Podcast interviewing is an art, no matter what side of the microphone you’re on. While I’m no expert when it comes to interviewing, I have learned a lot on my 2 year journey as the host of the Next Generation Catalyst Podcast. Here are a few of my best tips for becoming a strong podcast interviewer.
1) Scout Selectively
Great interviews require great interviewees. Don’t settle for lackluster guests. Consider the speakers you see at a conference that possess ripe knowledge and palpable passion. Reach out to authors or bloggers who have influential ideas surrounding your podcast topic. Be intentional with your scouting.
Once you’ve identified a sharp guest to interview, ask humbly but boldly for the interview. (My preferred medium to ask for an interview is Twitter.)
Having a platform (like a podcast) makes it easy to connect with thought leaders because they have something to share and you have a platform to help them share it. Leverage your platform to land the interview.
2) Determine Direction
Ask yourself, “What specific expertise does this guest possess that can uniquely benefit my audience?” This question will help you determine the direction of the interview.
Establishing the direction of an interview will serve as an anchor and will prevent you from drifting into irrelevant and insignificant territories. It’s okay to drift a bit (many times the audience will enjoy the unscripted moment) because the tug of the anchor will help you get back on track focusing on the relevant content that will best serve your listeners.
I would also recommend communicating the direction to your audience. Stating, “Today’s podcast is focused on how to effectively sell to Millennials.” will provide clear direction in the mind of your audience. Informing your audience of when you transition to a new subject or subtopic is also important to keep clarity in the audiences’ minds.
3) Prepare Professionally
Cyber stalk your interviewee. Google them, check their social platforms, watch their YouTube videos, and visit their website(s) to gain a firm understanding of who they are, their past experiences, and their ares of expertise. Craft questions that will evoke the expertise of your interviewee. Build a flow to your questions where one leads into the next and each question builds on the next.
Add notes to each question. Notes that can help clarify the question (should the interviewee need it), notes that list a few examples (that you discovered while cyber stalking) that the interviewee can share, and notes of examples or insights that you can share based on the question.
The last step to consider in the preparation phase, is whether or not you’d like to prep the interviewee ahead of time with the prepared questions. Either way, I think there is a benefit. Sharing the questions ahead of time allows the interviewee to prep answers that are concise and full of value. Not sharing the questions, can allow for a more conversational dialogue.
I’m always confident the interviewee will be able to provide thoughtful answers to my questions because I cater the questions to the interviewee’s expertise. I only share the questions if the interviewee asks for them in advance.
4) Engage Enthusiastically
Upon first speaking with your interviewee and before hitting record on the interview, allow them to hear and feel your enthusiasm about the interview. Express gratitude for their time and insights. Then relay on your preparation to establish common ground with the interviewee. This will build trust and likability that will carry through the interview. My best interviews started with a short enthusiastic conversation about best breweries to visit, mutual connections, favorite books, or restaurant recommendations.
Put the interviewee at ease by enthusiastically sharing the direction of the interview, logistics (format, how long, live or edit later, etc.) and your confidence that their insights will add value to the audience.
It’s also helpful to provide the interviewee with information about your podcast listeners. A firm understanding of the audience will allow the interviewee to cater their responses to better suit the needs of the audience.
5) Focus Fiercely
If an interviewer isn’t present or engaged, how can they expect their audience to be engaged? Remaining focused and present during an interview requires a high level of art and practice. Our natural tendency is to think about our next question or wonder if the technology is working right instead of listening to our interviewees response.
An interviewer who isn’t focused can’t add to the conversation and instead defaults to robotically reading the questions. This creates a superficial environment that won’t draw the best energy or answers from your interviewee.
Having prepared well in advanced (a list of questions with your notes) will allow you to focus on the interviewees response and be present during the interview. It will free you to add a bit of commentary, ask clarifying questions, and expound on answers that can help to engage the audience and bring more energy to the interview.
6) Mute Mostly
It’s painful to witness an interviewer who spends most of the time talking. Interviewers ramble because they haven’t prepared well. They lack direction and questions which results in nervous rambling.
Successful interviewers are comfortable with silence. Most folks crumble under the uneasiness of the silence that hangs between a question and an answer. Rather than waiting for the response they continue to fill the air with meaningless (and sometimes confusing) words until the interviewee has to interrupt just to answer your question.
An appropriate time to share your insights is after your interviewee shares their complete response to your question. Sharing your reaction or thoughts to their response can also help the interview feel more conversational which is often more enjoyable for listeners. Build on what they shared and you might be surprised how much more your interviewee has to share after you expound.
7) Recap Routinely
I don’t do this very well but I think it’s powerful. Recap what your interviewee shares. This is a great way to reinforce powerful points and to create helpful sound bites for your listeners. To recap successfully, the interviewer must be present and focused.
You could also provide a recap at the end of your interview or record it as part of your conclusion. Recapping will also help you to connect your thoughts and identify what you learned from the interview.
Question: Who are some of your favorite podcast interviewers? And why?