It’s now clear that podcasting is a brilliant way of connecting and communicating with an audience for businesses as well as individuals. 

A well-crafted podcast:

  • Demonstrates your credibility
  • Shows off your expertise
  • Engages listeners

Some of these listeners will be potential clients. In short, it’s a superb form of content marketing.

Of course, I would encourage you to hire professionals like me to help you produce your podcasts, but if you are on a limited budget or just starting out, you may want to try and do it yourself. 

This is certainly possible with a bit of time and easily acquired equipment. 

But content, as always, is king, so you need great contributors or guests and you need to know how to interview them to create a compelling and engaging conversations.

So, for all you would-be podcast interviewers, I’ve put together a few hints and tips, based on my years of broadcast and podcast interviewing experience, to set you out on the right path.

But remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t get discouraged and keep at it.

 

Podcasting is a brilliant way of connecting and communicating with your audience

Pre-Interview – Find your guest and get to know them and their subject

Research your interviewee, and, if you have time, ask advice from others who know the material or the person. Try and get some background on the topic of the interview – it’s why Google was invented.

Write out questions and points you would like addressed during the interview. Try and think of a less ‘common’ angle on the topic as this can start off a more stimulating discussion – but beware blind-siding your guest (you are not John Humphries interviewing a slippery politician). You want to keep them on your side!

Try and have a pre-interview meeting via phone or Zoom to start to get to know your interviewee. Re-assure them of:

  • Your friendly intentions
  • The outcomes you hope to achieve
  • How much you value their time & knowledge
  • The respect you have for them and their views.

Remember, you are interviewing them because they have expertise or knowledge that you want to share with your audience. Being polite and friendly goes a long way in these situations.

If your interview is intended as a full episode of a podcast, you may want to prepare a short introduction mentioning the name and credentials of your interviewee. 

You can write and perfect this in advance, so that it is a very easy for you to read it in a natural manner on the day – remember the first question should be at the end of this introduction. 

You can always record this introduction afterwards if you prefer, but tell the guest how you will describe them in the introduction, to make sure you get job title, qualifications and so on, correct.

The Interview – Relax and reassure your guest – and remember the guest is more important than you!

Interviewing a stranger and expecting that person to immediately open up to you and provide you with information is unrealistic, unless you have spent time warming them up and building their trust. 

Hopefully, you will have started this process in the pre-interview chat, but this needs to be continued and confirmed when you meet to record the actual interview. Don’t expect to launch straight in with your microphones recording. 

Allow time for small talk – imagine you are meeting at a social event – try and find a common interest (last night’s football, water cooler TV etc) to chat about and establish some common-ground and empathy.  

Remember, the more relaxed and comfortable the interviewee feels, the better the interview is likely to turn out.

 

Allow time to get to know your guests – through small talk – before recording your podcast

Ask the question – and then shut up!

Once the interview starts, ask your questions in a logical and flowing manner. Don’t be afraid to stop and re-ask a question if you expressed it badly or the interviewee seems confused.

While they are answering keep your mouth firmly shut. Nodding is acceptable but saying, “really?” “Uh-huh,” “Oh” or any other conversational phrase is distracting for the audience and may even make understanding the answer difficult.

Body language and facial expressions matter during an interview.

Make sure that you:

  • Look fully engaged
  • Have a positive facial expression
  • Face towards your interviewee

A positive facial expression can be reassuring to the interviewee and help to keep them relaxed and comfortable. Look at your subject’s body language too, as this will tell you a lot about how they are responding to your questions.

Listen, Listen and Listen (two ears, one mouth)

Listen carefully to the answers – oddly, this is more difficult than it sounds. Most novice interviewers and even some experienced ones, struggle with this. 

We are often so set on asking the next question on our list, we don’t realise they have already answered it, and we then look rather foolish asking them to repeat the information. There are numerous examples of this on TV and radio. 

As an interviewer, you must concentrate on the answer and be agile in your response – in other words, be prepared to skip a question if already answered or even ask an unplanned question, if their answer raises an issue you hadn’t considered. Going “off-piste” in this way can often lead to more interesting discussion.

But beware you don’t get completely off the subject – and if you do, you must steer the interview back to where you want it to be. 

Let the interviewee fully respond to the question, but if they start talking off-topic or go in to too much detail it is OK to interrupt and have another go – but do it politely.  If they do not respond to your question immediately don’t interrupt the silence. Give them time to think. You can easily edit out gaps later.

Finally, remember the guest is the most important person here. People want to hear the guests views and opinions, not yours. It’s surprising how often podcast hosts forget this. 

Having said this, it’s OK to provide your view and commentary on the answers, but keep it short and make sure there’s a good reason and context for you to do this – stimulating the discussion by briefly giving your own (relevant) experience, for example.

 

People want to hear your guest’s views and opinions – so, once you’ve asked the question, be quiet and let them talk

Timing, the secret of good podcasts

Keep an eye on the time – run a stop-watch or look at the counter on the recording device. The timing of the interview will depend upon it’s final use. Many podcast interviews are done as “live” with little editing afterwards. This is fine, as long as you keep it interesting. 

Thirty minutes recording may end up as nearly thirty minutes playback, so keep an eye on that clock to make sure you get enough material or don’t overrun too much. If recording an interview for insertion in a larger piece, then different rules apply. 

You may end up chopping it up into soundbites, or specific answers, so timing is less important than getting the material you know you need for the larger piece. This would be the case if you were making a documentary with lots of contributors for example.

Don’t forget to get the details of the interviewee written down, such as…

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Company

… to get all the spellings right when you post the interview on-line.

As mentioned above, you may want to record an introduction at the same time. If so, make sure this is pre-written and practiced, so you don’t waste the interviewees time thinking it up and perfecting it before you even ask the first question.  

 

Recording interviews ‘live’ is fine – just make sure that you keep it interesting!

Summary

Don’t expect to be a brilliant interviewer overnight – it takes time and experience to develop your own style and confidence, but a few guidelines should help you do this:

  • Be prepared for the interview. Research and hold a pre-interview meeting
  • Be respectful to your interviewee & his/her opinion
  • Let the interviewee respond properly and listen to that response
  • Be engaged in what your interviewee has to say and be flexible and nimble with your follow-up questions