Should you conduct a pre-interview with your podcast guest?



Should you conduct a pre-interview? | PodSchool Podcast

How to get the best out of your podcast guest….

Thanks to @HeadOvaryHeels for this week’s question: “What are your thoughts on pre-interviewing your podcast guest before the recorded interview?”

Conducting a pre-interview might seem like a pain in the butt when you’ve already got so much to do for each episode BUT it can really help you get the most out of your podcast guest.

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So, why should you do a pre-interview?

To avoid wasting time in the actual interview

If you spend time on the pre-interview working out the areas you should focus on to get the best stories/advice/content from your guest you’ll avoid wasting time when you’re recording.

It helps you build rapport with your guest

Sitting across from someone for the first time and diving straight into the interrogation isn’t the best way to get a good interview.  The more time you have to get to know each other, understand what your guest is interested in and build trust, the better the final chat will be.

You can ask them if there’s anything they’d like to focus on

This is an often overlooked question but they might bring some gold that you hadn’t thought of or that you missed in your research.

You can set expectations

Your guest will always feel more at ease if they know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you e.g. How are you going to conduct the interview?  Who’s your audience? What would you like them to bring to the table? What’s the structure of the chat? The more information you can give them, the better.

You can find out if they’re a good interview subject

Not everyone is a great talker and since all you have is audio, if they can’t have a conversation it’s probably not worth having them on.  It’s better to find this out on the phone rather than when you’re sitting there ready to press record.

You can establish their boundaries

This is particularly important if you’re conducting a sensitive interview.  It’s a good idea to ask your guest if there are any topics they’d prefer not to discuss.  It’s much better to get this out of the way on the phone than in the interview.

You can get the pronounciation of their name right

Before you’ve pissed them off by saying it wrong 700 times in the interview.

How can you conduct a pre-interview?

Over the phone

If this is possible, it will always be the best way to establish rapport with your guest and get through as much information as possible.

Pre-interview survey

If you’re interviewing a lot of people and you know there are certain areas you’re always going to cover a survey can be a great way to go.  Just make sure the answers can be given quickly because no one wants to be asked to write War and Peace.

Things to remember if you’re conducting a pre-interview

Don’t do the interview in the pre-interview

You want to get a sense of the best questions to ask, or where you might want to target your questions to get the best stories, you don’t want your guest to have to repeat themselves.

Don’t fake it

If you hear stories that provide a good reaction then don’t fake it when you’re recording, just adjust your questions so they reflect the fact you know where the story is going.  This will make it easier for your guest to tell the story and easier for you to play along naturally without having to throw in the “OMG I don’t believe it!”

As the interviewer you’re allowed to know where the conversation is going, it’s your listeners who should be learning things for the first time.

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Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the show. Today's episode is inspired by a question that was sent to me on Twitter. If you have any questions about podcasting that you would like me to answer on this show I would love to hear from you and you can always send me an email at PodSchoolPodcast.com or alternatively hit me up @RachelCorbett on Twitter.

[00:00:20] Somebody who did just that is @headovaryheels. I am assuming that is a she because of the ovary and the title. She tweeted me "Just listened to PodSchool and loved it and you asked for questions. What are your thoughts on pre-interview before the recorded interview.

[00:00:38] Great question. My thoughts are...it's a great idea if you can actually do it. Some of the reasons you might not be able to is if you can't get extra time with your guest. That depends on who you are interviewing. If you were interviewing somebody that's super busy and you've just managed to get 20 minutes or 30 minutes with them and it's an absolute blessing you got it then it's pretty difficult to ask for more time. However you could always ask for more time if they have an assistant (maybe you can just talk to them). The other idea is if you couldn't get time with them that maybe you could send or prepare a pre interview survey.

[00:01:25] This could be quite helpful because you might not have time to actually sit down and pre interview everybody that you talk to so you could put together a few questions that will help you hone your interview questions and send them an email. Please make sure you're not asking them to write War and Peace. Nothing would turn someone off like looking at an email and thinking "Oh my word this is going to take me an hour to finish. If you can just do a survey maybe that gives options A B C and D. That's a possibility as well. But your best option will always be to have a chat with somebody just for 10 or 15 minutes.

[00:02:06] So why would you bother doing this if you're gonna sit down with somebody and chat with them anyway? Why are you doing it twice? Well the truth is you're not doing it twice. You're only going to do the actual interview once and that's really important to remember. You don't want to do the full interview in the pre interview. The preinterview is really just about a few things.

[00:02:26] The first is building rapport with your guest. It's very difficult to sit down opposite somebody cold, if you've never seen them or spoken to them before, and get the best out of them. If you can possibly have a bit of time just have a conversation so they can find out a bit more about you. They can get the style of what your conversations like, you can touch base with them and have a bit of a chat so that when you sit down with them in the interview it's not the first time you've ever laid eyes on each other. That'll really help you.

[00:02:56] The other thing is that you want it to help you hone your questions. You don't want to be in a situation where you've booked 20 minutes with somebody and it takes you 18 minutes to get to the killer story that you think "God I wish I'd started with that!" You want to get a sense of the most meaty areas of that person's expertise or their story so that you can better hone your questions to make sure that you focus on those things.

[00:03:21] It will also help you work out whether they are good talent. Sometimes they might have written a great book that you love dearly and that has given you a whole heap of information that you will never be able to live without. But when you talk to them on the phone they are boring. And if that is the case sometimes you have to just let them go. Having a pre interview with somebody and a chat will give you a sense of their energy and that is really important when you're on a podcast. Sometimes you're going to come across some real duds and if you have a preinterview with somebody even before you've booked in time to actually do the interview that can be quite good to work out whether or not that person is going to be right for your show.

[00:04:17] You can also find out how to pronounce their name correctly so that you don't get 25 minutes through the interview, say goodbye and they sau "actually that's not how you say my name.

[00:04:45] The preinterview is about building rapport and stopping you from wasting time in the actual interview. If it's not possible it's not the end of the world. It's just something additional that can be useful to help you get the best out of your interview subjects.

[00:05:09] Some things to be mindful of when you are doing a pre interview... As I said before do not do the whole interview in the pre interview. You just want to get an essence of the best areas to mine or the things that your guest is most passionate about so you can target your questions towards those things. You definitely want to be having a natural conversation when you're sitting down with that person for the full interview and that means not faking the laughs and the surprise at things you've already heard before.

[00:05:41] If you do hear stories that are pretty amazing you want those reactions to be really natural and it's important that you don't pretend you haven't heard them when you're doing the interview. For example if you start talking about skydiving and your guest tells you they had a near death experience except for the fact that they fell into a tree and were saved. And it's an amazing thrilling phenomenal story. You don't want to get into the main interview and say "So, have you ever been skydiving??" and then acting along like you're hearing the story for the first time if you've heard it. It's okay for you to hear it. You're the person that's leading your guest. And it's really your audience that you want to be hearing things for the first time. Of course you want to be surprised in the moment as well but if you know things that's fine because you're the person in control. So instead of asking "Have you ever been skydiving?" you could ask something like "So you went skydiving and if it wasn't for a well-placed tree you might have died?" or something along those lines. Essentially you are signalling to the listener and to the person who's telling the story "I know where this is going but I know it's a great story and I want you to tell it anyway." Your audience will be really amazed and you will actually have natural reactions because when you ask the question that way the person who is telling the story will tell it in a way that still gets natural reactions out of you.

[00:07:08] If you can't do a pre interview before somebody walks into your podcast studio or into your lounge room or wherever you record then just make sure you've got five or ten minutes to sit down and have a chat with that person before you actually start the interview. You don't want to go into your first question completely cold. You want a bit of time to have that sort of social lubrication that will let you feel each other out for a bit and let them know you are someone to be trusted. You also want to set the expectation for them as well - let them know what's going to happen in the interview, let them know how it's going to play out so that they feel comfortable and confident, let them know who your audience is and who they're speaking to so they understand if they have to adjust their messaging at all. Let them know as much as you possibly can so that they know they're in safe hands and they know exactly what's expected of them and what they can expect from you.

[00:08:31] So those are some of the reasons why you would conduct a pre interview with your podcast guest.

[00:08:36] If you want to send in a question please do. You can do it via Twitter @RachelCorbett or via email at PodSchoolPodcast.com. If you head to that website you will also find links to my podcasting tech guide which will give you a list of all of the equipment that you need to set up a home studio. I've also got a link to my online podcasting course, PodSchool.com.au, which is a series of videos that takes you step by step through all of the aspects of podcasting.

[00:09:17] Thanks so much for joining me for this episode and I'll see you next week. Until then happy podcasting.

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