How to Become a Better Podcast Interviewer in 7 Simple Steps
Many podcasts adopt the interview format for its conversational nature and access to interesting guests and ideas. However, conducting interviews is easier said than done. Unless you have a background in journalism, radio, or TV – or several years of podcasting experience in this format – you’ll find that bouncing questions off a guest can result in an awkward, stilted, unbalanced conversation. Maintaining an engaging flow of conversation for an extended period of time requires practice, patience, and preparation. All of this is within reach for anyone willing to do the work.
Here are 7 simple steps you can follow in order to become a better podcast interviewer.
1. Invite Interesting Guests
An interview is simply a form of conversation, albeit with some guideposts. And like any conversation, mutual interest is the beating heart that keeps it flowing. If you’re not particularly interested in what your guest has to say, you’ll wind up with a stiff interview that’s anything but natural or engaging for the listener. So, only bring on guests you actually want to hear from. The rest should flow naturally.
2. Do Your Homework
You don’t need to be an expert in a given topic to sustain a fruitful conversation with a guest. You do, however, need to put in some effort ahead of time to familiarize yourself with their work, ideas, and relevant topics. Doing so will not only give you a solid foundation on which to base your interview – it will also allow you to generate thoughtful questions.
3. Ask Questions Your Audience Wants to Hear
Ideally, the things that interest you will also interest your audience. Keep in mind, however, that to maintain an audience you must keep them engaged first and foremost. As such, the things you ask your podcast guest should be catered to your audience’s interests. The more you understand and engage with your audience, the easier it will be to come up with these specific, engaging queries.
4. Keep the Conversation Moving
As interesting as any one topic may be, a captivating interview covers a wide range of topics (even if these topics fall under the umbrella of a single larger idea). If you or your guest get too caught on a particular concept, you risk losing your audience’s interest – you’ll also potentially miss out on some valuable insights. Expert interviewers slickly move from one topic to the next without abruptly shifting gears, maintaining the flow of conversation throughout. They often do this with clever segues and by asking clear, concise questions that offer easy off-ramps when a point starts to get too drawn out.
5. Let Your Guest Speak
It’s your podcast, so you may be tempted to hog the mic during an interview (even if it’s not your intention to do so). But be careful. Remember that an interview is a conversation, one that generally requires more input from the guest than the host. Even if a relevant anecdote springs to mind during the interview, refrain from interrupting your guest. Cutting someone off mid-sentence isn’t just rude – it’s a bad interview habit that disrupts the conversation and can quickly veer the entire conversation off course.
6. Listen Well
This piece of advice follows directly from the previous one. The best interviewers are good listeners. You might have a list of questions before you, but if you pay too much attention to your next question and lose focus on your guest’s words then and there, you can miss vital bits of information. The result is often a clunky podcast that feels less like a conversation and more like a rote advertisement. This lack of engagement reflects poorly on you as a host, and both your guest and audience will pick up on it. Actively listening and adapting your responses to what’s happening in real time is the key to keeping both your guest and audience engaged throughout.
7. Evaluate Your Previous Podcasts
Some podcasters love listening to their previous episodes. Others can’t stand to listen to their own voice. No matter your personal feelings, playing back your work is essential to improving your interviewing skills (just like an athlete rolling back the tape or a musician listening to their recording sessions). When doing so, consider whether you asked good questions, if you kept the conversation moving, if and when you interrupted your guest, etc. You’re bound to note at least a few mistakes as you listen back – this is normal. Recognizing your errors will allow you to minimize them over time.
Improve Your Interviews
No one becomes an expert interviewer overnight. By following the steps outlined here, however, you can hone your hosting skills and create more valuable, engaging podcasts for your audience. If you have any more questions on this topic or want to arrange a mock interview, get in touch with us!
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