10 Ways to Be a Great Podcast Interviewer
You may have noticed that it’s becoming more common for foundations to produce podcasts that feature interviews with social change leaders and experts. Here are just three examples:
- The Heinz Endowments recently launched We Can Be, a weekly show hosted by Grant Oliphant that shares conversations with social justice leaders.
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports Better Life Lab, a new program from New America and Slate that features interviews with researchers on how to live a healthier and fuller life.
- And The Pew Charitable Trusts produces After the Fact, a podcast hosted by Dan LeDuc that tells stories inspired by data from Pew’s research.
It’s no wonder why foundations do these programs. A podcast can position your philanthropy as an authority. It can also attract and keep loyal listeners among the audiences you want to serve. And podcasting itself continues to grow in popularity.
You can now find more than 550,000 shows on iTunes. And 26 percent of Americans listen to podcasts monthly. That’s 73 million people.
But you don’t need the endowment of a big national foundation to create your own podcast. It’s an affordable way to reach a large audience. An interview show can be especially easy to edit and requires conversational and research skills you already have. And it still allows you to tell stories that will move others to action.
But to be a good interviewer you need more than a guest, a microphone and a list of questions. Here are 10 steps podcast interviewers can take that will make your guests shine, keep your listeners coming back and inspire change.
Identify—and stick with—your ideal guests
In choosing your guests, put the needs of your audience first. Define the kinds of people you want to interview and how they can help your listeners.
Don’t say yes to a pitch because you have a hole in your schedule. Politely turn down the requests from those whose expertise lies outside the interests of your listeners. Stay focused instead on the content that will make your show unique and invite people accordingly.
Look for experts who know how to communicate
The most effective guests are not only subject matter experts. They also have a point of view and can express it succinctly.
Local leaders, book authors, frequent bloggers, and regular public speakers have lots of experience making and defending an argument and are natural podcast guests.
Pick your topic ahead of time
This seems obvious, right? However, too many podcast hosts walk into an interview with no plan other than hitting the record button. This often results in meandering conversations that won’t interest even your closest relatives.
Tap into your guest’s expertise. Do your homework and choose a subject for the interview in advance. You should be able to turn the topic into a six to eight word headline. And it needs to be magnetic so that it attracts listeners and can be shared on social media.
Set your guests up for success
The best hosts do a brief pre-interview with a guest, usually one or two weeks in advance. It’s typically a 15-minute call. This lets you describe your audience and its needs, review the purpose and format of the show, and confirm the topic and main points your guest wants to make.
With this kind of background, your guests can prepare talking points that better serve your listeners. You’ll can also write smarter questions because you as the host will know the points the expert wants to make.
Don’t forget to discuss technical requirements, too. Review the kinds of microphone you want your guest to use, how they can prevent outside noises and other distractions, and other tips for how to be a great guest.
Put people at ease
Whether your guest joins you in person or by Skype or telephone, take steps to make them feel comfortable. Spend a few moments to get to know each other. Review the topic and format.
You should also explain how the interview will unfold and how long it will last. Discuss your opening and close. And if your show isn’t live, tell the guest you can stop and restart the recording if necessary.
Don’t wing it in the studio
Know what you want from the conversation before you start. Be clear about how you will open and close the interview. And stick to the time limits for your show.
Practice saying the guest’s name in advance. Check YouTube or other podcasts for clues if you’re uncertain about pronunciation.
Read your script aloud at least once before the show and revise accordingly. There’s no better editor than your ear.
If you don’t have a script, you should still draft your questions in advance. And you should prepare and practice your introduction, the guest’s biography and the close.
It’s not about you
You want your guests to shine. So let them talk and use their name in conversation. Don’t lapse into a monologue or step on your guest’s answers.
Having prepared questions helps you plan the conversation and move it forward. And keep those questions short and simple.
Don’t forget to leave room for surprises. And always listen to what the other person says. This will likely take the interview in unexpected directions.
Pay attention to your own style
Yes, speak with energy and in a natural style. But watch your speed. Too many Americans talk too fast.
And don’t let your nerves get the better of you, especially when talking to a prominent expert. Smile. It will help you relax. Keeping your feet on the floor also helps.
Keep the conversation on track
Sometimes nervousness or excitement leads a guest to go off topic. It’s okay to interrupt when this happens and steer the conversation back to your show’s subject.
A good way to do this is to say, ““I’d love to talk more about that but I also want to get to . . .” And you always edit out any awkwardness when this happens.
Stay in touch
One of the biggest benefits of podcasting is that it lets you build relationships with the leaders of your field. So find ways to stay in touch.
After the interview send your guest a thank you note. An email is good. A handwritten note is better. And consider including a report or book published by your organization as a gift.
What about you? Do you host a podcast? What are your best interview tips? Or do you have a favorite podcast? Let your suggestions and ideas in the comments below.
Mac Prichard is founder and president of Prichard Communications. He has conducted more than 160 podcast interviews with experts from around the world. Prichard has hosted and produced successful podcasts like SmartCast, a series of conversations with social change communications experts. Contact us to learn more.