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How To Improve Your Podcast Interview Skills – From Your Guest’s Perspective

So, you’re a superstar podcaster! You’ve nailed everything on your checklist: you’ve created a killer podcast name, you’ve designed eye-catching cover art, and you’ve bought a professional mic. You’ve also roped in a hilarious co-host who guarantees several belly laughs per episode.  You’re ready to take the podcasting world by storm, right? Well, maybe you’re overlooking one key thing…it’s not all about you!

Arguably the most common podcast format is the interview style show, which typically features a host who interviews a guest in each episode. (Want to know more about all the different types of podcast formats? We’ve got a post for that! Check out this article on The Top 10 Different Types of Podcast Formats.)

This guest could be an expert in their niche, a fellow podcast host with a related topic or aligned audience, or an individual with a unique story of interest. These shows usually kick off with an introduction of the guest, and then the host will guide the conversation by asking questions and initiating discussion. This is a great format as your guest will invariably do most of the talking (if you’re doing it right!) and you only need to guide the awesome convo.  However, interviewing is a skill that – like any other skill – takes nuance, intuition and practice, more practice, and a little more practice.

To be a good podcast host we must be good interviewers, and to be good interviewers we must hold firm to one simple truth…it’s not about you! It’s actually more about your lovely guest than you may at first realize, and once you’re able to grasp the dynamic of your interview from your guest’s perspective, you will inevitably become a better host.

Thankfully we’re here to help you to improve your podcast interview skills (Yeah…we’ve got your back!) by giving you 8 tips from a guest’s perspective to help you take your hosting skills to the next level!

1. Be Prepared

As the saying goes “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”.  And you didn’t become a podcaster just to fail!  So set yourself up for success by being prepared. You’ll be amazed at the positive impact you simply being well-prepared has on your guest’s experience on your show, and how this, in turn, impacts the final outcome of the interview!

So, arrive with your cues, your show outline, and your notes prepared on your notepad or device. Come well-rested, come on time, and you’ll knock it out of the park. You being prepared sets your guest up for success before they even say a word into the mic, and by setting the mood and their expectations early, you will already be well on your way to improving your podcast interview skills.

And speaking of “setting the mood,” that’s exactly what Tip #2 is all about…

2. Set the Mood

Woah, woah, don’t worry…it’s not that kind of blog. We’re not talking about candles, roses, and dimming the lights for those perfect romantic vibes (…unless it really is that kind of podcast *wink, wink*…) By setting the mood, we simply mean doing the important work of putting your guest at ease by giving them all the necessary practical info before the big interview. Does your guest know where your conversation will be taking place, and what time of day you’ll be recording? Will it be audio only, or will there be cameras rolling?

By giving them the answers to such questions ahead of time, you will help them to be prepared, and a prepared guest is a happy guest! They’ll know how to plan travel time, and if they can afford to stay up late the night before or need to go to bed early. And they’ll know whether they should go the extra step of applying make-up or grooming their beard. In short, they’ll be totally ready, and in the mood, for an awesome podcast interview!

3. Listen

This one is simple, but doesn’t always come easy. Listening is the secret weapon in every great podcast interviewer’s arsenal. Take the wildly successful podcast The Joe Rogan Experience in which episodes typically run for hours in length! This is a time frame that could easily be as intimidating as it is exhilarating. How is Rogan able to fill up so much space and build a record-breaking following? It’s because his guests are given a sound hearing – they’re able to fully develop their thoughts, flesh out their views, and argue their points. 

It’s an honest way to connect with your guest and your audience.  And if it works for Joe, it can work for you!  Ask a question and then simply…listen. Respond to the response; don’t just sit there waiting for your moment to talk again!  Listen, respond, give space and time, let the conversation flow, let the conversation blossom, then listen some more. Your guests and listeners will thank you.

4. Be Honest

Be honest with your guest. Be you. This will help you to capture an episode that is real and touching, and something that your listeners will be more likely to connect with. The biggest mistake would be to second guess yourself, so before you hit record, define your end goal by asking these questions: “How do I want my guest to feel at the conclusion of this podcast episode? What do I want my audience to have learned?” Know that if your guest feels at ease, then your audience will, too.

Remember, people can hear your smile…but your guest can actually see it! Be the most genuine, most authentic, most sincere version of yourself; your interviewee will reciprocate that vulnerability and give you their truest self in return.  And what your guest gives to you, they give to your audience. Sounds like the ingredients to an awesome podcast, if you ask me! 

5. Do Your Homework

We have a saying around We Edit Podcasts: “It’s all in the details!” As far as improving your podcast interviewing skills goes – from the perspective of the guy or gal sitting across from you – the delight is in the details! Try to discover a detail about your guest that surprises them, find out something that they know required some major (but appropriate, lol) sleuthing to learn. This always delights. And a delighted guest will give you a delightful podcast episode. 

Find out about the school they graduated from, an obscure skill or talent they may have, that amazing restaurant in that little-known city that they visited that one time – it’s all about the details!  This will show them that you care about them and what they have to say because you invested time to learn about them in a deeper, more meaningful way.  This one little tip will help you win big every time.

6. Make Them Laugh

Making your guest laugh is one of the greatest ways to improve their experience and your skills as a podcaster. Crack jokes, make quips, lean into their dry humor, whip out your best impression, even share that ultra-embarrassing thing that happened to you! This will endear your audience to you, as well as your guest. If you do this right, you can even hit what I describe as the “sweet spot”, where passion trumps content.

This is where people listen less to what you say as much as how you actually say it. This is when a listener invests in your discussion and becomes not only interested in the conversation, but the conversants themselves. This is the tell-tale sign of a great guest experience and, subsequently, a great podcast. Humor, dear Superstar Podcaster, is one of the most effective ways to achieve this.  So exercise those comedy chops, laugh and smile genuinely, and your guests will do the same!

7. Be Gracious

Flex your skill as a podcast interviewer by graciously guiding your guest through mistakes, dead spots, and blunders. The biggest mistake your guest could make is to second guess themselves whilst speaking to your audience – and YOU can eliminate any potential for this!  It might be the simple things; for first timers, it may be unnerving to hear their own voices in their headphones, to be “live” on the mic, with the pressure of being the man or woman of the hour. And this could really throw them off their game!

If they begin to second guess themselves, they will not settle into their natural cadence and natural flow. And a gracious podcast host can make the world of difference! Help them to relax with vocal cues and affirmations such as: “Your voice sounds great!”, “I hear you…I feel the same way”, “Wow, that’s such a great point”, or, “You made that so easy to understand”, and so on and so forth. You are the podcaster in the room, take the lead and guide them through the conversation in first-class comfort.

8. Give a Shout Out!

Be generous with your platform and be sure to promote your guest’s books, publications, YouTube channel, online course, social media channels, and whatever else they may have their hands in. Your guests are hardworking, interesting people who have invested countless hours, energy, and sweat equity into their work and passion – and a great podcast host is one who acknowledges that!

Make sure to feature any applicable links in your show notes section, and help give your guest the recognition they deserve. This is a caring, courteous gesture, and your guest’s gratitude in response to this will far outweigh the small amount of  time and effort it cost you to do this. This is the mark of a stellar interviewer.

Closing Thoughts

The interviewer/interviewee format is a tried and true podcasting formula – it’s so staggeringly popular because it works so well! Do your message and your production the justice it deserves by creating a top tier experience from your guests’ perspective.  Empathize with the person on the other mic, put yourself in their shoes. Do what you can to ensure they’re properly prepared, feel listened to, and engaged by someone who cares. Help them to feel seen, heard, comfortable and celebrated. Implement these 8 tips with your guest in mind, and you will be well on your way to improving your podcast interview skills.

Related read: How To Improve Your Podcast Interview Skills [10 Do’s And Don’ts]

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David Hutchinson

David Hutchinson

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