After seven hundred podcast interviews in a professional studio, Covid forced me to use Zoom. It wasn’t perfect; but it allowed me to earn a living in a tough time. I am still 70% Zoom but have started doing old-fashioned face-to-face interviews.
What a difference a face makes.
Here are five ways face-to-face beats Zoom: better audio, improved show prep, fantastic photos, brand awareness, and making connections.
No moderator can control the quality of the audio that a guest provides with a remote interview. Of course, the best practice is to have a quiet room, a strong Internet connection, and a USB microphone. This is rare.
What is frustrating are technology executives, who are supposed to understand computers and microphones, who fumble and stumble with interviews.
A sidebar for podcast pros: even if you use double-ender technologies like Riverside or Libsyn Connect, the guest can still go off mic or have a terrible microphone. To appropriate a term from the world of telecommunications, the last mile is the most important. Hard to beat sitting across from an audio engineer with a high quality XLR microphone placed correctly in front of the guest.
When you go face to face, you have a professional audio engineer listening to every word. This allows for a proper microphone test and adjustment. On the positive side, when recording in BBQ joints or other high-class locales, there is background noise of plates and silverware. It gives a better feel for the interview.
When recording at a location, you can play off the environment to grab the audience. “Well, Mike, what are you enjoying at Monk’s BBQ today?”
Face-to-face gives you audio options
A. You can do a “toss” open
This is a great way to get the guest involved. Include the guest in the introductory “hook.” They love it.
“This is John Gilroy from the Federal Tech Podcast”
“This is Jeff Gallimore from Excella”
“Today, we will talk about software project management and the shift left.”
B. You can have the guest record a mid-roll read for the next episode
“This is Brian Baney from Aeyon. Listen to episode 65 to get a better understanding of intelligence analysis and large data sets”
C. You can make lighthearted comments about a guest’s appearance, all in wholesome fun.
“Joe, you are the young guy and I am the old guy here”
Under the guise of a “mic test,” you can uncover a lot of things. The philosopher Yogi Berra once said that you can observe a lot of things by watching.
While you are ostensibly testing the setup, you can work out the call to action, understand how names are pronounced, and even ask about breaking news events that might impact the interview.
For example, if you are interviewing an expert on federal website design. The day before, an Executive Order from the White House may be issued that will have an impact on the discussion.
If you are interviewing a technology company helping improve federal website design, you will have to ask their reaction. This can be previewed during the initial back and forth.
Everybody is sick and tired of publicity photos. Does anyone look like their LinkedIn photo? I always have a professional photographer getting live shots during the interview. These shots are powerful in many ways.
A. Images improve show notes
B. Images are great for social media: Twitter, LinkedIn, and audiograms
C. Images can be entertaining. I did an interview this January in a restaurant that had a Christmas Tree made from empty whiskey bottles. Now, that’s not something you will see in a soundproof studio.
D. Pictures can convey a sense of having fun. Having fun is never a concept with a Zoom interview
4. Brand Awareness
The photos help with brand awareness for your podcast. Note the appearance of the microphone “flag” in the images distributed throughout this article. When your guest promotes the appearance, they include your flag. The XLR microphone on a stand gives your podcast a more polished look.
5. Making Connections
If you do a business-to-business podcast your guests have inevitably had more than one job. Last week I interviewed Mike Kaplan from LeoStella. He had worked for five notable organizations: NASA, Ball Aerospace, Boeing, Raytheon, and Loral Space. Many people from these organizations know Mike.
When you post a photo of a guest in front of a microphone on LinkedIn, chances are his friends will like and share the post, expanding your brand awareness.
Let us use another example: Matt Thompson will appear on my Federal Tech Podcast on May 17, 2023. We will be recording at the Caboose Brewery, which happens to be near a popular bike path.
Why not send out an email telling previous guests about the adventure? Sample below.
Let us say you schedule interviews for 1 PM, 2 PM, and 3 PM. Once your audience knows the schedule, they can quickly visit and meet the guest, the moderator & the crew. Special bonus, a photographer can take a photo in front of a logo.
Artificial intelligence is knocking on your door. Technical folks will worry about Generative Adversarial Networks and Variational Auto Encoders; you should worry about deep fakes. From a practical view, a deep fake will never be able to do a face-to-face interview at Clare & Don’s Beach Shack in Falls Church.
With the hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, quality matters. Face-to-face allows you to control the environment and the guest.
The initial chat sets the stage for the interview. This amplifies your four hours of show prep. For instance, a guest may have just got off a flight, or had an issue with a vendor. These bits of information will give authenticity to the discussion. “Before the interview began you mentioned the difference between identity verification and authentication . . . tell me more.”
Marketing 101 states that you should tell a story, the best stories have pictures. A professional photographer can breathe life into a face-to-face interview.
Finally, Covid has destroyed many informal, but important contacts. Small events give people the opportunities to engage in relationships, you will not get that in a room of five hundred people. An onsite podcast is a fabulous way to understand a guest and allows for drop-in who wants to reinvigorate a relationship.
Let’s face it, face-to-face wins.
Has been behind a microphone since 1991. He can help you connect to your target audience through podcasting. You can create a community and control your destiny. firstname.lastname@example.org