Conducting an informative and engaging interview requires excellent skills. Whether you are interviewing guests for your blog, website, or podcast, the insights should provide your audience with the right information. You cannot extract solid advice or guidance from your interviewee by simply asking cookie-cutter questions or having a regular conversation.
Famous interviewers and podcasters like Bill Simmons and Tim Ferris build their listener-base and drive traffic through killer interviewing skills. They explained a few qualities that a good interviewer always displays to rock their podcast interview. According to them, a great interviewer is always prepared, curious, adaptive, thoughtful, and creates a welcoming environment for the guests.
Put simply, if you are planning to conduct a podcast interview, make sure all your questions are practical and get the most out of your guest’s experience. Although generic questions may help you build a tempo of your interview, they will not produce great content. As an interviewer, appropriately tailoring your interview questions is vital for extracting insights, stories, and, most importantly, getting the advice your audience is looking for when they listen.
Let’s delve into the discussion to outline some tips you can use to improve your podcast interviewing skills.
Tips to Improve Podcast Interviewing Skills
Tip 1: Find Guests or Interviewees Who You Are Interested In
The art of conducting a great interview often relies on selecting great guests. A guiding principle for conducting successful interviews is to have a genuine interest in what your guests have to say. Even experienced podcasters like David Letterman cannot do much if a guest is stiff and rigid. Remember that no one can magically make people sound interesting using impeccable questioning skills.
Although good questioning does make a difference, it will not produce the content you want to present to your audience. That means it is important to invite guests who are interested (even if not experienced) in sharing information you really want to deliver to your listeners. Ideally, your interviewees possess a certain charm and charisma to add value to your podcast. Unfortunately, not every guest has that charm. However, our advice is to warm up any guest beforehand because a relaxed guest typically makes a demonstrative guest from our experiences.
In other words, do not interview a person just because they are popular or have an impressive job title. If you think someone will not have the knowledge required or is not interested in sharing their experiences, your listeners or audience may pick up on your fake curiosity. Rigid and canned behavior will not let the conversation go anywhere. This is when you need to realize the importance of finding the right guests, which is often easier said than done.
However, you can use platforms like MatchMaker.fm to simplify the selection process. You just need to add details on the type of your podcast, and it lets you browse data from hundreds of guest profiles to help you select the most relevant ones.
Tip 2: Remember Your Target Audience
While selecting the right guest is essential to driving traffic, keeping in mind who you are serving is of paramount importance.
Know that an interview not only helps your show or brand grow but also gives your guest exposure to a broader audience. That means, as a podcaster, your priority must be to enlighten the people listening to your show and make your guest shine. You need to get answers to the questions your audience is interested in asking from the guest you are interviewing. The answer should serve the people who consume the content and want to make the most of the information they get from your podcast.
Serving your listeners and audience is a gesture of care they will appreciate a lot.
Tip 3: Do Some Research
Research is a double-edged sword. It is one of the most critical steps to prompt your guests and ask relevant questions. While too much research may make your conversation feel rigid and robotic, a lack of research may lead to covering an irrelevant discussion that may come across as disrespectful or rude. The point is you need to hit that sweet spot in the middle to make a great podcast that your audience will want to listen to every time.
So what is the ideal level of research that can help you conduct an informative interview?
Here are some tips to consider:
- Read the Guest’s About Page – the aim of reading the about page is not to jot down guests’ accomplishments or career history. Achievements and awards are great to discuss, but that is not what makes a meaningful interview. Instead, you should be looking for some peculiar or extraordinary qualities that add to their story. You need to develop an understanding of your guest as a person and detect what aspects of their personality make them who they are.
- Extract Information from Social Media– If your guest is active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, find out how they interact with people there, as well as what topics they posted about recently? Do they share articles or updates relevant to their field? Finding this information is one way to kick off a great discussion in your interview session.
- Find out Media Appearances- Checking if your guest has appeared on other podcasts or similar interviews can give you a good idea of their personality. Researching on your guest’s recent appearances on TV or podcasts will also help you determine the topics they like to cover and inspire new questions that may pleasantly surprise your guest.
Tip 4: Prepare a List of Probing, Open-Ended, and Flexible Questions
When you finish your initial research, the next important thing you can do to improve your interviewing skills is preparing a list of questions. It is vital to find some creative angles for the items you want to ask. Keep in mind that if you ask the same questions your guest has already answered before on other podcast interviews, you will probably be getting rehearsed answers.
That is why preparing a list of probing questions before conducting an interview is an important step. Your prepared list of questions will serve as a template for your podcast. It will be a guideline to give your interview a direction from start to end.
It is worth mentioning that this is not a shopping list, and you do not need to follow it 100 percent. You have an option to deviate from the list and rephrase a question, depending on the answers you get. You might not get to ask all of the listed questions, but they will serve as a reminder and opportunity to dig deeper into whatever topic you are discussing.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind while compiling questions.
- Do not ask closed-ended, yes or no questions
- Ask only one question at a time
- Ask questions that allow guests to expound
- Show the list of questions to the guest before the interview (if possible) to ensure that they are comfortable with answering them
- Remain flexible and open during the conversation (improv class help with this skill)
Tip 5: Do Some Pre-Interview Homework
Once you learn about the person that you will be interviewing, do some pre-interview homework. Confirm the interview schedule and method of recording with the interviewee. These steps are essential if you are interviewing a person who lives in a different time zone. Confirm the following things with your guest;
- Time and date of interview
- The medium of communication (i.e., in-person, Zoom, etc.)
- Approximate length and duration of the interview
Make sure to test all the recording equipment, including audio, microphones, and software settings.
Tip 6: Provide a Warm and Welcoming Environment
A welcoming environment plays a vital role in getting the best responses from your interviewee. You need to make your guest feel comfortable to initiate a friendly conversation, get informative answers, and entertain your audience.
Know that a happy and comfortable guest responds enthusiastically and gives beefier information in a friendly tone. And this ultimately benefits your audience. Try these tips to create a welcoming environment for your interviewer.
- Let your guests know before the interview that it is going to be a friendly conversation
- Share all the details about the interview with your guest before the session
- Offer them to see the interview questions to help them feel comfortable and relaxed
- Show your guest that you are enthusiastic about conducting his or her interview
Tip 7: Allow the Interviewee to Talk
The worse thing an interviewer can do to ruin any interview is taking over the conversation and not allowing the person to talk. This not only kills the essence of inviting and interviewing someone but also makes them feel disrespected.
Rather, the key to conducting a successful interview is to give your interviewee a chance to speak or communicate without any interruptions. Of course, this does not imply that you should not participate in the conversation. You can and should engage in the discussion to add valuable chunks. But make sure you do create a space for your guest to share their story.
Tip 8: Be an Active Listener
Linked to the last point, you need to be an active listener to make interviews impactful and informative. Do not rush to the next question until your guest has finished answering the first one. If you do not listen to the complete answer, you will miss the point your guest is making. Your response to unfinished questions will feel disjointed and awkward.
This skill may be difficult for you in the beginning as you do not want an awkward silence or dead air after the questions. Rehearsing the questions in mind can help you feel confident and prepared. But if you are not an expert, it may prevent your conversation from maintaining a natural flow. That is why it is essential to pay close attention to the answers and link the questions in your head for more natural responses.
Tip 9: Keep the Discussion Moving Forward
30 or 45 minutes may seem like hours to conduct an interview, but it may not be enough when you have a vast topic area to cover. In such situations, you do not need to waste time covering the extensive background of your guest. Also, never stretch time in the introduction or on basic information on the topic unless you feel the topic will be foreign to the majority of your audience.
It is essential to move on to the main point after a brief introduction of your guest and topic. For that, make sure your questions are direct, clear, and concise. Your audience likes to listen to your guests, so avoid rambling on at length and details about your opinions.
Do not hesitate to reel your interviewee back in if they go too far off the topic. Remember, as long as you’re not recording for a live audience, the conversation can always be edited in post-production.
Tip 10: Listen to Expert Podcasters
Lastly, this is an important tip that can enhance your interviewing skills. You should listen to expert interviewers with a critical ear. Notice how they interact with their guests; ask questions, and guide discussions and conversations. It is better to take notes and pick up a few tips by paying attention to the tone, style, and diction expert podcasters use to interview people.
Try to incorporate them into your next podcast interview while adding your unique touch. Listening to expert podcasters doesn’t mean that you should imitate them, although it doesn’t hurt to do so if you really don’t know where to start improving. As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery. It is all about studying the masters, learning from them, and polishing your skills. You can playback your own podcast after incorporating deliberate changes to your podcast and note the difference. It may also help you pick out crutch words you use during the interview. Keep in mind that even masters prescribe continuous improvement, so why not you?
Interviewing is all about your genuine interests, extracting stories, digging deep, avoiding awkwardness, defining the imprecise things, and, last but not least, being mindful of gleaming insightful information for your listeners. If a person you are interviewing is not sharing much, it is your responsibility to elicit information worth listening to.
Thus, the given tips above are useful and can help you initiate and hold a meaningful conversation with your guests. By incorporating these tips into your podcast interviews, you will be sure to bring an informative and entertaining interview for your audience.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact us for more tips and tricks, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with our interview coaching experts.