If you have an interview podcast, you better become a good interviewer. An outstanding podcast interview keeps the guest the star of the show, while the host subtly makes the right decisions in the background to make the interview a success. Nothing sucks the life out of an interview like a host that botches the job. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to become better and better at interviewing. Here are 10 things you can do to become a better podcast interviewer.
10 Ways to Become a Better Podcast Interviewer
1. Prepare by listening to your guest on other podcasts
There are endless ways to research your guest before the interview, including their website, social media pages, and podcast (if they have one). In my experience, by far the best method is to listen to your upcoming guest on other podcasts. In every single interview you listen to, you learn something a little different about your guest, which helps spark questions and discussion topics for your interview. It also gives you a sneak peek at your guest’s personality, tone, and sense of humor. It always helps to research your guest online, but the best way to get a true understanding of your guest is to check out their previous podcast appearances.
2. Write down your bulleted outline before the interview
I always have a notepad in front of me for podcast interviews. And I always write down my bulleted outline at least 10-15 minutes before the interview. The best bits of podcast conversation come about naturally, but it’s suuuuper helpful to have your bulleted outline in front of you. That way, you know what other topics you need to cover before your guest has to hop off. I’m not talking a full script in front of you – I’m talking 5 bullet points down the page, with a few blank likes in between them to leave room for notes during the interview. Doing so with enough time before the interview starts gives you the peace of mind and confidence needed to deliver an outstanding interview.
3. Break the ice before the interview with a dad joke
Okay, it’s always a little awkward when you connect with your podcast guest for the first (or second) time. One of your jobs as podcast host is to break the ice ASAP. That could mean a dad joke, a compliment based on something cool you saw your guest just did, or a random thing you have in common. I’ve found laughs always get your guest in gear best, so let any bit of corniness and goofiness you have shine. What better way to pregame an interview than with laughing, smiling faces?! Break the ice and have some fun before you even hit record.
4. Kick off the interview with an original question
If you listen to a lot of different business podcasts, you’ll know there’s some sort of unwritten rule to start out each episode by asking the guest about their story. Screw that. Asking generally about your guest’s “story” has happened on every other podcast they’ve been on, welcomes an answer that goes on longer than needed, and might already be known by your podcast listeners. Find something surprising, curious, or unexpected about your guest, and start off the interview with a question they’re not expecting. It also serves as another icebreaker (ice-icebreaker?), and your listeners will thank you for the ear candy right out of the gate. Start that interview with a Dang!
5. Shut up and listen, listen, listen
This sounds harsh. But I was once told, “You know why you’re a good interviewer? You know when to shut up.” That doesn’t mean people don’t like to hear your voice. It means, people keep listening to your interview podcast for the entertaining and helpful guests you keep bringing on – not just because of the way you talk and ask questions. Keep the guest the star of your show, no matter what. And while you are being quiet (okay, that’s less harsh), keep your focus on listening. Any way you slice it, the interviews that flow best are due to the host identifying when to probe and when to move on. Pay attention to the words coming out of your guest’s mouth and what they mean.
6. Take brief notes during the interview
Remember that notepad? That thing is a lifesaver for your podcast interview. Take brief notes throughout the interview. And when I say brief, I mean 1-2 words Max (get it) at a time. For example, in this interview I did with Christoph Trappe, he asked me about the importance of listening while interviewing guests. I wrote down the word “Listening” once he brought it up, and was able to give a thorough answer since the note served as a brief reminder. The same thing applies when you’re the podcast host and your guest is talking. Notes on your notepad are the Post-Its or Meeting Reminders of the podcast world. Write it down and free your mind.
7. Ask questions your audience would love to ask
This one is more of a muscle you can strengthen over time. If your guest is giving an answer, and they say something that creates instant fireworks in your head of the “Ooooh” and “Hmmmm” variety, ask that question next! You’ll develop a strong sense over time of the golden time to probe. Ask yourself quickly, did that answer go deep enough? Or is there more, more, more to unpack here? When you ask a question your audience is actively wondering about, you’re sure to bring a smile to their face. And you may just win that listener for life.
8. Bring up a short personal story only when it adds to the interview
Again, your guest is the star of the show. Now, that doesn’t mean you can only ask questions and shut up/be quiet. Oftentimes, your guest will say something that triggers a memory of something from your lifetime. Think quick – If I share this anecdote, does it add anything? Humor, context, education? If not, and you’re going to end up talking for 3 minutes on “OMG saaaaaaaaame,” skip the personal story this time. Stories about yourself can put the icing on your interview cake, but too much icing isn’t good for anyone. Bring up personal stories only when it feels necessary.
9. Recognize when it’s time to move to a new topic
There’s a lot of talk about probing when it comes to interviews. I’m guilty of it in this post. The flipside of probing – sometimes more important – is recognizing when it’s time to move on. If there are 3 main topics you want to discuss with your guest, and you only have 30 minutes for the interview, you miiiiiight be in a bit of trouble if you’re still on Topic #1 at the 29-minute mark. Peek at the clock every 5-10 minutes so you can manage the topics and segments you’d like in the show. Additionally, look out for those moments when you find yourself getting bored discussing something with your guest. If you’re getting bored, your listener is likely getting bored, and it’s time to switch gears a little bit. There’s no shame in moving the conversation along.
10. Listen to your final interviews
How do you become a better interviewer after the interview? Listen to the final product. Yes, it can be painful, but there’s no better coaching than soaking up your own podcast episodes and critiquing your technique. This time, as an actual listener, keep an ear or two out for things you did well and things you can do better next time. Did you keep your guest the star of the show? Did you probe at the right times? Were there several things you were left wondering, or scratching your head as a listener? Give yourself some constructive criticism. Yourself will thank you(rself). Take some time to be your own podcast listener.
A Better Podcast Interview Makes for a Better Podcast
That’s how you become a better podcast interviewer. Rock the prep, make smart decisions throughout the actual interview, and genuinely listen back after it’s final. Use brief notes as your anchor, know when to probe and when to move on, and always keep the guest the star of the show. There are small tweaks at every touchpoint that can add up to a masterpiece of an interview. If you find yourself lagging in any of these areas, make it a priority to improve on that aspect in your next interview. It’s incredibly rewarding to look back 20, 50, 100 podcast interviews ago and realize how much you’ve grown as an interviewer. Make your podcast the best it can be by becoming a better podcast interviewer.
If you’d like help with podcast production so you can focus your podcasting energy on bigger and better interviews, you can always reach me at . If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also appreciate my blog post on “How Do You Launch a Podcast in Less Than 10 Days?” and any of the 130+ episodes of the Wild Business Growth Podcast. Thank you for your time. Pod on.