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How to Record a Phone Interview

Even though I said I was taking November off, I’m back again. A friend asked me about recording a phone interview and I wrote so much that I thought it would be a shame not to get a post out of it too.

The Phone Tree Option in Order of Sound Quality:

Best – Skype to Skype
Still good – Skype to regular phone (Skype Out) A lot of people use this if your interview subject can’t handle skype (doesn’t have the bandwidth, or the technical skill).
Last Option – Phone to Phone

For skype to skype or skype to skype out, use one computer for skype and another, or a digital recorder to record, do not skype and record on the same machine (yes, I know, lots of people do skype and record on one machine, remember that you’ve only listened to their successes, you haven’t heard the files that were lost or ruined). Another benefit of this method is that you get full studio sound on your side.

Ways to do phone to phone: like most tech stuff, the trade offs are that cheap and/or easy are at the expense of sound quality.

One thing to test is cell vs. land line. Cell can be clearer, but if reception is an issue go to land line.

Another important factor – headsets are best, handset next, Polycom conference phone is rough, speakerphones are terrible.

Cheapest and easiest: Many conference call services, such as the good folks of TelSpan can record your conference call (I am a customer of theirs). Give your subject the number, tell the service in advance that you want this one recorded, and download an mp3 when you are done. This is as low a quality can go, but it does work.

Next, if you already have recording gear, put the subject on a polycom and record the room. You get studio sound on one side and this method is a good compromise on price / sound quality. The setup we use for Marketing Over Coffee (this link goes to a page with the full gear listing) is great for that, it’s about $600 but is NPR quality sound and durability. You can go cheaper, but the question is: “How screwed would you be if you lost an interview?” for some it’s no big deal, for others it may be once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most expensive – a device that operates as a phone but pulls the caller into your mixer and pushes your mic back down the line. I don’t know many people that go this route since skyping out is cheaper and better sound quality. But, it should be noted that JK Audio has a full assortment of devices that do this (as well as some other devices that are great if you want to do your own webinars – again, I am a customer and vouch for them).

It will also depend on if you are doing it once or if it’s an ongoing project, for one time call in some favors, rent gear, or pay a pro. If it’s a regular thing, get some decent gear.

Another big tip – when you are done, run it through the Levelator, it’s a free software tool that balances out the volume levels.

Have fun, and Happy Thanksgiving!