When I think about the great hosts and interviewers of our time, I think about persons Howard Stern, Larry King, Barbara Walters, and Oprah. They led the way in creating profound experiences for listeners or viewers, whether emotional or controversial.
Today, with the advent of podcasts, we have some excellent modern-day interviewers like Joe Rogan, TED’s Chris Anderson, and WTF’s Marc Maron. At the same time, now everyone can be an interviewer; no experience necessary.
There are over 850,000 podcasts with 30 million episodes online. So if you have an interview-style podcast or you’re looking to start one, becoming a fantastic podcast host is one of the ways you can stand out from the crowd.
For your interview-style podcast to work, you have to attract highly qualified guests in your niche. But even with subject matter experts, your show can fall flat if you’re not doing your job as a podcast host. If you’re new to the industry or trying to brush up on your skills, these tips will help you step your game up in no time!
It goes without saying that you have to research your guest before they come onto your show. Spend at least one hour creating your bio on them, so you can get an idea not only of the skillset but the type of person you’ll have on your show. You should generally be knowledgeable on the topic yourself to ask high-value questions for your audience. If you’re not, spend some more time getting up to speed. Research can make or break your podcast, and it’s half the battle.
You can do all the research in the world and still be (or feel) unprepared. First, make sure that you or your team check the equipment, sound quality, and video (if applicable). Have the right time scheduled and the appropriate space for an undisturbed interview. If things are broken, you feel flustered, and all your research goes out the window.
Also, have your list of questions ready to direct the flow of the conversation. You can surprise your guest by bringing up an interesting fact you learned about them. They’ll appreciate that you did your homework.
Yes, you can wing it, but you’ll probably find yourself in hot water. A prepared host impresses the guest, and he or she will happy to return or recommend others to your podcast.
For an easy flow, it’s a good gesture to prep your guest via call or email. Give them an idea of what you want to cover, how long it will take, and what’s the goal. Make sure to ask them what’s off-limits and to let them know the dos and don’ts of your podcast (e.g., no explicit language). Your guest will feel confident coming onto your podcast and sharing because you’ve earned their trust. This leads to a smooth, engaging conversation that both you and your listeners will enjoy.
A comfortable guest will be more likely to share information and thoughts that they haven’t shared before. Making them feel comfortable could mean that they have a comfortable space if the interview is in person. It could mean a relaxed vibe if it’s happening over video calls, like Zoom or Skype. Famous journalists and interviewers have a knack for making their guests bring down their defenses. They are engaged, empathetic, and give off great energy. So the content itself won’t matter if the flow is excellent.
A pet peeve of mine. I’ve listened to podcasts where the host spoke more than the guest. The host asked a question, and the guest started to answer, then the host went into a 5-minute rant about their thoughts on the topic. It leads to a poor experience for listeners and can hurt your podcast’s brand. The reason the guest is there is to share their expertise! The best interviewers listen more than they speak.
The best interviewers ask probing questions and can mix open-ended questions with close-ended questions. Ask them how they felt in a particular situation. Find out what else they think about the topic. Make them slightly uncomfortable without compromising the flow or making them snap back at you. Take a look at your questions before the interview and see which ones you can use to dig a bit deeper. Your guest will be impressed with you, and your listeners will love it.
A great podcast host can make the guest experience two crucial things. First, the guest will feel like a part of the show. Next, the guest gets as much value out of the interview as you and your listeners. For starters, make sure to promote them and their service or skills to your audience.
Don’t forget to let your personality shine! It’s not a job interview. It’s an opportunity to engage with someone who can teach you and your podcast audience about your niche or topic. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Smile, laugh, show your passion, and be engaging. Let it feel like a conversation between you and a trusted friend. Don’t change yourself or pretend to be someone you’re not. You’ll burn out and lose interest in your podcast.
You can be prepared, but things won’t go the way you want. Maybe the topic shifted away from where you intended. Perhaps you run out of questions, or the guest is cold and uncooperative. Don’t be afraid to make a change on the fly if necessary. You might end up with some podcast gold.
Don’t forget to thank your guest and your listeners. Time is the most important and valuable asset. Your guest took time out to speak with you and your audience, and that should not go unnoticed, especially if your guest has some degree of influence. That appreciation will go a long way to make your audience come back as well as your guest. Your guest will also be happy to refer you to other experts you can have on your show.
You won’t become Joe Rogan overnight. It takes time to learn how to interview others, especially if you aren’t a formally trained journalist or reporter. Keep working on how you prepare, interview, interact, and listen to your guests. For some extra help, poll your audience to find out your style and what you can improve on. If you’re open to constructive criticism and you are coachable, you’ll get where you need to be in no time.
As the host of my interview-style podcast, I know how hard podcasting can be. If you need help with podcasting and other forms of content creation, join my email list! You can learn more about starting and growing your podcast as well as Content Marketing tips. I can’t wait to connect with you!