In the podcast universe, interviews are a common thing to do, which doesn’t come as a big surprise. An interview can spice up your show and gives your listeners a change to the usual. A guest in your podcast can contribute new perspectives and insights to a topic that you maybe can’t. And, eventually, it can give your podcast bigger publicity because the people you interview might even share the episode with their network.
However, conducting a world-class interview is incredibly difficult. Because it is you as an interviewer who is responsible to create something worth listening to. Something that doesn’t bore your listeners to oblivion. In short, interviewing is a skill that nobody is born with.
The good news is, you can learn all this. It takes a bit of time and practice to develop a good flow in a conversation and to bring your guests’ stories to daylight. And you are not alone in this process, because we help you with some tips and tricks. If you think you can use some support, take the following steps as a basis and get started!
A good preparation is key!
The most important part of an interview is of course the interview itself. But there are certain steps that are necessary to take to even reach this point and to make the interview to something good. Such as getting a good guest, first of all.
Tip 1: Invite the right guests
Getting the right people for your interview might be trickier than you think. It is surely nice to invite your best friend, but sometimes your best friend is really not what your podcast episode is about. To get in contact with the person that is exactly right for your topic, it helps to ask oneself a couple of questions before starting to have a look around for the perfect match.
What is your podcast episode about? Who is an expert in the field? And what can this person contribute to your story that you maybe can’t? These are some of the criteria that your interviewee should meet. Moreover, you want to find someone whom you have wanted to reach out for and talk to even before. This makes it not only interesting for your listeners, but also for you.
Tip 2: Do your research
By the time you know who is about to be interviewed by you, you should get to know your guest. Spend a reasonable amount of time collecting information about this person. Visit their social media profiles, website, or do a Google-search. Has he or she been interviewed before? Or has the media been writing about her or him?
All these facts will help you to figure out what information you can get from the interview you’re about to do. And also, what questions to ask.
Tip 3: Prepare questions
Some podcasters like to record interviews without having prepared questions up their sleeve in order to have a more authentic and spontaneous conversation. While this way of interviewing might work for more experienced podcasters, it is not advisable for your first couple of interviews. Imagine hitting the record-button, fluttering nerves – and a blackout or some other very uncomfortable situation. Yeah, right?… And let’s make this clear, it’s absolutely possible to have a good and authentic conversation even if you come up with questions in advance.
What are good questions, you may ask? Remember what you want to tell your audience and how your guest can support you in that. You need questions that unfold the story. Go deep and don’t just scratch the surface. You researched the people, you know what they do, you are aware of what they have said before. Build on that and go into detail, ask about their motivations and their feelings. And see what happens.
Tip 4: Get the conversation started
Your first contact with your interviewee is, self-evidently, when you ask if he or she wants to be on your show. And your second contact should definitely be earlier than the interview recording itself. Get the conversation started before it actually starts on the audiotape, because that builds trust and a certain connection between you and the other person. Talk about your show and your goals you want to reach with the interview. Agree on a time frame and other technicalities.
Recording the interview
The recording of the interview is where the magic happens – and a pretty damn hard undertaking. But also the point where your preparation pays off. As a host, you should always have the following aspects in your mind. They make it much more likely for you to get the remarkable interview you want.
Tip 5: Be relaxed
If you are nervous like you’re about to write your final exams and haven’t studied, everybody will notice. So lean back and have some fun! The recording can always be edited in case something goes wrong.
Tip 6: Make sure the setup is right
Circumstances which have not much to do with the interview itself can be unnecessary stress factors and are easy to avoid. If you record in person, make sure you’re not late. And choose a place where you’re sure you won’t have too much annoying background noise. If you invite a person over to your place, prepare the setting in advance so that you can get started directly.
Nowadays it’s more common to do remote interviews, which gives you the possibility to get to people who are not within physical reach. There are plenty of programs such as Zoom to do the recording. The most important detail is though that you as well as the person you interview wear headphones, which makes the sound quality instantly better.
Before you hit the record button, it is always helpful to have a bit of small talk with your guest, like a warm-up before a workout session. These few minutes make both of you more relaxed and you can give the other person some last-minute details before you begin with the main part.
Tip 7: Listen to what your guest says
The number one rule in an interview for you as a host is to listen what your guest says. It is so tempting to think about if the sound is right and to mentally prepare for the next question so that you can avoid awkward breaks. But if you don’t observe what is going on, you probably miss the opportunity of getting to the heart of the story.
So, LISTEN! And ask follow-up questions your listeners want to ask if they hear the podcast. Your interview guide surely helps you to keep the conversation going whenever one topic is about to be covered and you want to move on. But the questions you have prepared in advance shouldn’t prevent you from digging deeper.
Tip 8: Let your guest do the talking
As an interview host, you are not important in that specific moment. You invited another person to your show because you want him or her to be in the center. And as much as we love to talk as podcasters, this is not the moment. Let your guest speak out, don’t interrupt and allow silence. Your interviewee needs time to think about the interesting answers you’re expecting.
Tip 9: React to your guest
Some people are talkative. Others are shy. Some are in a great mood on the day of the interview, others not so much. Some have good days, some not. You never know in advance.
It is you who needs to react to the interviewee and develop a feeling of what it needs to get the information you want. Sometimes it might as well take a bit of time until you get used to each other. Usually, the good stories appear towards the end, which is why you should not panic and have the patience and wait in order for the interview to develop in the right direction.
Done! What now?
Once you have finished the recording, it’s time to do the editing as you usually do with your podcast episodes and just put it out there. Besides that, there are some steps to take in case you want to continue with interviews in the future.
Tip 10: Practice
There’s only one way to really become a better interviewer: repeat the whole story. You can read as much theory about interview techniques as you want, you won’t learn it until you apply the theory. And you will notice that the whole process becomes easier, that you get routine and that you become more relaxed after some time.
Tip 11: Listen to your and other interviews
In order to take a step forward, you have to know first what went wrong or where to improve. You only find this out by listening to your own interviews, even though it might give you a hard time and can be sort of intimidating. We guarantee, though, that you’ll notice your mistakes and uncertainties pretty quickly.
And finally, you want to learn from the experts. Listen to other interviews and observe the interview styles of other hosts. You might discover techniques that you want to try out yourself.
Now, go out there and make yourself a better interviewer! And remember, even your favorite podcast host once started small and experienced a “first time” which they certainly are not very proud of. But they tried again. And look where they are now.