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How to Conduct an Interview like a Podcast Host

You’ve researched how to create a podcast. You’ve agonized over equipment, picked a title, created art, designed a website… you’ve done all the podcasting things, right? Probably not.

Because right before you’re ready to record an actual interview, comes your version of this:

Quick, I’m hosting my first 3 podcast recording[s] today. In like an hour. Any quick resources I can look at for tips on being an interviewer?

Ok. So, when I read this, I died a little on the inside. Take a moment to imagine this was someone like Terri Gross. I’ll wait… Can’t imagine it? That’s because it’s a skill that great interviewers have studied, refined, perfected… the put thousands of hours into the art of getting the best from a guest… to create amazing content.

We get so wrapped up in tech, that we forget the most basic thing about creating a podcast where we interview people: Learning how to interview people.

It’s like writing a blog post without learning how to craft a sentence.

Writing blog post. No sentence.

See?

If this is a step you skipped, DON’T beat yourself up. I skipped this step myself when I first started podcasting, so you are definitely not alone. We don’t talk about this part in podcasting 101 really. Or at least, it’s lost among the plethora of tech questions where everyone answering can display their inner tech nerd. (BUT WHAT MICROPHONE DO I BUY???!!!)

And yes, tech has it’s place, but, if the content you’re creating isn’t great because you don’t know how interview someone, no tech will help it.

Who gets nerdy about interview skills?

YOU! Because you’re reading this and that’s the first step in nerding out on this topic. (and that’s what makes you awesome)

So, here ‘s what I’ve learned in my journey as an interviewer and editor, along with a book you should read to help you be an awesome interviewer. But, sad to say, none of this you can learn in an hour.

Study Great Interviewers

I won’t make you a list because you like podcasts/radio/TV enough to listen to them, right? Use your critical ear to re-listen to old interviews. What is the host doing? How does the guest respond? What really resonated with you? What didn’t work?

Warm Up The Guest

Hit record first, THEN have a little pre-talk with your guest. Put them at east. Explain the process, go over the questions/bullet points and when they’re ready, start the interview.

Why? Because something clicks in our brain when we have relaxed conversation and THEN say, “okay, I’m pressing record.”

It’s called Red Button Syndrome. We feel put on the spot, so all that warm up and relaxation is out the window. Don’t put your guests on the spot like that.

The Set Up

Give the listener something to draw them in in your episode introduction. Lay out the questions you’re gonna answer, the topics covered, but DON’T give the whole thing away. If you tell me up front, why should I listen? This person with this topic is interesting BECAUSE…

The Frame

I’ve edited the same guest on 4 podcasts now. Each time, the interview was a completely different depending on that show’s topic. (I was very proud of my clients for doing this!) Craft questions that fit your show because that’s what audience subscribes for. From this perspective, HOW is this a thing and WHY do you think this has value to my people?

The Sequence

This happened. THEN… and THEN… Then that happened… and why and how and who… and the moral of the story is…

Let’s clear this up now: Don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s JUST a conversation. It really isn’t. Yes, it can be intimate, informal, and conversational, but it’s still an interview with someone who has a story tell and lesson to impart that aligns with your show. There is a beginning, middle and end.  There’s struggle, conflict and success. Then a reflection…

If you want to do conversations, have a discussion… where it’s hashing out ideas, going over the news relevant to your audience and sharing opinions. Do a panel. Have a Round Table. But when you invite a guest on your show because they are doing X and it’s interesting BECAUSE Y… that’s an interview.

Therefore… approach it like an interview by laying out the questions in a sequence that will help the guest tell their story.

I have client who literally asks her guests… You did this, so, THEN WHAT HAPPENED? And you know what? It works. She gets an expansive interview 99% of the time. A dozen interviews in and she’s already been in “Podcasts You Should Listen To” lists.

Listen to Your Guest

I mean really listen. It seems obvious, but it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. It’s also really easy to forget one interesting point when another comes up. This why it’s helpful to mute yourself and jot down notes. You only need a word or phrase to jog your memory. But it can be hard to write and listen at the same time for some of us… good news! Practice makes perfect. Or at least proficient.

CLARIFY!!!

Did it sound confusing to you? If so, it’s gonna be confusing for your listeners. Ask for clarification.

Did your guest use really niche jargon? Did they use an abbreviation? If yes, PLEASE, for goodness gracious, someone explain it!!! This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine as a podcast listener. Now I’ve got to either pause the show to Google that thing OR wonder for the rest of the interview… (not fun)

The Follow Up

You’ve asked a question. Your guest answered. Now what? Go to the next question? Maybe… or ask these questions to paint richer picture…

How did that make you feel?

Ask your guest a questions that involve some of the 5 senses. (pay attention to how great interviewers do this)

What were you expecting and how was it different?

Tell me more about that…

You said [a very general thing] can you expand on that?

I’ve listened to many podcasts where they’ve glossed over things that to me, the listener, sounded interesting and left me asking questions that were never answered. All in the sake of getting to the NEXT question on the interviewer’s list.

That leads me to this…

Be Open

Sometimes, we go into an interview with a very specific idea of what we want to know. And then, something happens. Something comes up that is EVEN BETTER. It’s more interesting than that thing you thought was the thing.

That interesting, compelling, fascinating thing that comes up unexpectedly? Yeah. Go with THAT. The next question isn’t that important anymore.

Read This

Out on a Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio

 (it’s an affiliate link, so thanks for supporting my mission of offering FREE and valuable content for podcasters)

It’s a graphic novel that breaks down the things that popular podcasts and radio shows have in common. And being presented in comic form makes it’s a lot more fun to read.

Go behind the scenes of seven of today’s most popular narrative radio shows and podcasts, including This American Life and RadioLab, in graphic narrative.

Yet, if you really aren’t wanting to read a comic to learn mad interviewing skillz, then there are plenty of great books out there. Pick one. Read it. Make notes. Try things. Share it with a podcaster.

In Summary

So, yeah, interviewing skills are thing. And we can get much deeper than this… but you now have a starting point. (Want to go deeper? Contact me for some coaching) A way to take action. Things you apply to your podcast that will help you become a better host, create better content and ultimately, be a podcaster that’s #winning.

When you know better… you do better. Now go do and be amazing, my lovely podcasters!!!

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