The 5by5 Ruby on Rails podcast has been around since July 11, 2005. This is an impressive start date since it beats podcasts dominating the current media landscape by more than a decade. The host position has been through a few hands and I’m lucky to call myself the host for over sixty episodes. The podcast is backed by the 5by5 Network, the broadcast network for geeks, designers, developers, and entrepreneurs. They supply the publishing platform and advertiser connections. The content, publishing schedule, guest selection, editing, show note creation and intro/outro themes are entirely my responsibility.
As I’ve been stepping through the podcast recording setup with guests, I’ve started getting compliments for the experience my guests have had. As someone who consumes a lot of podcasts, I’ve borrowed some advice from many to tackle the question, “how would I want to be treated as a guest?”.
These are my tips for how I try to create the a positive experience for my guests, knowing that a lot are recording their first podcast.
When I first approach a potential guest, I explain who I am, what the 5by5 Ruby on Rails podcast is (never assume) and why I think that they would be a great guest. I used to try to offer some recording times but I recently have switched to Calendly. It has been a game changer to choose ongoing recording slots in my schedule and to skip calculating timezones. I include podcast FAQs in my confirmation template.
I inherited Cast as the go-to tool for the Ruby on Rails podcast. Cast is a great online system for making and publishing high-quality podcasts. It’s a true one-stop shop. It offers recording, editing, mixing, hosting and publishing. Since 5by5 handles publishing, I utilize Cast for both recording and editing episodes. The Scheduler functionality will email both me and the guest 30 minutes prior to recording with a link to the studio.
Roughly a week before I record with a guest, I compile a list of questions that I intend on asking them. I will seek out their bio, include the sponsor read and the outro from the episode. I send the Google Doc over to the guest, with the ability for them to edit it to include a bio if I do not have one or to change the verbage on any of the questions. This has been my #1 tactic for encouraging new voices on to the show since I always promise to send my questions ahead of time.
Before the Podcast
Before I hit the Record button, I always check the guests’s audio for background noise and potential latency. I have them do the same for me. Audio quality has not always been a strong suit for me so I purchased a Blue Yeti USB Microphone to increase my sound quality.
The listeners are excited to hear from them! When I ask a question, I will always make sure the guest can offer a complete answer before I reply. It might lead to a slight pause to be edited out but this protects the guest from being interrupted. It can be hard to follow this rule; my guests make a lot of fascinating points.
I will often go on mute to adjust settings, make notations for the show notes, review the timing for a sponsor read or re-arrange questions for flow. Guests are welcome to mute during the intro and sponsor reads.
Editor for the win. If they are not happy with how they sounded on a response, I encourage them to take a brief pause and start over again. Believe me, I take the same luxury regularly. Don’t ever hesitate to interrupt the host with an audio or technical issue. It be the difference between a published or lost episode.
Always silence any electronics around you and keep your headphones in so my voice does not record on to their track. You only have to spend a few hours scrubbing your voice out before you carry that lesson with you forever. If you are recording with more than one guest (a rarity for me, but it happens), each guest should be at their own computer with their own microphone/headphone setup.
During the Podcast
How awkward is it when a podcast starts and the guest is put right on the spot with having to sell why they are there? I always read the guest’s biography at the top of the episode so I can weave in why I’m personally excited to speak with them. It puts the guest at ease because you are already two minutes into a live recording and they can ease into contributing.
My first question to my guest is always what their origin story is. It’s a great question because they can lie, be wrong or exaggerate the truth and we, the listening audience, would have no idea. If often leads to a few laughs and interesting callbacks I can turn to for the rest of the show.
After the Podcast
Once the show comes to a natural conclusion, after I ask them for their take on our community and how listeners can follow them, I thank them on the recording for their appearance.
After the recording has halted but I’m still on the line with guest, I thank them again and bring up a highlight from the show. Consulting my show notes, I check to see if I need them to send me any followup links. If I have everything, I give them an intended publish date, promising them an email and a tweet when the episode is live.
Treating my guests well is a top priority for me as a podcast host. This process has gone through many iterations and I expect it to continue to evolve. If you have additional tips for me, please reach out https://brittanymartin.dev/ or tweet to me. Of course, you can catch new episodes of the 5by5 Ruby on Rails podcast here.
Many thanks to the support I receive from the 5by5 Network and the hosts that have come before me.