Twelve top tips for interviewing a podcast guest
So you wanna start a podcast, or maybe you have a radio show, and want to bring on guests but don't have experience with interviewing hopefully these twelve tips should get you off to a good start.
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1) Keep an idea of the topics you want to cover. Make sure you both try to stick on topic and don’t be afraid to bring your interviewee back onto the topic if they are going off on a tangent. You can always bring interviewees back on topic by saying something like “that’s an interesting point and we will come back to that in a moment”. With that being said, don’t stick to a rigid list of questions if an interviewee says something interesting, you will want to be able to follow up on it in the moment or even make a note to revert back to it later if you think it will ruin the flow of topics.
2) Make sure to ask open ended questions, a closed questions is one where an interviewee can give a simple “yes” or “no” answer e.g. how would you describe the colour of the sky? instead of is the sky blue?. Less experienced interviewees are more prone to giving short answerers where they might not elaborate in as much detail. This can also help to build confidence in more shy interviewees as well as going off script and asking follow up questions, this will also show you’re listening and value what they say building their confidence.
3) Use 'soft' not challenging or provocative questions at first to make interviewee feel comfortable then ask 'harder' more prying or provocative questions later on. You don’t ever want your interviewee to be mad and certainly not the point they want to storm out, but you also want to make sure you are getting good content and holding them accountable if you are discussing serious topics or allegations against them.
4) Don’t be afraid to run over time. You want to make sure you get all your important questions in before the arranged finish time in case they are in a rush too leave or the interview is cut short, but if the interviewee isn’t attempting to rush to the door ask some more questions. It never hurts to get more content especially if the interviewee is happy to give you it, is there something they summarised that they can discuss in more detail or something you forgot to ask about. A great way of asking this is “I know you’re busy but I had just one more question…..” it doesn’t actually have to be one question but could just be one more topic you wanted to discuss.
5) Maintaining an open body language, a non-creepy level of eye contact, head nodding and other non-audible signals are all great ways of showing your interviewee that you are listening. They also help show that you are following what they are saying and that they are interpreting the question the way you intended. There’s nothing wrong with checking notes but don’t stare at them for the whole interview, it might be interpreted that you aren’t interested in what your interviewee has to say.
6) What is the value proposition to them for doing an interview with you? What will the guest get out of it? Start to think about things you can offer, particularly if you do not have a massive audience, do you have other skills that you could offer them in return? Can you connect them with others to help expand their business endeavours? Is there a particular subject that they are passionate about and want to promote which you could touch on?
7) Don’t always try reaching out through messages on social media or emails unless you know them personally and have used this previously as a communication method. Trying meeting people at events either digitally or in person and exchange contacts. In the event of actors, musicians etc. make sure you are close with their agency or their AR as it’ll be them who controls their schedules and usually has the final say in what promotional interviews the talent will do.
8) Find out how familiar with your podcast or radio show they are then summarise your audience, the core focus and they style of show. This will allow them to tailor their answers with your audience in mind. As before this is just general good practice and common curtesy, a lot of people will agree to be interviewed without even listening to one episode of your podcast. This is also helpful when you are starting out and don’t have any episodes for people to listen too.
9) Insist they wear headphones so they can hear when they are off mic. Less experienced interviewees particularly will tend to move around a lot and not notice when they are off mic. Wearing headphones will help them realise when the microphone is picking them up properly.
10) Chat to them off-air before the interview to build charisma and a repour. This will also help make them feel settled and help you both to sound more natural and relaxed when recording.
11) Do some research and check their social media, is there something funny or relevant you can reference, this will also show that you have done your research.
12) Make sure they know when the interview will come out and where they can find it, this is just general good practice and common curtesy.
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So that's it you're ready to book your guests and slam-dunk those interviews.