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Gilly Smith

The Long and Winding Road

How Humans Speak

Lockdown has been great for podcasting. It’s been good for podcasters too; people who have always wanted to find their voice but never quite got around to it have drilled down their ideas, fired up their recorders and found themselves interviewing their heroes all over the world.

And why not? We know that in the US there’s a ‘massive shift in the total share of all audio consumed at home’ ,according to Edison Research. And in the UK too, the rise in podcast listening is growing exponentially.

But these newbie podcasters haven’t just found themselves wandering around in the lush new pastures of Podcastland. They’ve picked up new skills with a microphone, nailed the Zoom interview and mastered the edit suite. And, with headphone hair the new normal, they’ve joined the rest of us in a mind blowing revelation…

People don’t talk in straight lines.

Epic tangents

Of course we know that people can go off on epic tangents when they’re telling a story, but it’s only in the edit when you realise how transparent the inner workings of the mind really are. Ask a question and the guest starts off at a trot before hauling on the reins and heading in a completely different direction. As they roll into an easy canter, suddenly woooah and they’re heading for the hills, you holding your notes in one hand and your cool in the other, and wondering just how you’re going to steer them home.

You’ll get there. And so will they. It’s how we humans roll.

But if time = money for most podcasters who edit their own, you’re going to need to record to time as much as possible, and the gentle art of interview control was the subject of my last post Taming the Stallion. ‘Giving the rein,’ though, is a horse-riding tip to anyone who wants to keep control while appearing to give it away. The trick is doing your prep. A garrulous guest will be so impressed by your knowledge that they’ll respect you and trust you to deliver the best content.

Interview done, the waveforms in your edit will reveal the huge great blobs that are every podcaster’s dilemma. The ‘errrrrrrm’s, the ‘ahhhhhhhhhm’s, the sound of the thought. And that’s pure gold on the one hand, and a hell of a jar on the ears on the other.

De-umming

‘Should I de-um and de-er my guests?’ is one of the most frequent questions posed in the online podcasters’ support groups, and the response is astonishingly varied. ‘I do about half’; ‘I think it’s really important for the listener’; ‘Nah, leave it. No-one cares.’ ‘NO’ I scream on occasion. ‘Why make people sound like robots? It’s not how people speak!’

The whir of a cog

But more than that, isn’t this a moment of humanity, the gentle ticking of the grey cells that suggest a departure from the script? I love a pause, the ‘you know’, the ‘sort of’, the sigh, the stutter. It means that my guest is really with me. They’re thinking aloud. I listen to the silence, the thought in motion, and know that it’ll be a good episode.

For more information on editing the silence, click to buy my book How to Start and Grow a Successful Podcast. Most of the full interviews from the book are available for free on How to Grow a Pod.


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