Preparing for a great podcast conversation

I am so excited we get to have a conversation soon.

Here’s what you need to prepare for that so that it can be a great experience for both of us and we end up with an excellent recording.

What you need to know about my podcast:

The Apprenticeship Way focuses on practical spiritual growth following the way of Jesus. Emphasis is often on the inner life, emotional wholeness, and how we live as Jesus’ people in this world. I lean progressive, and have an audience that ranges from generous evangelicals all the way through progressive Christian, and even some folks who don’t identify as Christian but want to grow spiritually. Interviews only make up a portion of the episodes.

My goal is that every episode does two things: 

  1. The listener is reminded that they matter and they are not alone. 
  1. The listener is given something they can try in the pursuit of their own personal and spiritual growth.

If you want to check out the podcast ahead of time, you’ll find the index here. Check out some of the more recent episodes, as quality has improved dramatically since the beginning!

IF YOU’RE A PRO who does interviews all the time, you can get the TL/DR version by scanning for the orange text.

IF THIS IS ALL NEW TO YOU, or you’ve never recorded a video podcast remotely, or if you just want to review, this guide will help us both get what we need from the experience.

What I need from you right away:

Please send me the following as soon as possible. You can send it to me in whatever way we’ve been in communication (email, Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Message, etc.)

TL/DR: Send me the following right away.

  • Your name, a pronunciation guide (if it’s not obvious), and your preferred pronouns.
  • Your Cell Phone Number.
  • Your current media bio.
  • A current headshot.
  • Your main online presence links including website and social media.
  • If we are talking about your book or other project, links related to that.

What does the interview process look like?

TL/DR: Generally a 60 minute conversation that will be edited to 35-40 minutes in length, recording both audio & video.

You and I both prepare for our conversation in the ways I lay out below. At our appointed time, we’ll record our conversation. I release my podcast in both video and audio formats. What that means is that we record our podcast as a video. We’ll record 45-60 minutes of conversation. I’ll edit that down so that the final product is focused. That means that if you want to take another run at an answer, or if the dog barks, no stress. Once it’s edited, and all the announcements and blurbs and theme music is added, I extract the audio so that the video and audio version are exactly the same. Then I schedule it to post. 

The format of my interview episodes looks like this: An intriguing intro, an edited version of our interview, and then a pastoral reflection. Separately from our interview I will record an intro that will set up our conversation and introduce you to my audience. This is where I’ll mention your credentials or projects. I find that recording this separately allows us to jump right into conversation without wasting time on the banter and scene-setting that takes so much time. This is especially important for authors of books since they are very often asked, ”So how did you come to write this book?” or ”Tell us in summary what your book is about.” I won’t ask you those questions. My goal is to go deeper with you. Then, after I’ve edited our interview, I’ll write and record a reflection on our conversation. It might include what I learned from you, what you said that most intrigued me, or how our conversation might invite action. The final product ends up being right about 45 minutes in length. In our scheduled recording, we will be jumping right into the conversation.

When will the interview be posted?

TL/DR:I’ll let you know! If you’re launching a book, I’ll do my best to meet your schedule.

When I’m running on all cylinders, I post 2 podcast episodes per month. During summer and other busy seasons, it’s usually just 1 a month. Scheduling of specific interviews is based on when they are completed and edited, and what else is going on in the world and my life. When we record, I’ll let you know my sense of when it might go live. When it goes live, I will notify you so that you can share the podcast with your online followers.

If you’re launching a book, I’ll try to schedule it in keeping with your launch schedule as best I’m able, but I can’t guarantee that. Please give me your dates if this is something you want me to keep in mind.

What tech is necessary for this interview?

TL/DR: Make sure you have a computer and internet access capable of video conferencing without lag, an external mic and headphones, and a webcam capable of 720p video, and the latest version of the Chrome browser.

The Apprenticeship Way is released as both an audio and a video podcast. This requires a little more preparation and attention so that we can get the best possible outcome. I use an online service similar to a Zoom call or Skype that allows us to see and hear each other. But because of the lag, or delay, that video over the internet always has, this system records full-quality video files on both of our computers, and then automatically uploads those files to me when we are finished. If you are comfortable using Zoom you’ll be able navigate this system easily. You will get an invitation link to this recording space the day of our interview.

To get a quality recording, you’ll need the following:

  • Video Conference Capable Computer. Because we’re recording both video and audio, this interview will require a modern computer, rather than just a smartphone. If you have been able to participate in a multi-party Zoom call on your computer, it will likely work for this. You will need the latest version of the Chrome broswer as well.
  • Decent quality external mic. I prefer that you not use the built in mic on your computer. These sound hollow and exacerbate background noise. You don’t need an expensive mic, just one that you can place near your mouth. If you podcast or interview regularly, you probably already have something that will work. If you don’t, a simple gooseneck desk mic like this one will improve your sound tremendously at low cost.
  • Headphones. I know, I know. We look silly wearing them. But they are crucial to prevent feedback and echo. The quality doesn’t matter as long as it means you aren’t listening to me speak through open speakers that will get picked up by your mic. I use Shure studio headphones because I do studio recording, but these are overkill for most people. Any headphones, even earpods, will work. Only use the wired earbuds with a built in mic (the white ones Apple used to give us with our phones that so many of us have) if it’s your only option. The mic on these is not high quality, and often makes noise as you move your head. Headphones are essential.
  • 720p or better Webcam. Whether you use the built in webcam on your computer or an external one is up to you. If possible, use a webcam capable of at least 720p quality video. This is a great one that I have used with success.
  • Fast Internet. The speed of your internet will impact how well we can hear and see each other. Because the files are recorded locally on your computer, recording quality won’t be impacted, but a laggy call makes it hard for us to interact smoothly. You can improve your internet speed and quality by using a wired connection instead of WIFI, by sitting near your WIFI router instead of across the house, and by making sure that other users aren’t taking all the bandwidth with gaming or video streaming during our interview.

Please consider your location & lighting.

TL/DR: If possible record in a quiet environment. Make sure you have good quality lighting, and no backlight.

You can improve the quality of your audio and video by considering the following:

  • Pick a quiet, undisturbed location. Pick a location where you won’t have lots of disturbances and where background noises are limited. Make sure we’re not recording at the same time that your yard service is mowing the lawn outside your window. Let the dog out. Ask the kids not to interrupt.
  • Pay attention to lighting. Lighting is the single most important factor for quality video. Even a cheap webcam can produce good results if you have good lighting. You don’t need professional lights. Just make sure that your face is well lit and that there are no strong shadows on your face. A cheap USB Ring Light like this can really improve your video. A good rule of thumb is that lighting that feels too bright in person is just about right for quality video recording.
  • Also, avoid any backlight in your background. If there are bright spots in the background such as a sunny window, a bright lamp, or even a large empty white wall, the camera will automatically change its light settings and the result is that your face will go dark.