We have reached our final step in the Production pillar, the second pillar, of our four pillars of podcasting. Now, if you have been following along, we’ve discussed picking your niche and your show’s format. Here’s where those items come more into play when it’s time for production. In this article, we’re going to be discussing some tips for conducting great podcast interviews. But first, if you haven’t read these sections in the Four Pillars of Podcasting or in our previous blog posts, take a moment to do that now…go ahead, we’ll wait.
There’s An Audience For Everything
Did you know that pretty much every topic can find a guest to interview? It’s true. You can interview an upcoming designer if your niche happens to be in the fashion genre, or political figures are abundant for podcasts on government or world views. In the music genre, you may want to be able to interview band members, managers or venues. Even in a scripted format, you may want to interview your voice actors or writers. Think of it as an extension of given information, or a “special” episode every now and again.
Now, that does not mean you have to utilize interviews for your podcast. If you’re a solo-cast format, you may be more comfortable using your own voice and opinions, hence why you chose that type of show format. Roundtable formats are really informal interviews in themselves, aren’t they? But, when it comes to those of you choosing to use interview shows as your podcast format, you’re really going to want to consider what we have to offer in this last section of the production pillar.
Making a Plan
In writing there are three types when it comes to jotting down your words. There is the pantser, the plotter, and the hybrid. You can apply these three types to interviewers as well.
- Panster – The pantser is the writer who tosses out all the planning besides the ideas and characters swimming around inside their head. They just go for it and see where it goes, flying around by the seat of their “pants”, in a sometimes very messy endeavor.
- Plotter – The plotter is organized, they outline, they research, they sometimes get lost in all notes and facts and their writing may become very dry and unnatural sounding to the reader.
- Hybrid – The combination of the two, the hybrid. This writer utilizes a plan, based on some research, but also lets the information flow in a more enjoyable manner. See where this is going?
Finding Your Style
When conducting an interview, you don’t want to be so over-studied on your guest that you appear robotic, or worse yet, a real snobby know-it-all. On the other hand, if you know nothing and simply wing it, you’re going to come off as uncaring about your guest and what they have to contribute, risking the ability to have them return to, or promote, your podcast. You are better suited to find an in between or a “hybrid” of the two.
Create a direction to take by writing out an outline. List questions you feel are pertinent to the subject material and then leave some room for spontaneity. You want a balance between specific information and casual conversation. This will leave both you and your guest feeling at ease with the interview.
Do your research before choosing a guest. Try to find out their “hot” topics and what they may want to avoid. You can always ask, even though you may begin a debate, but remember they are a guest and you should end on at least a note of respect for their views. The point of the research is so that you, as the host, have a bit of background and are able to steer the direction of the interview, even if that direction is sticking your nose into a hornets’ nest. At least you will be aware of the sting.
Once you have found your guest, and invited them, and they have agreed to participate, you need to schedule a date to conduct the interview. You’ll need to establish if this interview will be in person, over the phone, on location or via video interface on a platform like Riverside.fm or Squadcast. Remeber, DO NOT USE ZOOM to record remote interviews. You can find more info on why we don’t recommend Zoom for podcasts, in this post, How To Record a Remote Podcast Online.
This will also be a good time to consider your recording capabilities, the system you will have access to, and the microphone setup as this will determine what time and set up you will need. Remember, if you’re choosing to
Sticking to the calendar is very important if you want to be a great podcast interviewer. People are busy, and let’s face it the world doesn’t revolve around your podcast…yet. Be respectful of your guest and their time. If you set a day and time, keep it. Give yourself and your guest enough time to prepare, to let go of whatever stressors they may have come with, and to get comfortable in your environment before you actually begin to record. Also allow enough time on the backend of the interview to thank them, get any input or information, and let them know how much you appreciated their time to participate. Manners matter.
The Sit Down
Once you have situated yourself and your guest with comfortable seats, if you’re in a studio setting, you have drinks and all your notes, you’ll want to take a minute to test your equipment and do a review of your purpose and schedule with your guest. No matter who you are interviewing, be it a friend to a big name, you will want to keep in mind your time frame, your outline of questions, and as selfish as it sounds, you’ll want to keep control of the segment. Some guests can be rather chatty and lead off in a direction you didn’t intend. Prepare yourself to guide them back to the topic at hand if this occurs.
All right, you’ve captured your interview, shaken hands, and made an awesome connection. I bet you’re sitting wondering how great it would be if Mr. Famous here spread the word about your time spent together, how awesome it was, and how he intends to recommend you and your podcast to all his fans. Wow, you’d be an overnight hit, wouldn’t you? As wonderful as that seems, don’t always expect that from your guests.
But there are a few tips available to remind them that it would be amazingly kind if they did.
- Be sure to thank them before they leave, mentioning how you plan to use the interview.
- Send them a personalized thank you note with your card, be sure to list the date and time the episode will air, and invite them to listen.
- The day of the scheduled air date, send them a quick email with links to where the podcast is live. Ask them to help your promote the episode on their channels.
Dialing It All In
These tips on conducting podcast interviews are just a jumping off point. It’ll take you some time to get comfortable conducting interviews. You’ll eventually craft your own style and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you. You’ll also begin to develop better timing with your questions and a vibe that makes guests comfortable. Comfortable guests are open and trusting guests. Once guests are comfortable with you they’ll feel comfortable being vulnerable. This is where the real interview magic happens!
Now stand back and look at those two towering pillars to support your podcast dreams and show’s success. You’re doing it! Start gathering your tools, we aren’t finished. Pillar number three’s foundation is just up ahead. See you there.
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