The interview format for podcasts is a classic for a reason: it helps you show your audience something (and someone!) new, and it allows you potentially leverage someone else's audience. You might feel a little nervous going into your first interview on your podcast, but that's okay! Plus, podcast interviews are way more fun than job interviews.
There are two things to know about being a good interviewer: you can’t wing it, and it’s way more than just preparing a good list of questions. You have to be able to have a meaningful conversation, understand and utilize your interviewee’s unique personality, ask deep questions, navigate awkward situations, and maintain a positive connection all at the same time. But don’t worry–you got this.
Although practice does really make perfect, and your interview skills will become stronger over time, there are a few tips you can keep in mind to help yourself improve.
Know Your Audience
Before you start doing research, and way before you start asking questions, you should be thinking about the interests and needs of your target demographic. While an interview will be beneficial for your podcast and your pockets, your priority should (always) be serving your audience (but you knew that, right?). Ask questions and draw answers that your listeners will find helpful. When they’re finished listening to your interview, they audience should feel as informed, not like they accidentally stepped into an Advanced Chem class when they were just trying to scope out the periodic table.
As you go through your interview, try your best to consider your audience’s understanding of the topic. Bear in mind: just because you know all about the expert you’re interviewing and you’ve read all of their books doesn’t mean that your audience members are equally familiar. You might need to lay down some foundation and before you build the cozy little cottage that is your interview.
Do Your Research
Remember that research we mentioned earlier? Okay, cool! You gotta do it.
While yo’ll definitely learn more about the person you’re interviewing as you interview them (because that’s kind of the point!), you should also be conducting research before the interview begins. Sure, having someone well-known on your show will increase your numbers, but you know what will really give you a bump? If that well-known person reveals something they’ve never told anyone else–and you’ll only know what they have told people if (you saw this coming, right?) you do your research.
(Plus, researching your interviewee will give you great insight about how they answer questions: will they give stilted, PR-ready talking points until you get them laughing? Are you going to have to put an explicit tag on your episode? Have they been known to walk out of interviews if their beloved, deceased dog Muffy is mentioned? The more research you do, the better prepared you’ll be!)
Create an Outline
All the research in the world won’t help you if it flies out of your head when you’re seated across from your idol, who you’re about to interview. Before the intent rview, create a rough outline for your interview with potential questions. You don’t need to be tied to this outline and should feel free to deviate from this list, you also do not want to find yourself in a situation where you’re suddenly out of questions.
Come up with a few open-ended questions that you can refer to if you get stuck or when the opportunity arises. These will keep you from forgetting to ask a particular question during the course of the interview. These questions should be thoughtful and should go beyond the basic interview questions–because those garner basic responses!
Definitely consider sharing this list with the person you’re interviewing beforehand. This can help anxious or inexperienced guests feel more comfortable about the interview, and it will give them the opportunity to prepare relevant details and information that will make for more interesting responses.
Engage with Your Interviewee
While it is important to come up with some questions as an outline for the interview, one of the worst ways to conduct an interview is to stick vehemently to a list of pre-prepared questions. Allow the conversation to flow naturally, ask follow up questions, and when appropriate, do not be afraid to head in a different direction than you originally planned. Who knows what’s out there!
Remember the person you invited on your show is not just a tool to provide answers about a particular topic. There’s Google for that! They are a real person with whom you are having a conversation, and you should treat your interview accordingly.
The reason you invite a guest onto your show for an interview is to hear what they have to say about a particular topic. In any context, a good interviewer does not talk over their interviewee. While the interview is a conversation, it is important to remember that a conversation goes two ways. Don’t cut off your guest, and don’t make the interview about you. Take the time to listen to what they have to say, rather than just waiting to speak, without interrupting or dominating the conversation.
When the person you’re interviewing speaks, give them your undivided attention. Don’t focus so much on what question you are going to ask next that you miss their response to the previous question or lose any opportunities to ask follow up questions. The last thing you want is to miss out on the natural chemistry that comes from two people having a great conversation.
Prepare for Technical Issues
So here’s the thing: your interview, and all the prep you did to make it killer, won’t matter if your listeners aren’t able to hear it on your podcast. Make sure that you are using high-quality tools that will capture sound and keep your volume is balanced. Test all of your equipment to make sure it works. If you do experience any technical difficulties, use audio software to increase the volume, eliminate lag, and fix any other issues that might interfere with the quality of your interview. You might also consider a back-up recording option–better safe than sorry?
Okay, so this isn’t *really* a best practice, but it’s worth saying: all the prep and all these tips are there to make you more confident in your interviewing skills. You’re a charming human with good instincts! You can have a great conversation, and your listeners are going to love it. You got this!