The Art of Interviewing for Audio

While I would never want to be without my trustee Dictaphone, there are few things more likely to make me cringe than listening back to my recorded interviews. Who’s that squeaky five-year-old Northerner trying to ask grown-up questions? I always wonder.  In my head, my voice sounds about an octave lower and I’m speaking the Queen’s English.

But worse than this, is the discovery that I sound like a bumbling fool. Asking the same question in about five different verbose ways seems to be one of my special skills. Thank god I’m a print journalist.

But of course not everyone can get away with such interview verbal diarrhoea and those who work in audio journalism, or like me would like to at least become reasonably accomplished in the field, have to learn the art of concise, direct questioning. As any journalist who has ever been given precisely 30 seconds of an important person’s time will attest to, this is also a rather important skill for any journalist.

The trick, if listening to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour has taught me anything, is to make it all sound very easy and relaxed. And not to panic if there’s a silence and  fill it with inane babbling.

This is much easier said than done though. Literally:  saying something is often much more comfortable than leaving a silence. So I thought I would ask someone who has experience staying calm in front of a microphone for some top tips. Steve Peiris hosts the talk show Talk Hamburg in Germany and I pounced upon the poor chap in the City journalism department. The reasons for this interview were three fold: to get some tips from him, to practice my interviewing technique, and to get to grips with editing and embedding a sound file in this blog.

You may find this hard to believe once you’ve listened to the interview,  but I was actually trying to be less bumbly than usual. The difference in the pace and clarity of our two voices provides at least I hope a stark tutorial on how to and how not to do it. Steve hadn’t prepared any of his answers but still managed to achieve a clear, calm delivery.

Have a listen to the master…

The main thing I learnt from this was to prepare written questions beforehand and STICK TO THEM. Obviously this is always quite a good rule of thumb but matters even more here, where a bit more structure to my questions would have vastly improved this impromptu interview. And of course editing questions out is always an option- Steve was such a pro that most of the time he automatically restated the question in his answer (most interviewees might need to be asked to do this). For this to work I would have had to resist umming in agreement with his answers. Again, weirdly easier said than done.

To record the interview I used my Olympus VN-8700PC Dictaphone and then used Adobe Audition to edit it slightly (that’s right, there was even more bumble in there to start with). I then converted the file from a Windows Media Audio file to an MP3 using Switch Sound File Converter downloaded from the internet. Then I converted this to a SoundCloud which could be embedded in this blog.

I struggled particularly with Adobe Audition and couldn’t find any simple tutorials online to help me out. Does anyone know of any?

Stay tuned for my guide to using these programmes… once I’ve properly got to grips with them myself of course…

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Filed under Equipment, Interviews, Radio

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