It can be challenging to capture great audio for your climate interviews—I'm not a professional sound engineer and I've managed to make many mistakes over the years. I hope that sharing my errors helps you avoid these mistakes and make great audio recordings!
Mistake 1: Recording in a noisy room
Admittedly, this one can be a bit hard to control: You've set up an interview only to discover what you thought would be a quiet coffee shop is much louder than you expected. Or you're recording as part of a school workshop and many other interviews are going on at the same time. If possible, try to find a quiet area to record which will not have too many distractions.
Mistake 2: No microphone windscreen for outdoor interviews
I've had a decent number of interviews ruined from outdoor wind noise. It's super important to use a microphone windscreen for any outdoor recordings, or even a tiny breeze will sound like a roaring gale. There are tons of different windscreen models available, even for smartphones—you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good one!
Mistake 2: Having the microphone too far away from the interviewee
Depending on the type of mic you're using the distance will vary, but generally it’s better to be too close rather than too far away. A mic placed too far away will have more background noise which can decrease the quality of your recording. Unless the recording gets distorted (see next mistake), it's better to place the mic close.
Mistake 3: Setting the recording levels too soft or too loud
Most portable recorders have a recording meter which shows the level of sound being recorded. On the far left of the meter is usually a negative number such as "-48" and to the far right of the meter is "0". Your recording level meter uses "0" to mark the point where the sound will be distorted, so you don't want to get too close to this point. But you also don't want to be too far below "-12." Set the recording level so that the signal hovers around "-12" when the interviewee is speaking at normal volume—it might take some experimentation to find a good setting.
Mistake 4: Not doing a test recording
You may think everything is good to go with your room setup, mic placement, and mic levels, but it's a very good idea to do a short test recording just to be sure. I've not done this and then found later that there was a problem that could have been quickly resolved. Record the speaker introducing themselves for 10 seconds, and then listen back using headphones, making changes as needed before the full interview starts.
Mistake 5: Not wearing headphones during a Skype interview
I recorded a few interviews over Skype which had a weird echo. What happened was that the computer recorded the speaker's voice directly and also recorded their voice coming out of my computer speakers. These two were slightly out of sync, causing the echo on the recording. Wear headphones so you don't have this problem.
Mistake 6: Saying things like "right" or "exactly" while the interviewee is speaking
It might be a bit unnatural to not verbally acknowledge what the speaker is saying, but you'll have a cleaner recording and less editing challenges if you let the interviewee speak without you speaking at the same time.
There are other mistakes I've made but this is a good place to leave it for now! Hope this helps and happy interviewing!