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 by completing several tasks before the interview such as research, mapping out the interview, and testing the software. The basic concepts of interviewing will be covered in this article.

To make the most of the interview there are some concepts a host should be mindful of when preparing and during the recording. These concepts will be explained.

For those still on the fence 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.

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. The audience can get easily confused or become disinterested if the conversation with a guest starts in the middle of a topic. ‌‌

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 gives them the opportunity to relax and they will be more comfortable answering more 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. These types of questions make transitions easier than asking simple yes or no questions. 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 easier for a host. Knowing the goal of the interview gives a host the opportunity to format the interview to reach the goals that were set.‌‌

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 that is said. Letting the guest know the audio can be edited will make them relax more.‌‌

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.‌‌

Avoid asking questions that might make the guest feel awkward

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 that make a guest feel uncomfortable can be related to money or politics or personal relationships.‌‌

Give the guest the first question ahead of time

Giving the first question ahead of time gives the podcast some flow because the guest already knows what to say and gets in the flow of answering questions 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 they are asked questions that they have answered a million times. The quality of their answers will decline if the guest gets bored of answering a host’s questions.‌‌

Do research by reading their content and going through previous interviews that they have done. A host can ask about a piece of content that the guest has created or a previous interview.‌‌

For example, a host should not ask Bill Burr why he started his podcast. He has answered that question dozens of times even in the past year.‌‌

Make sure to allow the guest to mention anything a host may have missed

Ask “is there anything you would like to mention?” People go on podcasts to promote their work. If they do not get the opportunity to mention their work or a host forget to ask about it the guest may tell others they had a bad time as a guest. If the word gets around that a host is a bad interviewer then the amount of people willing to be a guest may decline. Making it more difficult to create podcast episodes with guests.‌‌

Test Software

Before the interview a host should test the software and make sure there are no technical issues before the interview. If on the day of the interview there is a small technical problem that could have been fixed before the interview the guest’s time is being wasted. The problem makes the host look foolish and could leave a bad impression.

Don’t

Rapid Fire Questions

Rapid fire questions are lazy. These types of questions are lazy because a host does not have to do as much research for the interviews. Secondly, eventually the guests will start to have the same answers, lowering the quality of the interviews. Hearing the same answers repeatedly will make listeners bored and there is a chance they will stop listening entirely.‌‌

Express your opinion or add comments

Most likely the listeners are listening to hear what the guest has to say. Don’t waste the listeners and guests’ time with comments. If an opinion needs to be said, release a separate commentary episode.‌‌

Jump right into the interview

Meet with the guest before. The time before can be used to test the software to make sure there are no technical problems. This time can be used 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 speak. Interrupting the guest disrupts the flow of the interview and might make the guest lose their train of thought.

How to Prepare for an interview

Prepare Questions

In preparation for an interview a host should come up with questions for the guest beforehand. 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 and another half page for every additional 30 minutes. The reason for this strategy of preparation is to avoid having some time left and having no questions for the guest. Another reason is some parts of the interview might need to be cut which might make the episode shorter than expected if a host is not prepared. If some questions are left unanswered then there’s no problem, have them as a guest for a second time. ‌‌

Map out the interview

After creating the list of questions create a flowchart for the questions based on potential answers and how to transition from question to question. ‌‌

For example if you’re interviewing Bill Burr if you ask him what his favorite aspect of being a comedian is he might say “standup” or “writing jokes.” If he says writing jokes you can ask him what his process is for writing jokes or if he says stand up asking 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 being a guest might be their first experience with podcasting. The guest might start their own podcast after being a guest. There is a chance they might invite the host of the podcast to be a guest on their new podcast. This gives the host an opportunity for 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

Guests will have different amounts of experience with podcast interviews. Some guests may be doing their first interview, others will be doing their 10th podcast interview. The differing experiences will impact the quality of the interview. 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. Some changes will need to be made depending if the podcast is done remotely or in-person.‌‌

Remotely

For a remote podcast recording a host can use a microphone for speaking, Zencastr to record, and Audacity to edit the audio. Plug the microphone into the computer and give Zencastr permission for the microphone. Zencastr will then record the host and guest separately, giving 2 audio files to download. Take the 2 audio files and upload them to Audacity. Go to Tracks in the toolbar then Mix then Mix and Render. The process will make the files into one file. After that, the audio files can be uploaded to the podcast host.‌‌

In-person

I have no experience doing in-person interviews but I asked for advice from Pradip in the Open Podcast Community and will share his advice here. ‌‌

"To record a podcast with multiple people in the room use a mixer such as the Scarlett 2i2. Plug the microphones into the mixer and the mixer into the laptop. Once everything is plugged in then open Audacity change the recording channel from mono to stereo and the microphone to Scarlett 2i2. Once those settings are changed everything can be recorded as usual."

How to find people to interview

A Host's Network

The best resource to find podcast guests when starting out is a host’s network. Look for people that create interesting content in the same area of the podcast’s topic. There is someone that has an interesting perspective or has recently released something that will be willing to discuss it on the podcast.‌‌

Social Media

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..‌‌

Another way to find guests is to look for guests on websites that advertise for people looking to be a guest on a podcast.  Use podguest.me find someone that matches the topic of the podcast. Research the person to find specific topics that can be discussed on the podcast. If there is an appropriate amount of topics the person can discuss related to the podcast then invite them to be a guest.‌‌

Eventually once the podcast grows and become popular people will reach out to the host and ask to be on the podcast.

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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.‌‌‌‌ If you want to read more about podcasting or from the Open Podcast Community, join the mailing list.