Great news! You’ve got a yes from a potential guest. But how on earth do you make sure you get the best from them?
This guide will help you give your guests the best experience so you get an exceptional interview from them.
I can’t stress enough how important good communication is when it comes to making sure you get the best from your guest.
This is especially important if your guest is not a seasoned podcast or media guest.
You need to make sure they know what is going on every step of the way.
Once you have confirmed your guest will come on and speak to you, you need to make sure they know how you will be doing the interview. If it’s face to face do they know where the recording is taking place, what time they should arrive, what they need to bring.
If, and let’s be honest this is more than likely the case right now and for the next few months at least, the interview is being done remotely you need to make sure they understand the tech.
There are a fair few different tools out there for you to use to record remotely. Some are better than others in terms of quality. I mainly use Zoom. And I do that because the vast majority of people I interview know how to use Zoom, they’ve used it before and they are very comfortable using it. I’m also able to ask them if they prefer the video on or off. Again most people like to keep the video on so they can see me. Not all methods of remote podcast recording allow this.
Is the sound quality perfect? No. But is it usable? Yes, most of the time.
I’d rather have a guest who is relaxed and not worrying about the tech side of the interview so they can enjoy the interview than spend hours faffing around with tech, missing the slot rearranging the slot and only finally getting the interview in the can 3 months later. True. Story.
And it’s not just the interview practicalities you need to make sure the guest knows about. They probably want to know what the interview itself will involve. So let them know. My rule is to talk topics not specific questions with a guest because I don’t want them to get so focused on answering a set of questions that if I go off script (because they’ve said something surprising or that needs more questioning, that they have nothing to say or totally thrown by this question they weren’t told about. Also difficult guests can’t go “that question wasn’t on the sheet, I’m not answering it.”
Let them know the format - is it conversational or more technical - do they need to gen up on their facts and figures?, Will there be some quick fire questions? That sort of thing.
It’s also worth reiterating with them how long the interview will be.
Do Your Research!
You will no doubt have done some research about your guest before you asked them to come on your podcast. Remember we’re not allowing anybody and everybody on our podcast are we!
Now though is the time to step up your research game. Ask them to send their bio to you (and while you're at it a headshot too for promo bits). Check out their social media (personal as well as business - well as personal as you can get with publicly available posts), do they have a blog, a book? Read them. Youtube channel? - watch the videos. Podcasts either their own, or even better when they’ve been a guest on other peoples. Listen to it as well as any radio, TV and press coverage.
This might feel like a lot of effort but you’ll soon pick up on what is the publicly available knowledge, the questions that have been asked time and time again - which you want to avoid. You don’t want to conduct the same interview everybody else has.
You’re looking for interesting snippets of a story that you can expand on, opinions you can delve into further, bits of information about them, their personality and what value you can get out of them for your podcast.
Some of the best conversations I’ve had with guests have come from things they’ve said on social media, and normally it’s a throwaway comment but because there’s a story behind it and I’ve allowed them to tell that story it becomes a highlight of the chat.
This could come under both the communication and research heading so I gave it it’s own instead.
A pre-interview chat is a great way to find out a bit more about your guest AND check the tech works if you are doing a remote recording
It doesn’t have to be long, 10-15 minutes is normally enough.
I tend to ask them what they are happy talking about and what they aren’t happy talking about - this is particularly important when you are dealing with sensitive topics. By doing this away ahead of the interview you are taking away the worry and the pressure on the guest who may otherwise spend the whole time worrying about you asking a question they just don’t want to answer. It leads to all sorts of awkwardness.
I will go over topics we’re going to discuss, find out their thoughts about them and also ask them what else they’d like to talk about.
I always finish this chat by asking them if they have any questions they want to ask me.
Now if after this chat and you decide the guest doesn’t really match your criteria then this is the time to decide if you want them on your podcast or not.
Do not be afraid to stand them down. It’s not the most fun phone call you’ll ever make in your life but it’s far easier to make it now than after you’ve interviewed them, believe me!
Boring questions lead to boring answers. This does sound a bit flippant but it’s true, the same as obvious questions lead to obvious answers.
I want you to think about what it is you want from your guest on your podcast. Your research is key here.
In journalism you are taught the basics about open questions - ones that people have to answer with more than a yes or no.
You’re also taught the Who, What, Why, When, Where and How questions too. And these are great places to start.
But make sure you’re also asking the questions nobody else has. Be curious - what has your guest said on social media, their blog, book or whatever that you want to dig a little deeper on? Ask them more about that. They’ll be flattered you’ve been listening to them!
Make sure you only have one question per question that you ask. I hear this all the time in new interviewers where you get a two, three or even four questions in one go. It’s overwhelming for your guest and they won’t be able to answer them all.
Also make sure you don’t answer the question for them when you ask it too. This is another pet hate of mine when interviewers ask questions such as this “What was it like climbing Everest? It must have been tough.” ARGHHHH You’ve told them what to say, rather than letting them tell you. They might have aced it. In which case you want to know the secret, right?
Prep your questions so you don’t run out of things to ask or miss a really important point you wanted to discuss - but also don’t be afraid to metaphorically rip up those questions if you and your guest get on to something more interesting instead.
This might well happen. But you’ll only know if you make sure you are actively listening to their answers. By being interested and not just waiting until they’ve finished what they’re saying and moving on to your next question on your list you may just stumble across podcast gold.
Don’t interrupt the guest too much. There are times and places where you’ll want to challenge your guests and you may have to jump in to do that. But too much interruption can make you sound rude, like you’re not listening to your guest or not allowing them the courtesy of having their say. It can be really uncomfortable to listen to.
A trick to interrupting is to apologise first “I’m sorry to jump in but what you just said surprised me”. Or similar. Acknowledge you are being rude to keep the audience and your guest on side.
If you want to go back to something your guest has said, make a note of it, wait until they have finished and refer to what they said along with your question.
And here’s my final quick tip. Don’t be afraid to say nothing at all. If you want to get more out of your guest - shut up. More often than not they will fill the silence. And it will be gold.
If you want to really hone your interviewing skills I recommend you listen to lots of interviews - pick out what you like and don’t like hearing.
You’ll also have to listen back to what you’ve done too. Yes I know
Follow Up After The Interview
I hope it goes without saying that a thank you email is always worth writing. But that’s not where it stops.
You should also email them the date the podcast is due to go out and some content for social media. Send them the audiogram and any quotes you are using. Make it really easy for them to share and promote the podcast.
Also ask them if they know anybody who they think would make a good guest and if they would introduce them to you. It’s that word of mouth networking I was talking about previously that money can’t buy.
Once the episode is out - ask them if they’ve listened to it and get some feedback too.
Don't forget my podcast planning toolkit helps you plan your podcast guests and interviews. Want to get on the waitlist? It's just here