Being a great interviewer doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. There are exceptions; some people have a gift for conversational charisma that can turn any interview into audio gold. But for the majority of us, it takes practice and time. With a little guidance, some best practices, and a few of our favorite tips, you too can become a great podcast interviewer.
A Couple of General Tips:
1) Make a strong start at the introduction. According to NPR One’s Nick DePry, a typical podcast episode loses 20-30% of the listening audience in the first five minutes. Listeners are debating whether or not they want to commit to the rest of the episode in those first five minutes, so give them a reason to stick around with a strong start.
2) Once you get going, be sure to re-engage with your audience every few minutes by building tension and then keeping forward momentum. Follow that cadence throughout your podcast show, and you’ll have your listeners hooked through the entire episode.
Interview Guests You’re Personally Interested In
Having a guest you don’t know much about can create some anxiety as you’re preparing to interview them. Even worse, if you’re not knowledgeable on the subject they’re talking about, there can be some dead air time and awkwardness.
If you reach out to guests that you have a personal interest, you won’t find the situation nearly as stressful. Your natural curiosity for learning more about what you’re already interested in will guide a great interview. You’ll discover openings for great follow-up questions, off-the-cuff, and pull more in-depth information out of your interviewee. Both yourself and your guest will feel at ease, creating a conversation that flows. Choose your guests wisely!
Schedule Prep Time Between Interviews
Being adequately prepared for an interview can take time, so be sure to leave enough breathing room between interviews. You’ll want to do some research on the guest and have some questions prepared. That may take more time than you think, especially if you’re starting out and don’t have a prep rhythm down yet. No one likes the frantic feeling of panic from being ill-prepared – your guests and your audience will pick up on the frenetic energy as well.
As far as what to prep for, prioritize five to 10 essential questions you want to know more about from your guest. Great questions come from going a step further – if you ask them the same thing everyone else does, you’ll get a canned response. Do some homework on past interviews they’ve already given. Take a question they’ve already answered previously and ask the next question that moves the conversation deeper. For example, if you’re interviewing a graphic designer, you could ask, “You’ve talked about contrasting colors for grabbing attention, but how does the psychology of color factor into deciding a color layout? Can you go into more detail about that?”
This way, you’re acknowledging what they’ve said in the past, but you’re taking it a step further to garner a more exciting conversation. The guest will also appreciate that you’ve done your homework, and it will help build rapport during the interview.
Reading off a list of questions, stiffly, and checking them off one by one is the last thing you want to do. You want to keep flexibility and openness during your conversation, letting the questions flow in a natural exchange. Use your questions list as a guide or starting point in the right direction.
A skilled interviewer will begin with an initial question and let the guest take them on a journey with their response. Let them tell a story, and ask spur of the moment follow-up questions that let them dive into storytelling mode. Your listeners will be transported right along with you and your guest. Sticking to a rigid outline nixes any chance for a transformative interview. If you want to avoid a dull Q&A session, take every opportunity you can to ask questions that require a story as a response.
Carefully listen for opportunities to ask your follow up questions in the moment. Your follow up questions should dive deeper by revealing how they felt, how they overcame a challenge, or how they dealt with a difficult decision. Don’t be afraid to sit with silence. After a guest finishes answering a profound question, sit on it for a few seconds, and they will provide more detail on their own. Some of the best responses come from letting silence prompt the next answer.
A genuine connection to your guest, enough prep time, and asking the right questions in the right way will make you a great interviewer with enough practice. If you want to get ahead of the game and focus on conducting the perfect interview, you can get a little help from Podcast Taxi. Our team of experts sources perfect guests for your show, does all of the leg work and background research, and prepares poignant questions that spark intelligent conversations—interested in learning more? Hop on a discovery call with us today.