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Podcast Recording: How to interview a podcast guest

The interviewee may have contrasting views to yours and provide debate, they might be able to bring their expertise and insight or be an entertaining as they recall their own experiences.

Your role as the interviewer is to get the best from them. That takes planning, preparation and effort.

Don’t assume you can press record and everything will seamlessly fall into place.

#1 Finding the right guests

If you have established a podcast to find out more on a subject, who are the people that can supply the information? You may have established a podcast on a subject you are expert in, but there will be people with more experience in certain areas, who have real life experiences and can add to your discussions.

If you think a potential guest would be interesting to talk to, the chances are your listeners will too.

#2 The role of the interviewer

An interview is a two-way process, and the interviewer plays a key role in helping the discussion flow. The interviewer needs to be prepared, informed and ready to steer and frame the content.

The task of the podcast host is to probe and frame the interview to get the most out of the guest for the listener.

"Let passion drive your profession" – Oprah Winfrey

#3 Know your podcast guest well

Be clear in your head what your guest brings to your podcast? Why have you asked them to come on and talk? It is your job as the interviewer to extract as much from the guest as possible.

If you have a genuine interest in your guest and are excited about what they have to say, you’re going to be fine. Let your enthusiasm shine through.

If you're not interested, maybe you should reconsider your booking. Don’t just interview anyone for the sake of it to notch up another episode. You have ambitions for your podcast and your guests should add value to that vision.

#4 Research

Don’t assume that you know what the guest is going to say. Google them, read previous interviews, listen to their other podcast appearances and become over-informed on who they are and what they've achieved. When they have spoken before was there anything that sparked social media debate.

Don’t be content with rehashing past interviews. Drill down and establish what hasn’t been asked. Is there a current news story that they may have an opinion on? Make notes and identify topics and issues you can ask questions on.

It’s better to have too much information on your guest and not use it all, than have too little and run out of things to discuss.

#5 Collecting questions can pre-promote the interview

After your research, revisit why you’ve asked the guest to talk to you, create a list of questions, batch them together in topic areas, think about what your audience will be interested in and imagine how you want the final podcast to sound.

Get this part of your planning right and it will free you up to enjoy the interview as you know which direction it will be going in.

Tell your social media following that you have a particular guest lined up and ask them to send in questions. Chances are they’ll listen to hear the answers.

#6 Talk to your guest before recording

Before pressing record, have a chat. This is particularly useful if you’ve never met before. On a base level, a brief “how are you doing today?” conversation, means you’re not diving straight into the podcast cold. But, it also allows the interviewer a chance to get to know the guest a little, and maybe even find something out that adds to the subsequent recorded chat.

Also, tell the guest what to expect as they may never have heard your podcast. Set the timescale, particularly if you want a decent chunk of their day. You don’t want to get to question 5 of the 15 on your notepad, for them to say they have another meeting to get to.

None of this is rocket science, it’s good manners and nothing more than the basic human interactions with friends or work colleagues in most other areas of life. Show the guest respect by being friendly, giving them information and listen to any questions they have.

#7 Introduce and welcome your quest

Prepare an introduction that not only welcomes your guest but informs the listener who they are and why they should stay to hear them speak.

#8 This podcast is about them, not you

Unless you have booked a guest to take an adversarial role in a genuine two-way debate, you have asked them to come onto your podcast to find out more about them. Remember, the interview is about them and not you.

If the interview is rolling along wonderfully, the role of the interviewer is to let the guest speak. Don’t be tempted to jump in mid-answer with your own anecdotes.

Always be conscious of time and how many more questions you still have to ask and be ready to move the chat along, but let the guest speak. The listener has tuned in to hear them and not you. Give them plenty of opportunity and time to speak.

#9 Challenge your guest's opinions

Let a guest speak, set them up to entertain, but don’t be shy. Play devil’s advocate, put opposing opinion, prod them verbally, then sit back to see how they respond..

#10 Active listening

You have created a list of questions, you’re conscious of time constraints and determined to tick everything off, there is a danger that you forget to listen to your guest’s answers.

A good interviewer actively listens to show their guest that their contribution is being valued.

#11 Go off topic, if it's interesting

You have your list of questions and notes, but listening to your guest’s answers may steer you, albeit temporarily, in another direction.

It’s up to you to make a judgement call on whether going off on that tangent adds value, or whether you need to steer the conversation back to your prepared script.

An unexpected diversion, revelation, anecdote, or something you didn’t previously know, could be podcast gold. So, prepare to follow your question script, but don’t allow it to restrict you.

#12 The easy first question

Enable a guest to become more confident and relaxed by serving up an easy first question. The guest will then get used to speaking, become comfortable and be more ready to answer tougher questions in similar fashion.

In the chat you have with a guest prior to recording, you may even want to let them know what the first question will be. It could settle them down and get the podcast recording off to a great start.

#13 Stay on track

Yes, let the guest talk, expand and don’t be afraid to pick up on interesting responses by delving deeper with follow-up questions. Ultimately however, as much as you’d like to chat for hours, you can’t. You need to be conscious that you may only have your guest for a certain period and move the discussion on to allow you to cover everything you had planned.

#14 Thank the guest and speak after recording

The guest has been asked onto your podcast for a reason. You may want to call on them again. Make the experience enjoyable, create a relationship and thank them for their time.

Equally, a good rapport may allow you to tap into their social media following. You want as many people to listen as possible, therefore ask your guest for a retweet as their following may never have come across your podcast before. This is a great way to attract new listeners. And, if they enjoy the listen, they may well return.

#15 Interviewing is fun and you're always learning

Ahead of interviewing somebody for the first time, fun may not be the word that springs to mind. But, it's a great way to meet people you admire, you get to pick their brains and enjoy their company. Consider each interview and opportunity to find out more about a topic you love.

Once you've done your first interview, you'll learn from it and be more confident with the next. Listen back, think of t you could have done better, celebrate what worked and get ready for the next one!

Yorkshire Podcast Studios

If you’re searching for a podcast studio near Leeds, an audiobook recording studio, or a studio you can live-stream from in West Yorkshire, we’re just off the M62 at Birstall. A 10-minute drive from Morley Train Station.

We’ll do our best to make your podcast, audiobook, voice-over or live-stream vodcast the VERY best.

Get in touch here or book through this link now.

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