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March 5, 2020

How to Interview A Podcast Guest

Read about how the make the most of interviewing a podcast guest, what not to do, the software and equipment needed, how to prepare for an interview, how to find guests for a podcast, advantages and disadvantages

How to Interview A Podcast Guest

The key to interviewing a guest is preparation. A host should prepare for an interview with several tasks before the interview. Such as research, mapping out the interview, and testing the software. This article will go over the basic concepts of interviewing. Some people might not be sure about doing interviews. They will learn the benefits of interviewing along with the downsides. Then, everyone will learn how to find guests for their podcast.

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Do’s


Assume the Audience Knows Nothing
Introduce the guest. Let the audience know who the guest is and what they are going to discuss on the podcast. Starting a conversation in the middle will confuse the audience. If the audience cannot catch up to the conversation, they will stop listening.


Start Off Light
A guest may not have experience being on a podcast. For that reason, they may be nervous. Starting out with easy questions allows them to relax. They will be more comfortable answering complex questions later. The interview can start with the guest's background. Which is a question a guest does not have to put much thought into answering.


Only Ask Open Ended Questions
By asking open-ended questions, the guest can expand on the question. Open-Ended questions make transitions from questions smooth. Instead of asking, "Do you live in New York City?" Ask, "Why do you enjoy living in New York City?"


Have A Goal
Having a goal for an interview makes directing the interview more natural for a host. The host can shape the interview around the goals if a host knows the goals or an interview.


Let Guests Know Things Can Be Edited Out
A guest may be afraid to be open on the podcast if they think that a host will publish anything said. A guest will relax more, knowing the ability to edit out is available.


Be Flexible
A host might have an outline of questions for an episode. If the interview goes beyond the outline, do not force the conversation back to the outline. Doing so may make the conversation sound awkward.


Make the guest feel uncomfortable
When a guest is recording an episode, they are doing the host a favor. Do not blindside them with questions that will make them feel uncomfortable. Questions about money, politics, or personal relationships might make a guest uncomfortable.


Give the guest the first question ahead of time
Giving the first question ahead of time provides the podcast with some flow. The guest already knows what to say before the podcast starts. The guest will get in the flow of answering a question for the next questions. At the same time, the guest will not have an awkward pause on the first question.


Research
A guest will become bored if a host asks questions that they have answered a million times. The quality of their answers will decline if the guest gets tired of answering a host's questions. Do research by reading their content. Going through previous interviews that they have done is another option. A host can ask about a piece of content that the guest has created or an earlier interview. A host should not ask Bill Burr why he started his podcast. He has answered that question dozens of times.


Make sure to allow the guest to mention anything you may have missed
Ask, "Is there anything you would like to mention?" People go on podcasts to promote their work. If a guest does not get to promote their work, the guest might tell others about their bad experience. If the word gets around that a host creates a bad experience for guests, the new people will not want to be guests. Making it more challenging to interview new people.


Test Software
Before the interview, a host should test the software. To make sure there are no technical issues before the interview. During the interview, if a technical issue comes up, that is a waste of a guest's time. The problem makes the host look foolish and could leave the wrong impression.

Don’t


Rapid-Fire Questions
Rapid-fire questions are lazy. These types of questions are lazy because the hosts do not have to do as much research for the interviews. Soon, the guests will start to have the same answers, lowering the quality of the interviews. Hearing the same answers over and over will make listeners bored. There is a chance they will stop listening to the podcast.


Express an opinion or add comments
Most likely, the listeners are listening to hear what the guest has to say. Do not waste the listeners and guests' time with comments. If an opinion is necessary, release a separate commentary episode.


Jump right into the interview
Meet with the guest before. Before the interview, that is time to test the software and make sure there are no problems. Using the time to get to know the guest and give the guest a chance to be more comfortable with the host.


Interrupt the guest
Interrupting the guest might make them feel uncomfortable. Hosts invite guests to speak, let them talk. Interrupting the guest disrupts the flow of the interview. Which might make the guest lose their train of thought.

How to Prepare for an interview


Prepared Questions
In preparation for an interview, a host should have a list of questions. The amount of questions depends on the amount of time expected for the interview. For a 30 minute interview, a host should have half a page of questions. Another half-page for every extra 30 minutes. This strategy of preparation is to avoid having some time left and having no questions for the guest. At the same time, the interview might need editing. Which might make the episode shorter than expected if a host is not prepared. If every question is not answered, then there's no problem, have them as a guest for a second time.


Map out the interview
After creating a list of questions, then create a flowchart. The chart is for potential answers to the questions. The chart gives a host an idea of how to transition from question to question. For example, if I am interviewing Bill Burr and ask him what his favorite element of being a comedian is. He might say, "stand up" or "writing jokes." If he says writing jokes, I can ask him what his process is for writing jokes. If he says stand up, I could ask him about any funny hecklers he's encountered. Below is the flowchart I used for my first interview.

interview flowchart

Benefits of Interviewing


New Audience
For some guests the interview might be their first experience with podcasting. The guest might start their own podcast after being interviewed. There is a chance they might invite the host to be a guest on their new podcast. This allows the audience of the podcast to grow by being a guest on a podcast.

Less Speaking for Host
If the interview is going well, the guest should be doing most of the talking. Which is a big relaxing break from hosting a solo podcast where the host does all the talking.

Disadvantages of Interviewing


Having to Search for a Guest
When having a guest on a podcast a host needs to be constantly searching for guests. No guest is ever guaranteed to be able to be a guest until the recording is finished. Once someone agrees to be a guest they might have an emergency that prevents them from recording. Which leaves a host without a guest and maybe even an episode. Constantly searching for guests may lower the quality of the episode because the amount of time between recordings may be different and a host might have less time to prepare for the interview.


Inconsistency of Quality
The amount of experience with being interviewed will differ between guests. Some guests may be doing their first interview others might be on their tenth. The difference will impact the quality of the content.  A guest with less experience might be nervous being on the podcast. Which could impact the quality of the episode.

Equipment and Software for Interviewing

For the actual interview, a podcast needs certain equipment and software to record. There are differences between a remote and in-person interview.


Remote
A host needs a microphone, remote recording service, and editing software. Plug the microphone in and give the recording service permission for the microphone. The service will then record the host and guest, giving 2 audio files to download. Take the 2 audio files and upload them to the editing software. Go to "Tracks" in the toolbar, then "Mix" then "Mix and Render." The process will make the files into one file.


In-person
I have no experience doing in-person interviews. I asked for advice from Pradip in the Open Podcast Community and will share his information here. To record a podcast with many people in the room using a mixer. "Plug the microphones into the mixer and the mixer into the laptop. The next step is to open the editing software. Then, change the recording channel from mono to stereo. Then microphone to the mixer in the editing software. Once the settings are correct, record as usual."

How to find people to interview


The best resource to find podcast guests when starting out is a host's network. Look for people that create engaging content in the same area of the podcast's topic. There is someone that has an interesting perspective or has recently released content. They may want to discuss it on the podcast. The next resource to find podcast guests is social media. Find someone with a good reputation related to the podcast's topic. Find the best form of communication to get in contact with them. Next, get in touch with them and ask if they would be willing to be a guest. A host might find guests on websites that advertise for people looking to be a guest on a podcast. The Open Podcast Forum has a category for looking for a guest or co-host. Find someone that matches the topic of the podcast. Research the person to find specific topics to discuss on the podcast. If there is enough to discuss a host should invite them to be a guest. Once the podcast grows and becomes popular people will reach out to the host and ask to be on the podcast.

Comedians

Some comedians have podcasts where they interview other comedians. The purpose of the interview is to help the comedian promote themselves and their work.

Conclusion

After reading this anyone trying to start a podcast should be able to interview someone. If you have questions or comments join the Open Podcast Community to let me know.‌‌‌‌

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This blog post is an excerpt from the Open Podcast book. The book is available for pre-order here.