You know – it really seems that for the average podcaster, interviews are the format of choice.

It IS relatively simple to get somebody to agree to come on your show and just ask them questions. But that’s not really how interviews work, is it? At least not the really GOOD ones.

They’re actually very difficult to pull off, especially in a way that makes them engaging for your listeners. And that really is the goal that we’re shooting for. So in this episode of Podcastificatsion, I want to tell you some of the things I’ve learned about doing great interviews, making your guest more comfortable, and I want to share some powerfully helpful resources I’ve found that are helping me get better with each interview I do. Stick around. This one is good.

  • [1:19] Why interviews are the mainstay of podcasting formats – and why they are hard to pull off well
  • [2:36] Be truly interested in your guest: Here are 2 things to help you pull it off
  • [4:40] Do whatever it takes to have fun with your guest
  • [6:45] Ask questions in a way that makes the answer actionable
  • [8:36] Let the silence do the work (from Cal Fussman)
  • [14:25] Walk your guest through your format so they know what to expect
  • [17:35] No “gotcha” positions
  • [19:14] Consider your guest’s time constraints so you can plan accordingly (and they will be more comfortable)
  • [20:10] Find out what your guest’s “win” for the interview is
  • [22:32] Ask your guest questions in ways that evoke emotion or stories

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Are you really interested in your guests? Come on, really?

It’s easy to engage in a podcast interview conversation just because it’s on your schedule. I know, I’ve done plenty of interviews like that. Shamefully so.

Don’t you think the interaction will go much better and be more interesting to your listeners if you, the interviewer, are truly interested in your guest and in the topic that you’re going to be talking about?

So how do you do it?

Revisit the reasons why you invited that particular person onto your podcast in the first place.

Is there something about their work that you admire? Is there something about their expertise that has benefited you personally? Is there something about the way that they present things or the way that they share things that grabs you and makes you interested in the topics that they talk about?

When you revisit all of those reasons you invited them to be your guest in the first place, you can begin to ask questions ABOUT those things

Some examples:

  • How did they come to know so much about marketing?
  • How did they get SEO practices under their belt when they were just starting out?

You need to be curious about their story, to be interested in how they got to where they are. That’s the point here – BE interested in THEM.

Your audience will be able to tell if you are – and if you aren’t. Podcast interviews that are done out of a sense of obligation or duty to the workflow are obvious.

The cookie cutter approach to podcast interviews is becoming less and less enjoyable and effective

I’d like to encourage you to make your podcast interviews something special – a wonder to listen to because they are so original and so good.

But you won’t do that if you ask the typical questions you hear on 100 different shows.

Learn how to ask questions that dig beneath the surface and unearth things your guest has never even thought about sharing.

Think of questions you know will reveal especially helpful information for your audience.

If you’re going to ask those kinds of questions you’ve really got to do your homework.

You need to know particular and special things about your guest, perhaps even find out little known things about them and ask them about those things.

That’s going to make you stand out – and make your particular conversation with your guest stand out as well. Not just anybody was able to get that story from them – but YOU did. Your listeners will remember that.

Forget the cookie cutter. Forget the way everyone else does interviews. You be you and help your guest to be them. That’s what people are listening to your podcast interviews to hear.

Warm up your guest to get them to speak more freely

Anytime an athlete is going to perform their particular sport, they do something else first. It’s called a warm-up. Why? Because it keeps them from injuring themselves by putting undue strain on cold, inflexible muscles and bones.

Your guest needs a warm-up too. And you – the podcast interviewer – are supposed to be the one who leads them through those steps.

What makes for a good pre-interview warm-up?

  • Chit chat
  • Asking about their family or where they live
  • Revealing something vulnerable about yourself
  • Walking them through what to expect as a guest on your show
  • Asking about their time constraints
  • Making sure they feel comfortable that you won’t “gotcha” them with any questions
  • Asking them what a “win” for the conversation would look like for THEM (thanks to Tim Ferriss for that one)

Do you see what you’re doing when you approach your pre-recording conversation in this way?

You are actively helping your guest to be at ease with you, your show, your approach, your ability to lead them through the unknown of a new conversation in a safe, respectful, truly helpful way.

That’s your job as the host. It’s your job as the interviewer. Your guests will appreciate it. So much that they will be more enthused about helping you promote the episode when you are all done.

The recording you make with that guest will also be more enjoyable for your listeners – because they will feel the same sense of comfort and ease your guest does. They will pick up on the fun time you’re having with your guest and will relax a bit more themselves.

Go figure – your podcast interview will actually be enjoyable to listen to.

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Let the silence to the work – Cal Fussman

I’m not exactly sure where I heard Cal Fussman say this… it was probably in the interview he gave on the podcast “The Turnaround.” And it carries special weight coming from Cal. He says one of the biggest lessons he’s learned is to let the silence do the work.

He means this:

When you ask a question and your guest answers…keep your mouth shut. Wait – as if you’re waiting for them to share more (because you are).

That’s when something amazing happens.

Your guest becomes slightly uncomfortable with the silence and feels compelled to fill it. When they do, it’s usually with something more revealing, something deeper than they first planned to say. And when it’s all over, they are glad they did.

I love that. Mainly because I know that same awkwardness myself. I know that when I’M the one in the interviewee seat, I really DO want to fill the silence. And I do wind up saying things I didn’t intend but am glad I did.

Try this one out. It works. And it makes for podcast interviews that are much more interesting, revealing, and engaging.

And you can bet your guest won’t forget that interview for a long time – because it actually meant something to THEM that they shared more than they usually do.

Who knows – you may make a great friend out of your guests just from this simple practice.

We all loves stories. Put them to work in your podcast interviews

Why do we love movies? Why are the new fiction podcasts like S-Town and Serial taking off?

It’s because they are stories. Stories grab a human being’s interest like nothing else – and YOU can make stories work for you in the way you do your podcast interviews.

Here’s how…

Create a list of “starter questions” that are aimed at drawing stories out of your guests

I’m not talking about a list of canned questions. I’m talking about story-prompters, ways of saying a particular question that asks for your guest to reply with a story.

It may be obvious and it may not be so obvious – but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are getting your guest to tell you a story.

Here are some examples of the kind of questions you could ask:

  • Tell me about a time when ____________________
  • Can you give me a success story from one of your clients that shows _______________
  • What’s a scene from your teen years you’ll never forget?
  • I’d love to hear a story from your time at (company name) to give me a feeling of what it was like.

Do you get the idea? Stories are powerful – and as a podcast interviewer you can prompt your guests to tell stories simply by the WAY you ask your questions.

I’m not very good at this. But after thinking this through I see that it’s not all that hard. I’m going to create my own list of “story questions” right now.

Will you join me?

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