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Successful Interviews

Tips for a successful podcast interview

By Jeff BonanoPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 15 min read
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Your hard work has finally paid off, and your podcast has its first interview with someone other than a close friend willing to fill in some vacant time. While your friend was a great conversation starter, you knew it was only the beginning. They helped get you traction on your show and a little experience of what it's like to have a guest on it. But now comes the real test of having an expert on your podcast.

You might even feel starstruck a bit because this expert might be someone whom you idolize or admire for what experience they have to share. The idea that you can get them on an episode makes your show feel even more legitimate, and who knows where this can take you, right?

The more you think about it, the more you might get nervous. Do you start asking yourself if you should keep the entire process casual? This person is an expert in their field, though, and maybe they have expectations. Perhaps they expect to be involved in a "professional" production in a full-blown recording studio. Could it be that if you don't invite them over with an all-expense paid trip to your living room or bedroom closet, it could leave a bitter taste in their mouth?

The thoughts start coming in, and maybe you start doubting yourself and your ability to make this work. Then what makes matters worse, you never hear back from them. You planned to do the interview this weekend while the roommate was away, and you got ghosted. Or maybe things don't pan out, and you reschedule for a better time.

Finally, the interview happens, and you struggle to keep the conversation going for more than fifteen minutes. While it was nice, you didn't have enough to fill your thirty or sixty-minute traditional show time. So you labeled it as a bonus episode, leaving your experience unfulfilling. To make matters worse, you forgot to share that information with the person you interviewed until months later, and you never got that exposure you were hoping to have. You feel a bit unsure if you should try it again or ask your friend to come back on to the show, who in turn becomes a regular co-host after the fifth time joining you. Eventually, your listener base drops, and you suffer from what many in the industry call “Podfading.”

It happens to more podcast enthusiasts than you can imagine. And even the shows that have been able to land multiple interviews may not fully have their act together and leave their guests saying to themselves, "what just happened?" or, "I'm glad that was over!"

If this sounds familiar, you might enjoy these nine tips for a successful interview that your guests, listeners, and even yourself will enjoy.

Prepare your questions

Your guest will appreciate a heads-up on what will be discussed during your show. For many, it can be nerve-wracking to think they will be asked questions knowing there is a chance they could say the wrong thing, or worse, not have an answer. Giving them a list of questions you plan on asking them allows both of you to do some homework. There may also be some questions that your guest might feel are inappropriate to answer at this time, and allowing them to veto a question might score you some points for being a trustworthy host. It does not mean that you must stick to these questions, but any new questions you come up with shouldn't veer off too far from what you have already lined up.

You must respect off-the-record requests, including any conversation after the recording light has been turned off. If there are follow-up topics you have during this time, ask if they wouldn't mind you mentioning this as a side note or start thinking about a second interview!

By Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Thank them for their time

Time is the most precious thing for anyone, even more than money! When you are asking for an hour of their time to be interviewed, especially for free, it's essential that you show that you are thankful for the time they are willing to give you. They may be more than willing to do the interview and maybe are looking for ways to gain exposure for themselves or a cause, and it's still time they could have been doing something else. Thank them for their time on air and off, and at the beginning and end of the interview. You may also want to follow up with an email letting them know how grateful you were for their time. Being grateful will build a great relationship and may warrant them allowing you to take more of their time at a later date.

Give them a chance to promote themselves

Along the point of them doing this interview for free, you might as well make it even more worth wild for them. It would be best if you offered them the opportunity to promote themselves or their cause. Unless it's obvious that it wouldn't be appropriate, be sure to provide them with a moment or two for a self-promotional plug. At the very least, give them a spot at the end of your show to plug in their contact information or whatever they would like to promote (i.e., their book release, their podcast, or a website with more details of their expertise).

Sometimes your guest might be shy about this, so ask them if you can plug their info and what they would like to share before the show. Then be sure to do that for them if they don't. One caution here is that you should only release their approved contact information. Please do not assume that the email you use to communicate with them is the same email they want to share with the rest of the world. Always check with them first so that their personal information is not shared unwarrantedly.

Give them the royal treatment

When you go to a hotel, and the staff treats you like a King or Queen, do you feel more inclined to return to that place or give them great reviews? The same thing applies when it comes to being asked to be on your show. The more welcome they feel and the better they are treated, the better chance you have of them not only wanting to come back to your show or being a long-time listener themselves, but it also increases your chances of them telling their followers about your show. This means their followers join as someone who likes your show which can only help you get additional exposure. Don't burn your chance to treat your guest with royal treatment. It may be an extra load on your time, but the payout will be worth it. Even if your guest doesn't have many followers themselves, they will remember how you treated them, and later on, if they grow, they will remember you. Who knows, maybe they will return the favor later on!

Take the guesswork out of promoting

Providing the right kind of promotional information up front should be a great way to ensure you give the correct details on your show just in case your guest wants to promote the fact that you interviewed them. Before anything else is said, do not insist they have to promote your show, that is just bad practice and might create an awkward situation. Instead, approach it with compassion: "If you would like to tell your friends and followers that you were interviewed, here is some premade material to help you share it with the world!"

You want to allow them to bow out gracefully if they don't want to promote your show. When they have material already lined up thanks to you, it will most likely result in them still promoting it. So long as they don't have to spend hours on their computer trying to create the material themselves, you most likely will have a chance to get promoted by them.

It also means you need to have imagery, short blurbs about the show, and even web links to the show or email addresses included in a bundle. Your artwork should already be sized appropriately for all forms of social media, and the text should be as easy as just copy/pasting. They may also want to customize what is said, and that's ok; be grateful they say nice things about you. If they didn't, maybe go back to the part about giving them royal treatment.

By Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Keep the communication gates open

Before and after the interview, you should communicate with your guest. Before is essential for a few reasons. You ensure they have everything they need for the recording and that your guest knows what to expect from you. It builds trust and rapport with your guest so that the conversation won't feel as cold when they come on to the show. It is also helpful for keeping them energized and excited about coming on to your show. Lastly, it also reduces the chance of a last-minute no-show. Sending them a calendar invite helps, but it's super easy to mute that calendar or not look at it at all. If you check in from time to time, especially as the time gets closer to the interview, your guest won't forget. If either of you needs to reschedule, you'll also have a chance to catch that in advance in most cases.

When the show is over, it's also a good idea to keep in contact with your guest. Start with a thank you for coming on to the show. Follow it up with a link to the episode once it's released. This email should also include some images and text they can use if they decide to share the episode with their followers. Again, never insist that they share with their followers; consider it a kind gesture if they do. Then over time, check in every once in a while to say hi and keep that connection going. You never know when they might ask you if you'd like to be on their podcast or if you would like to bring them back on the show. Do you have a newsletter? Ask if you can add them to that!

Stay professional

It's one thing to come across as casual and easy to talk to; it's another to be unprofessional. Keeping things professional shows your guest that you take your show and those who come onto the show very seriously. Your podcast may be just chit-chat and a series of couch conversations about whatever comes to mind, or it might be an informative topic designed to entertain and inform. But no one will want to work with you again if you come across as unprofessional. Your reputation as an amateur host will eventually catch up to you, and you may struggle to keep an exciting cast of guests. Remember, when they talk on your show, they are passionate about the topic and want to do this for you. But if they don't feel comfortable and don't see your podcast as legitimate, that passion will fade, and you will begin to burn that bridge with them.

Another aspect of amateurism is not knowing how to control conversations without constantly interrupting them. A professional will not constantly interrupt the guest to get a word edgewise. Don't forget; that your guest is only on your show for a short period. Let them have the microphone for a good portion of the time and only speak when guiding the conversation with another question or supporting what they are saying. Most of your talking will take place at the beginning and end of the show.

Depending on how unprofessional you are, your guest may even leave the show early because their name or brand is on the line, and they don't want to tarnish what they have. In some cases, depending on how unprofessional you are, there's the chance that you could end up in legal trouble as well because of something you say or do. And trust me, you don't want that.

By Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Do your homework!

It looks even more unprofessional if you don't take a little time to research who your guest is, what their company is about, or facts about their work. Not only will having done your research impress them, but it will also make it easier to ask questions and keep the conversation going.

Even if your line of questioning includes simple questions like, "Tell us about yourself" or "Tell us about the work that you do." You, as the host, should already know the answers to this kind of question. The only ones whom the common answers will be a surprise for should be your listeners. This approach helps ensure you know where the conversation could be going, and for two, it makes it easier for you to ask follow-up questions that don't have obvious answers, or answers that maybe can't easily be found on their website.

The questions you send your guest ahead of time may include a combination of questions you already know the answer to and any questions you couldn't find the answers to when you did your research. Both types of questions can also include burning questions that you think your listeners might be asking, and any questions that you feel will support a fact you want to ensure are covered in the interview. Whatever type of questions you ask, make sure you go back to keeping it professional. Unless you intend to cause an excruciating environment for your guest (and maybe your listeners), try not to ask questions that will intentionally back them into the corner. You will surely not get them back for another interview if you do.

Respect their time!

This point is so important it's worth repeating. Time is precious. So be sure to respect any time your guest is willing to give you. Keeping things organized, responding to emails promptly, and, most importantly, starting and ending on time is of the utmost importance. If, after the recording stops, they want to chat a little longer, that's fine, but read the room and don't keep them from other engagements.

If you need them to join a little early to go over your plan, that's fine too, but make sure all technology is already operational, and all you have to do is press record. While it may be fun for some to see the magic happen behind the curtain, the feeling wears off relatively quickly if they need to sit and wait for fifteen minutes in silence while you figure out why your headset is only registering sound in one ear.

Of course, tying into the tip about thanking them for their time, there are many opportunities here to thank them for offering up their precious time. Showing several layers of respect towards them and their time will go a long way, and they may be willing to give you more time later if you ask for it.

By Jacob Hodgson on Unsplash

Bonus tip for live interviews!

Here's one more tip that is great for a fantastic experience for your listeners and guests. You may apply this tip to both live interviews or pre-recorded shows that are long and have the potential of listeners skipping ahead. Considering the information listed above, one way to help promote your guest throughout the interview and help those who maybe have jumped into the middle of the interview, try regularly pausing to announce and remind the audience whom you are interviewing. Here's an example:

You brought on Dr. Jane Doe, best selling author and expert on your show's topic of underwater hobbies. You know the interview is live on YouTube now and lasts about an hour. Every 15 minutes or so, pause your conversation and re-introduce your guest similar to this:

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you are just joining us, thank you! Today, we are interviewing Dr. Jane Doe, bestselling author, and expert in underwater basket weaving. If you haven't read her book, it's called "Underwater Basket Weaving and You," available right now on Amazon and we'll be sure to include a link to this book after the show. Now, Dr. Doe, we just finished talking about what kind of experience you need for underwater basket weaving, which I found really interesting by the way. And it leads me to my next question that I'd like to ask you now…."

Using an approach like this will not only give your guest an additional boost to them, but it also is a great way to transition from one question to another when there wouldn't be any other way to transition smoothly. Give it a try; it works very well and makes your show instantly sound even more professional and legitimate.

Interviewing a guest on your show can be either a great experience or a rough one. With all these tips, remember that the ultimate goal is creating a great show and producing correct information via a guest interview. Stick to the brand and feel of your podcast so that your listeners know what to expect, but make sure that your show's guest also has a great time. Follow these tips, do this right, and you will not only provide something unique to your listeners, but you may accumulate even more followers via your guest speaker.

Above all, have fun!

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About the Creator

Jeff Bonano

An audiobook narrator now writer! I have all these ideas in my head, now it's time to share them. As a way to say thank you to those who subscribe and pledge, If you give me permission, I'll find a way to add your name to any of my stories!

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