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How to record audio interviews

Hearing someone tell their story can be moving and powerful. Recording people talking is a skill, it takes practise to get the most out of your subjects. Here’s how to do it. 

Things you'll need

  • A quiet place to record
  • Someone willing to share their story
  • Audio recording equipment
1

Remove distracting background noise

It is important that listeners aren’t distracted by background noise. Ask interviewees to remove jangly jewellery and make sure all phones are turned off. Use a carpeted room for less echo. And remember that leather sofas squeak!

2

Relax your interviewees

The best conversations happen when people relax. Make surroundings calming with low lighting. Chat to your interviewees beforehand to make them feel comfortable. Start with easy-to-answer questions, before moving on to harder ones once the interviewee has their flow. You can always re-ask your early questions at the end if you don’t feel like they got it quite right the first time.

If you are planning that your recording will be a monologue rather than interview, you could ask your subject to include each of your questions in their answer. Record the whole thing and edit yourself out of the final piece.

3

Don't prepare too much

The best conversations happen when people listen to each other properly and respond naturally. So don’t prepare participants too much.

Include a few questions to expand the conversation if they’re stuck (such as ‘how did that make you feel?’). Reassure them at the start that it is ok to laugh, cry or interrupt.

4

Make sure your interviewee is ready

If someone’s gone through a difficult experience, you should only involve them if they’ve had time to process it and it won’t upset them. Trust your instincts.

5

End strong

Use your final question to get a strong ending. They will have warmed up and generally perform better by this stage.

You could also repeat any questions which didn’t work so well at the start. These can be edited so they appear in the right order. 

Further information

Inspired?

Listen to interviews and conversations to help you think about your style. Programmes such as The Listening Project and The Moth can be a great place to start.

See also How to use audio to bring your story to life for tips on styles and planning your audio.

There are lots of useful tips about making good audio in this BBC Academy section on recording audio.

Source

This how-to is based on a blog post written by Jude Habib of sounddelivery for Tennyson Insurance now Zurich Insurance.

 

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Page last edited Nov 26, 2015 History

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