What’s the best way to get interviewees to reveal their expert knowledge on your podcast and provide value to your listeners?
For several years, I worked as a radio producer for an Irish national radio station, and I had the opportunity to study master interviewers at work.
While researching this article, I found many expert podcasters approach interviews with the same mindset and focused techniques as professional broadcasters.
So, how do you conduct an engaging business interview people will remember?
Here’s how to run an audio interview like a professional broadcaster in five straightforward steps.
Step 1: Research your guests in advance
The hosts of the radio shows I produced made time to read briefs about their interviewees and research the type of questions they were going to ask. They didn’t just turn up on the day of the interview and wing it.
This research process is equally important for professional podcasters who want to make their guests feel welcome and provide a superior experience for their audiences.
Joanna Penn, host of The Creative Penn Podcast, conducts extensive research before each podcast to ensure that her interviewees are relevant to her audience who wants to hear about writing, publishing, book marketing, and creative entrepreneurship.
“I target people to interview because I’ve read their book or heard them on another show. I will Google them, listen to their podcast, and visit their website,” Penn said.
As the host of the Runner Academy Podcast, Matt Johnson’s audience is different from Penn’s, but he also notes the importance of researching your guests.
“This means adequate preparation, and making them feel flattered without going too far and inflating their ego,” Johnson said. “At the end of the interview, you will know you were successful if they are telling you how it was one of the best they have done, are thanking you, or even offering other [guests] for you to speak with.”
As president of Convince and Convert, Jay Baer has been interviewed on more than his fair share of shows. He says one of his pet peeves is when an interviewer asks him what he does.
“When I go on a podcast, and the first question is, ‘So, what do you do?’ I want to scream, ‘Why do you have a podcast if you can’t take 30 minutes to research your guests?’”
As a podcaster, you undoubtedly have other time-consuming business responsibilities.
Here’s a time-saving secret:
Many of the radio presenters in the station where I worked didn’t read every page of the books written by their guests.
Instead, they read the introduction and conclusion, and scanned the table of contents for important chapters.
They also extracted key points from these books by reading relevant press releases.
Step 2: Put your guests (and your audience) first
If you’re not an experienced podcaster, it’s natural to feel nervous about an upcoming interview. And even if you do have experience, there may be times when you are nervous about a particular guest.
Jay Baer recommends that a nervous podcaster should think of his show as a conversation with a friend over lunch.
“It’s much more interesting and intimate that way,” he said.
One of the fundamental principles of effective content marketing is that what you produce is not about you — it’s about providing value for your audience.
Podcasting is no different.
Sean Platt, co-host of the Self-Publishing Podcast, advises caring about your guests and their messages.
“Interviewers who are waiting for the other person to finish talking so they can get their words in are just wasting everyone’s time,” he said. “It’s best to interview people who you are genuinely trying to learn from, because then you’re going to ask great questions that help you learn, while also helping your audience.”
Step 3: Be a considerate host
A considerate host introduces the guests at a dinner party to each other; he also makes sure food and drinks are served on time and that everybody is having a good time.
Great radio presenters and podcasters are considerate hosts.
For example, many of the podcasters I interviewed for this article recommended that new interviewers should avoid taking up more of their interviewee’s time than necessary and that they should start the interview on time.
“If you say [the interview] is 45 minutes long, start on time and finish in 45 minutes. It’s not 45 minutes plus a chat,” Joanna Penn said.
As a podcast host, it’s also your job to introduce your guest to your listeners with a warm and informative introduction. Your opening monologue should:
- Put your guests at ease.
- Set a tone for your show.
- Convince listeners you’re worth listening to.
“Starting with an in-depth introduction immediately sets you apart from anyone else they have spoken to before and [shows] that you value their time and did your homework,” Matt Johnson said. “Don’t just copy and read their bio … pull out different pieces that are relevant. When you open in this manner, it makes the person you are interviewing step up their game. This carries through the entire interview and makes the interviewee open up more than they might otherwise.”
Step 4: Use the power of silence
A considerate dinner party host avoids interrupting their guests to make a point, tell a story, or simply talk about themselves.
There’s nothing more distracting than an interviewer who repeatedly interrupts a guest to make a point or introduce a new topic.
I learned that you actually have more power when you shut up.
Pat Flynn is the host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast, and he says it takes time to become comfortable with the interview process.
“I want to know a little bit about this person and what they have to offer. It’s my job to help guide the conversation,” he said. “It’s nothing you can just learn from reading a book. It takes practice.”
Flynn recommends that podcasters consider the transformation they want their listeners to have after listening to the show; Joanna Penn also highlights the importance of active listening.
“I get interviewed a lot, and there is nothing worse than someone ignoring what you just said and then asking a new question when they could segue nicely into a new segment,” Penn said.
She also recommends you keep a notepad beside your microphone for recording information you can talk about after your guest has finished speaking; this way you can keep track of your thoughts and you don’t have to interrupt your guest.
Step 5: Discuss fascinating topics
There are hundreds of case studies about how to conduct a great interview.
David Frost’s interview with former U.S. president Richard Nixon is one notable example.
This interview is regarded as one of the greatest of all time because Frost got the former president to reveal something no one had heard from him before — an apology.
You may not be in the business of politics, but you can still encourage your guests to discuss relevant and controversial topics and to share something your audience hasn’t heard elsewhere — information they’ll find fascinating.
“Guide the discussion in the direction of some key point or message you want your audience to take away,” Matt Johnson said. “Have a purpose for the interview, define who the audience is … and then over-deliver.”
Your turn to over-deliver
How do you over-deliver to ensure that your interview guests reveal lessons that will benefit your audience?
Let us know your favorite interview tips over on LinkedIn …
Editor’s note: If you found this article useful, make sure to check out Bryan Collins’s next post in this series, 6 Ways to Maximize the Shelf Life (and Utility) of Your Audio Content.