Hosting a podcast interview is so much more than just sitting in front of a microphone and having a conversation.
Preparing for your podcast interview is essential, especially if you don’t want to disappoint your listeners with a boring podcast (which usually ends up with some bad reviews).
Or, it could turn your interview into a sales pitch, where your interviewee just sells, sells, sells (not great for ratings, either!).
The number one way to ensure you have an awesome interview? Prepare!
In this blog post, I’m going to offer a few tips to help you prepare for your next podcast interview.
Choose the right guest for your podcast interview
Choosing the right guest is essential to the success of your episode.
If you choose someone who isn’t much of a talker…well, you can imagine the problems that may arise. Or if you choose someone that isn’t right for your audience, it could go over your listeners’ heads or leave them uninterested.
One great tip I can give you is to try to find guests who are unique. Did they do things a little differently and experience amazing results? Have they overcome challenges to get where they are?
By finding guests that did things differently or defied odds, you’re almost guaranteed amazing content that will keep your listeners coming back for more.
Do some background research on your guest
Your job as a podcast host is to show your listeners who your interviewee is.
It would be pretty embarrassing to invite someone to be your guest and then not know anything about them once the interview begins.
You need to make sure you are familiar with their work — their blog posts, their social media, any videos they have, and other interviews they’ve done. If they have a book, read it!
Furthermore, listening to their past podcast interviews is a great way to learn more about your guests. You’ll be able to note generic questions they’re asked and find new angles that spur a great story!
Doing your research on your guest might be time-consuming, but it’s well worth it.
Learn how to handle different personality types
It’s crazy how different one person can be from the other. One guest may be a natural talker who needs little to no prompting, but the next guest could be someone who needs you to encourage them to open up.
There is one secret that seems to work for every personality: ask them about themselves.
People LOVE to talk about themselves. Once you strike a chord about something they’re passionate about or know a lot about, you’ll get some amazing stories!
If you find they need a little more encouraging to open up, be sure to keep prompting them with questions like:
- “How did you do that?”
- “Where did you learn to do that?”
- “How did it feel when you did this?”
Most of the time, you won’t know what kind of person you’re going to interview until you speak to them, which means you won’t have very much time to prepare. Being adaptable to different situations based on your guest’s personality is very important.
Eliminate all distractions
While you may not notice background noises, your listeners will. And it can be even more noticeable when you have two people recording in two different locations.
Here are some quick tips to follow before you start recording:
- Turn your phone on silent
- Alert everyone in the house not to disturb you
- Close the door to your recording room
- Cordon off your pets
- Close any windows
- Turn off any fans, air conditioners, or heaters
If you have a bustling home-life with little to no privacy, consider renting a room for your interview. Then, everything is in your control and you won’t have to be concerned about interruptions.
Send directions over to your guest beforehand, letting them know to limit distractions and background noises, too.
Prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask in advance
While you don’t need a script for your interview (it should be very conversational!), having a list of core questions to ask during your interview is very helpful. It may also prove helpful to create a secondary list of questions to ask if your time doesn’t run out.
On that note, those questions aren’t must-ask questions. They’re there to make sure the conversation keeps moving forward and doesn’t stall out. Don’t be afraid to follow the natural path of the conversation, and respond to your guest with genuine emotions and impromptu questions.
Here are a few ways you can make sure you’re asking quality questions:
Avoid asking basic questions
You should seem like you have an established relationship with your guest. Asking simple surface questions about them creates a disconnect between each party involved.
Don’t ask leading questions
Leading questions lead to poor answers and stalled conversations. Instead of saying “Was that an exciting experience?” ask “What was that experience like?”
Don’t ask yes/no questions
You want to make sure you’re asking questions that encourage stories to blossom! Asking yes/no questions leads to awkward short answers.
Ask one question at a time
Asking multiple questions at a time usually ends in confusion and repetition. You want the interview to feel like a natural conversation, so avoid asking more than one question at a time as you would otherwise.
Don’t refer to your list of questions
You aren’t reading a speech! Those questions are there to help any stalls in the conversation, and shouldn’t be heavily relied on. The hope is that you and your guest will have such an amazing conversation that the questions aren’t even needed.
Focus on “how” and “why” questions
You want stories, so asking “how” and “why” questions are the best kind to ask to get your guest to expand on their experiences.
Start from the beginning
Save the juicy questions for last! This helps build anticipation and gives your listener an incentive to listen to the interview the entire way through.
Consider each interview as a story, and your job as a narrator is to extract the story one question at a time. Staying linear is important for context and building up to that plot point.
Give your guests time to talk
It is so frustrating when someone talks over you or interrupts you, so don’t do that to your guest.
Not only will it annoy your guest, but it will also annoy your listeners.
It can be hard to not want to fill in the awkward gaps and pauses throughout your conversation but make a conscious effort to leave space for your guests to respond, and then give them a few seconds after they’ve finished speaking.
Any awkward moments or long pauses can easily be edited out later.
Keep track of time
Keep in mind your listeners’ attention spans. Once you hit that hour mark, you’re going to lose them pretty quickly.
A great goal is to keep your podcasts to a forty-five-minute time frame, but don’t draw out a conversation that should have ended at thirty minutes just because.
If you’re having a great interview that goes longer than an hour, consider breaking it up into two parts.
Tools for recording interviews
When you have to do your podcast interview remotely, Zencastr is the best tool to help you provide high-quality podcasts.
There are several reasons Zencastr ranks way higher than Zoom and Skype:
- It’s free.
- It records high-quality lossless WAV.
- Each person gets their own track (perfect for editing).
- It doesn’t require a download.
Headphones are non-negotiable when it comes to recording podcasts. Any headphones you have should work fine, and you’ll be able to monitor your audio for background noise and voice level.
When recording an interview remotely, headphones are especially useful. Without headphones, your microphone will pick up your guest’s voice coming out of the computer, which would lead to very distracting background noise. The same goes for your guests wearing headphones as well!
This inexpensive sound muffler softens the “p” sound so it doesn’t “pop” as much. They’re generally under $20 and work with most microphones.
I recommend the AUPHONIX Pop Filter for the Blue Yeti Microphone.
A good microphone
When recording a podcast, having quality audio is absolutely essential, which is where a microphone comes in.
The Blue Yeti is ranked highest for home-studio podcasters, and understandably so.
It’s easy to use, doesn’t require any software downloads, and has a straight-to-the-point setup.
As soon as you unpack the microphone from its packaging, you plug the USB into your computer and you’re good to go.
It also features a few controls on the microphone, unlike most other microphones, and it comes with a stand.
And all for around $120.
While all the tips above should be heavily utilized to ensure a top-notch podcast interview, there is one more tip you should follow that’s more important than all the others.
Make sure you listen to your guest.
Unless you know your interviewee like the back of your hand, make like Scar from The Lion King: be prepared.
Melissa Guller is the founder of Wit & Wire, where we help everyday experts become profitable course creators. She previously worked full-time for Ramit Sethi, Teachable, and General Assembly. Today, she shares simplified tech tutorials and modern marketing strategies through our blog, YouTube, and Wit & Wire Weekly newsletter