Podcast interviews can be great! There’s no doubt that having guests on your podcast is a really great way to grow your community, strengthen your niche authority, besides the fact that it adds some incredible value to your audience!
But while having some fun with some amazing guests on your podcast is the dream of many a podcast host, it can also be a little terrifying. Because somewhere, be it the tiniest corner in the back of your mind, a sinister question looms…What if the interview goes badly?
(Insert a Psycho-esque violin screech…)
What if your guest has zero interest in being there? What if you or your guest (or worse yet, both of you!) is having a really bad day? What if every question you ask is met with a nonchalant (and non-verbal!) shrug of the shoulders? What then?
I know. These are scary thoughts. But the reality is, a bad interview – although hopefully very few and far between – is often par for the course of the podcasting journey, particularly if you’re regularly lining up interviews on your show. However, there are some safeguard strategies you can implement should you find yourself with a bad interview on your hands.
And while life does happen, and many things are, as frustrating as it can be, beyond our control, there are still some things in our control that we can implement to save the day, and the interview. We’ll start with some things you can do before the interview even takes place to help make it go smoothly. Prevention is better than a cure, and all that.
A successful interview is more often than not made in the preparation stage. So the first way to save a bad interview is to prevent it from turning bad in the first place by being as thoroughly prepared as you can be. You can start by doing thorough research on your guest, as you’ll then be able to confidently ask questions that will give your listeners the best value. And part of your preparation should include sending your planned questions to your guest, so that they can prepare too.
By being prepared, you clearly show your guest that you are genuinely interested in them, and care about their experience on your show. This gives your guest a sense of value, and, in turn, can help set the scene for a genuine connection and open conversations to take place, which translates to great content for your episode. But more importantly, being as prepared as possible means that you’re better able to navigate all that comes with podcast interviews, and will be less likely to be taken by surprise if things take a turn for the worse.
2. Be Confident (AKA Stay Calm!)
We get it! Interviewing people, particularly icons in their field or those you admire and respect can be daunting! But if you start to let the fear get in your head, it could negatively impact your interviews. If you start to second guess yourself, start questioning your right to be in the hot seat, or even questioning all that you bring to the table, you can actually create a negative atmosphere that unsettles your guest, and can lead to the interview tanking.
Instead, be confident – and by that we really stay calm and in control (even if you don’t feel it, fake it!) Remember, you’ve worked hard to create a great show, you’ve done your research, and put in the preparation time. So you can go out there with confidence and have a great time with your guests! And this confidence will then allow you to take everything in your stride.
3. Keep the Atmosphere Relaxed
The power of a warm and welcoming environment should not be underestimated when it comes to setting the scene for a great interview. If your guest feels welcomed and respected when they enter your space, you’ll put them at ease right from the start, and your interview will be more likely to be a success.
Be kind, courteous, and professional in your interactions, listen actively and intently as your guest shares with you, be on time (and by that we mean “early!”) and help set your guest at ease. All these seemingly little things can have a huge bearing on the success of your interview.
4. Keep Your Guest Happy
A relaxed, happy guest is usually one who then delivers a stand-out interview, so it is in your best interest to keep your guest happy and relaxed throughout their experience on your show.
Keeping the atmosphere relaxed is a must, but there are also some “no-no’s” to avoid to help keep that great atmosphere. Here are some top ones to take notice of:
1. Don’t get too personal or invasive
While you should do thorough research into your guest so that you’re able to ask well-thought-out and poignant questions, you need to be careful that your questions are not overly personal or invasive. You definitely do not want to make your guest feel uncomfortable, as this could make them clam up.
2. Don’t interrupt your guest
It can be incredibly frustrating for guests (as well as the listeners!) when the host keeps interjecting or speaking over the them. It typically reads as rude, and can border on disrespectful, making it difficult for your guest to find the experience pleasant, and consequently, making it less likely that they’ll work with you to produce a great interview.
3. Don’t make it all about you
One of the quickest ways to make your guest lose interest in the interview is if you as the host keep making it all about you. If you’re constantly bringing the conversation back to yourself, sharing your own experiences, and stealing your guest’s thunder, it will be very unlikely that they’ll give you genuine interaction and great insights during the interview.
So those are some of the key things you can do pre- and during your interview to keep it from going south. But what do you do if you’re mid interview, and you realize it’s going all sorts of sideways? We’ve got some tips for that too!
5. Take a Break
First up, a really simple fix to stop a bad interview in it’s tracks – take a break. Maybe you, or your guest, just needs to step away from the mic for a bit, have some coffee, drink some water, work through a breathing technique, to put you in the right headspace for the rest of the interview.
For whatever reason – things get heated when you and your guest disagree on a particular point, you’ve hit that mid-morning energy slump, or your guest is just a little nervous – taking a little break can be the exact turnaround you’re needing to to get the interview going smoothly once again. So don’t be afraid to call a time-out if you feel it’s needed – those few minutes away from the mic can make all the difference to the final product.
6. Trust the Editing Magic
You will likely feel like you’ve lost all sense of control if your interview feels like it’s going off the rails, taking detours you certainly didn’t plan, or veering off topic completely in parts. But rather than going into a tailspin, and losing all your control and confidence, sometimes, the best way to handle this is to simply trust in the editing magic!
You really can save a seemingly bad interview in the post-production process. Yes, these episodes may take a little longer than normal to edit, particularly if you have to get a little creative with how you pull the final product together by piecing together the salvageable content, but in a lot of cases, the episode can be saved! So rather than panicking when things start going off topic during the interview, remain calm, work in those carefully planned questions, and you should still have some solid content to work the editing magic on in post-production.
Related read: 10 Editing Tips To Increase Your Podcast Sound Quality
7. Let It Go
(If “that song” from “that movie” is now stuck in your head, I apologize. If it’s any consolation, it’s stuck in mine too…) But Elsa does have some valuable wisdom to share – sometimes the only course of action is to just let it go…
Whether that means letting go of your carefully crafted script and just going where your guest takes you, letting go of your worries about time limits and constraints, or, in drastic cases, letting go of the interview all together. If your equipment is simply not working as it should on the day, your guest is just too nervous to deliver, or if the day has not been stellar for one or both of you, it may be time to pull the plug. If you do realize that the latter is the only option available, then you may need to stop the recording, and ask your guest if they will be willing to reschedule the interview for another time. Be as open and honest as possible or as is appropriate, show respect to your guest and prioritize your working relationship, and booking a “re-do” could be the best decision you make.
Perhaps you’re right in the thick of it, and you realize things are going all sorts of wrong. So here is our final tip: if the interview is not going as you expected, perhaps, it’s your expectations that need to change. So now it’s time to “Pivot!” Ross Gellar style. Take a step back for a moment (call the above-mentioned break if you need to) and reassess the situation. Perhaps the interview is actually not going badly, it’s just not the interview you expected or prepared for.
And that’s okay! As long as you know how to pivot. Start by taking stock of the situation and accessing what is actually taking place. Perhaps the guest is answering all your thoroughly-prepared questions completely differently to how you expected. So, if you approach the interview from a different angle, might you still capture a knock-out conversation? Then pivot in that direction, and frame all your following questions from that approach. Is your guest focusing on a particular part of their work as opposed to what you had planned to quiz them about? “Let it go!” and pursue that other direction. At the end of it, it may not be the interview you envisioned, but it could be something great! Maybe, even something better!
*Check out this article featuring 9 Tips for Thinking on Your Feet When You’re Put on the Spot and Have to Sound Smart for some helpful tips.
Let’s be honest, the fear of a bad podcast interview is the stuff of nightmares for every podcast host. We totally get it. And the reality is that bad interviews can and do happen. And there is always the chance that the next interview might not go as planned, no matter how much time and effort you put into the preparation, and no matter how good your intentions are.
But! You need not live in fear of that happening if you’ve armed yourself with these solid strategies. If you’ve put in the preparation, built up your self-confidence, and cultivated a warm atmosphere that’s conducive for a good interview, you’ve already done a lot of the groundwork for ensuring your next interview is a great one!
But also knowing how and when to pivot, let it go, or simply take a break, can help you navigate to calm seas if the interview in question has hit some bumpy waters. And so even though those horrific interviews are the stuff of nightmares, by equipping yourself with some sound interview skills (check out the link below), and having a few of the above strategies up your sleeve, your dreams are where the bad interviews will stay.