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Interviewing tips for your podcast | PodSchool Podcast

How to get the best out of your podcast guests

There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re interviewing people on your podcast so how do you make sure they leave thinking “I’m so glad I did that” instead of “I never want to see that person again!”

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Be prepared

Make sure you go into every interview having done as much research about your guest as possible.  Also make sure you have a plan of where you want to go, a list of questions in front of you and an idea of how you’re going to wrap up.  

You can still chuck your plan out the window if better stuff comes up but being fully prepared can be the difference between a good and bad interview and this is why…

It helps you feel in control

When you’re hosting a podcast you need to be two steps ahead of your audience if you want them to feel like they’re in safe hands.  The only way to do that is to be prepared.

That doesn’t mean you need to script your episodes or over think them but if you go in and wing it you’re increasing your risk of disaster, especially in an interview.

Listening to someone work out where a conversation is going at the same time as you do is often awkward and socially uncomfortable and you definitely don’t want to make your audience feel that way.

You need to create an environment for your listeners where all they have to do is sit back, relax and consume your content, knowing you’ve got this.

It will put your guest at ease 

There’s nothing worse, as a guest than sitting across from someone who has zero idea of where they’re going.

If a guest has dedicated their time, story or knowledge to your show and it’s clear you’ve done no research, that’s a surefire way to get them offside.  Why? Because it’s completely disrespectful and shows zero appreciation for the time they’ve given to your show.

It’s also unprofessional and if you want to attract high-quality guests and be taken seriously you need to appreciate the importance of being prepared.

How to attract high-profile guests to your podcast

Read

You want your guest to find the experience as pain-free as possible and to do that, you need to have done the lion’s share of the work.  

You should be asking questions that are easy to answer (by ‘easy’ I mean your guest should be able to answer quickly without thinking “what the heck is this person asking me?”) and the way to do that is by being prepared.

It will give you more confidence

Nothing makes you feel more at ease as an interviewer than knowing your stuff.  

If you’re sitting across from somebody thinking “I’ve done my research, I know all about you, I could interview you for five hours if I wanted to” you’re going to feel much more relaxed leading that conversation and you’ll also be much more present.

It allows you to be in the moment 

If you’ve prepared a road map of questions and you know where you want to go that security blanket allows you to focus on the conversation, rather than where you’re going next.  

You need to be listening to your guest so you can follow them down any interesting rabbit holes but you won’t be able to do that if you’re constantly thinking “oh my god, oh my god, where do I go now?”

It will improve the experience for your audience 

 

People often say to me “I don’t want to go into an interview with a plan, I just want to feel where the conversation goes.”  

That’s great if you’re sitting at a pub with someone having drinks for the afternoon but not if you’re presenting a show.  You need to remember who you’re doing this for…your audience.  

Having a structure doesn’t mean something’s not entertaining, it just means it’ll be easier to listen to.

Don’t overwrite your questions 

The most important thing when you’re interviewing someone is to listen and be present but if you’ve written out your questions word for word that will be almost impossible.

A good interview will have you swept up in the moment and if you have to stop down to read an essay every time you want to ask a question you won’t be able to get a good flow in hte conversation. 

When I go into an interview I go in with bullet points on a page with a lot of space in between each point and typed in a gigantic font.  I also bold just one key word in the short bullet point so when I look down I can see at a glance what I want to ask next.

The good thing about having trigger words instead of full sentences on the page is that if you’ve done your research you’ll know what that word refers to and you can ask the question without having to read it. 

If you have thousands in front of you you’ll never find where you are and that will increase the panic and impact the chemistry between you and your guest.  

My other tip is to cross each question off as you go so when you look down at your page you can immediately see where you’re up to.

Be prepared to throw your questions out if you need to 

The great thing about being prepared and having a security blanket of questions is you can throw them out if something unexpected happens in the interview.

There’s no greater feeling than getting to the end of a chat with a guest and realising you barely used any of your questions because you were so in the moment.

Listen 

This is the single most important thing you can do in an interview because often the best questions come out of answers.

You have to remember you’re a proxy for your listeners so you need to ask the questions they’d want to if they were there.  

Being prepared allows you the flexibility to be in the moment but listening means you’re open to unpredictable moments of real magic.

It will also help your guest feel more confident in the stories they’re telling because nothing makes someone feel like a shit-hot story teller like seeing another person is engaged in what they’re saying.

Don’t be nervous

This is easier said than done especially if you’re sitting across from somebody you really admire but nothing makes a guest more uncomfortable than the person who’s supposed to be in control being terrified…or staring at them like a school girl with a crush.

You need to do whatever you can to make it appear you’re in control…even if you’re crapping yourself.

Your guest has to feel like they’re in the hands of someone who is going to lead them through the conversation confidently.

It’s also really awkward for your listener to hear you nervously trembling your way through a chat.  

You have to realise for your audience YOU are the star and if a guest you admire has agreed to come on your show that means they see the merit in you and your content.

So if your audience and your guest sees the value in you, it’s important that you do to.

Conduct a pre-interview

This is basically a chat before the interview and it allows you to find the aspects of the conversation you’d like to focus on rather than wasting time in the real interview.

Read more about pre-interviews here…

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

Read

Wear headphones

This is important for both you and your guest because you need to be across everything that’s being recorded and they need to be able to tell if they’re on mic or not.

If you’re listening to the recording you’ll be able to hear if there’s any background noise that might be distracting.  If there is you can move to a quieter space rather than discovering the noise when you’re at the stage of editing. 

Why you need to wear headphones

Read

You really don’t want to be ringing up guests saying “Um, thanks so much for your time but could we do the interview again because I didn’t realise (insert giant audio problem here).”

Wearing headphones will also help your guest because they’ll be able to hear if they’re on mic or not.  

It’s always better for them to self-regulate than for you to have to annoy them every five minutes to say “ahhh, could you just come closer to the microphone?”

What a buzz kill!

Aaaaaand, that’s it!  Those are my tips for getting the best out of your interview subject.

Hopefully, this will help you to get a better result so each interview is a great experience for you, your guest and your audience. 

Got a burning question you’d like answered on the podcast? Send me an email.

Need some help getting started or setting up your home studio?  Download my free podcasting guide.

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

[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the show. Today I'm going to be talking about interviewing. This is something that can go real wrong real quick if you do not do it correctly. As somebody who has conducted thousands of interviews over the years I've had some that were spectacular, some that were not so great and I'm taking all of the little bits and bobs that I have learnt from all of those experiences and distilling them down into a few solid tips, that should hopefully make sure that when you and your subject leave the interview you're both thinking "That was awesome! I'm so glad I did that" and not "I never wanna see that human being again." Sometimes it's a fine line between those two options. Here are some things that you can think about that will help you make it a positive experience not only for you and your guest but also for your audience. One of the most important things is that you must be over prepared. I would suggest it is always better to be overprepared and have a whole bunch of things rather than be running out of questions. There are a number of reasons why being prepared is really important. The first is that you have to be in control not only for your audience but also for your guest. Your audience need to know where this chat is going. There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end.

[00:01:25] I know a lot of people say to me from time to time, "I just want to sit down and feel where the vibe goes, see where we meander." But the problem is that nobody tunes into a podcast to listen to your meandering conversation. That would be fantastic over a coffee or a few hours spent together in the pub but not great for a show. That is the difference between something being a show and something being a pub conversation and you want to make sure that this is a sparkly, produced, professional show and that means being control and knowing where you're going and to do that you have to have a plan. The other reason (apart from making sure your audience feels like they're in safe hands) is that your guest needs to feel like they're in safe hands as well. There is nothing worse than sitting across from someone in an interview and them having zero idea where it's going. If you sit across from someone and you have dedicated your time and your resources and your knowledge to their show and they basically haven't done any research about you, they don't know that much, they're just going to see where the wind takes them. It's a very quick way to get your guest offside because they'll just feel like it's not a professional experience and it's important you make sure they feel that way.

[00:02:41] If they sit down and you've clearly done your research they're going to feel much more comfortable and much happier opening up and giving you the content that will make your show better. So putting in that extra effort is so important.

[00:02:58] It will also help to boost your confidence. If you are sitting in an interview with somebody and you're thinking "I've got this. I know all about you. I know where we're going. I've got all my research. We could talk for five hours if we wanted to". Then you're going to feel so comfortable and confident leading that conversation. You're also going to be so much more able to be present in the moment and that is so important in an interview. You have to be able to look your guests in the eye, listen to what they say and really concentrate on that, so that you can pick up any of those unexpected gems that they drop. As the conversation's rolling through there are things that are going to happen in the moment that you could never have predicted. So you want to make sure that you are there listening intently and the only way to do that is to be prepared.

[00:04:02] So make sure that you're prepared and have heaps of questions so you've always got too much content and then you can self edit on the fly. You can work out what you don't really need to dip into or what you've already covered and cross those off as you go. Being prepared will set you up so well in your chat with somebody.

[00:04:21] There is a bit of an asterix to this however. While being overprepared is great, don't translate that into how you write your questions. For some people I see them go into interviews with a long ream of sentences written out. In the moment when you're talking to somebody if you're genuinely going to be present with them you don't want a script sitting in front of you because when you're in the moment looking down and seeing 700 words on a page it's going to be pretty daunting. You're not going to know where you are it's easier to lose your place and your questions are going to feel read.

[00:05:07] When I go into an interview I always go in with bullet points at an absolute maximum and in those bullet points I've either highlighted with a highlighter or bolded on my word document words that are trigger words so that when I look down all I see is one bold word or one highlighted word and that triggers me to what the question is. And so I can ask that naturally in the moment.

[00:05:31] This is where your preparation will come in really handy. If you have prepared then one word will be all you need to know what the question is in your head and to conversationally say it to your guest without reading it off a script. If you need a sentence there to jog your memory that's totally fine. But just don't go in there with thousands of words on a page because you'll never be able to work out where the heck you are and you will have your head so stuck in your script and not in the moment with your guest which is so important if you want to get the best out of them.

[00:06:02] The other tip I would say is to cross your questions out as you go so that when you get to the next question when you glance down you'll immediately see where you are in the list of questions. And remember that you are recording something that will be edited later. So if you have to pause or you forget a question or you do get lost it's totally okay in the moment to stop down, say that to your guest and calmly start the question again or calmly move to the next question. The last thing you want to do is try to fill the silence all the time because it'll give you a nervous energy that will make your guest nervous.

[00:06:50] If you have a bit of silence finding your next question it can be cut out in the edit your audience will never even know it happened and you'll be much more relaxed with your guest.

[00:07:20] Now even though you have a map with your questions it's important you don't get too stuck to it. If your guest says something and it's amazing and you never thought that they would say it and you didn't plan for it you want to go down that rabbit hole with them. You want to be the proxy for your listener. You are asking the questions they would ask if they were sitting here and if you are stuck to your roadmap so solidly that when they say something amazing you think oh well I've just got to move on to the next question and you gloss over it. Your audience will be screaming at their ear buds thinking "Why didn't you ask about that thing?" and when you actually go back and edit the interview you'll be screaming it yourself to thinking "How could I miss that?"

[00:08:09] You have to be in the moment and be able to listen to your guests so that you can go where they want to go if there's something really interesting, and you can always come back to that roadmap later so don't get too wedded to the plan that you have.

O ne of the most important things to do in an interview? Listen. Sometimes the best questions will come from answers but the only way to catch those moments is to be listening intently.

[00:09:33] Another tip? Don't be nervous. This is easier said than done because sometimes you might be sitting across from somebody that you really admire but you need to do whatever is necessary to not feel that way. So feel it underneath but don't make it visual to your guest. Sometimes the best way to do this is to overprepare. If you feel really prepared and confident then you will be much less nervous in the moment. You can still have all of those jitters and all of the starry eyes but it's really important that your guest feels like they're sitting across from somebody who has got this shit down, who is in control, and who is going to lead them along the path and be super confident and super on point and that they don't have to worry about anything. If you are like a nervous schoolgirl, who is sitting across from their crush, that is the most awkward weird awful energy to be on the other side of and it will make your guest feel icky and they will not give you their best. If they feel uncomfortable or like you are going to have a heart attack because you are so excited to be around them you can barely speak, they won't open up. They need to feel like they're sitting across from an equal.

[00:10:52] It's also really awkward for your listener to hear the sound of somebody, almost awkwardly flirting with someone they're really attracted to. Nobody wants to hear that. Plus this guest obviously sees value in you because they've agreed to come on your show. Your audience can see the value in you because they've subscribed and it's really important that you see the value in you too.

[00:11:38] The other thing I'd suggest is to do a pre interview. I have a full episode about this which you can find at podschoolpodcast.com just type "pre-interview" into the search bar. This is basically a chat before the interview. Essentially it's just so that you can try and find the gems you want to focus on in the interview so that you're not meandering around for 20 minutes trying to find the gold. This will only of course be possible with certain guests because if you get somebody really big and really busy they might not have time to sit down for 15 minutes on the phone with you to do a pre interview.

[00:12:16] But if it is possible it can be really helpful not only to hone your questions and to hone your content, but to also make sure that the first time that you talk to them isn't in the actual interview. Any moments you can steal with them before the interview can just help you build a rapport so that when you sit down with them for the interview there's already a relationship there. That can help to get a little bit more out of your interview subjects.

[00:12:47] My final piece of advice is to wear headphones. This is so important for both you and your guest or your three guests or whoever is sitting with you. It's important for you because you need to be across everything that's being recorded, you need to be able to hear whether there's an air conditioner that's just buzzing like crazy in the background or if there's wind noise and you need to move to a quieter place. It is much better for you to make those decisions in the moment than for you to listen to the edit for the first time and think "Oh my goodness this audio is unusable." You then would have to ring up somebody and say "Oh gosh do you think we could do that again because I stuffed up?"

[00:13:51] With your guest if they are wearing headphones they are much more likely to be on microphone. If they have headphones on you can say to them "just make sure that you can hear yourself really clearly." If they can hear themselves, they can self regulate so that they can have better mic technique.

[00:14:42] That's it. There are my tips for getting the best out of your interview subject. If you are going to sit down with somebody in your show hopefully this will help you to get a better result at the end so that each of your interviews not only sounds great for your audience but is a great experience for your guests. If your guest loves the interview they are going to be much more likely to share it to their network.

[00:15:20] A big shout out if you have left a review in iTunes for the show. If you haven't already but you are finding these tips useful then please head to iTunes or wherever you listen to the podcast and pop a little rating and say "hi" and tell me your thoughts on the show. If you have question you would like answered please head to podschoolpodcast.com you can send me an email there. You can also get info on my online podcasting course, PodSchool, that takes you step by step through everything you need to actually be sitting across from somebody and doing an interview with them. Thanks so much for joining me. I will see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

 

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