviewer the less you’ll have too edit, which will save you time. If you mess up, stop. Clap, then start again. The clap makes it easy to see the mistake (it'll be a spike on the audio waveform) and then you can do a "pull up" and just elide that portion.
What do you mean by "I optimize the show and conversation for that process"
The point of a story is the story arc. You can't just randomly chat with folks, you need to have a plan and a direction. Where are you taking the listener? How will you get them there? Are you being empathic and putting yourself in the shoes of the listener? What do they know, what do they not know?
How much should you talk?
Less. It's not about me or you, it's about the guest. I play a role. I play the foil. What is a foil?
foil - a person or thing that contrasts with and so emphasizes and enhances the qualities of another.
Here is a real show. I'm in green. I'm there to ask YOUR questions (as you're not there!) and advocate for the listener. Whether or not I know the answer or not isn't important. I'm there to expand acronyms, provide context, and guide the journey.
Do you have a podcast? Leave a link below and share YOUR process!
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