If you’re doing a podcast, there is a decent chance you are doing an interview format podcast.
It’s by far the easiest and most popular format to get started with, but besides planning some questions and just sitting down with your guest there are some very simple, basic techniques that are worth mastering if you want to take your podcast to the next level.
To many people fall into the trap of just running through a planned list of questions.
A pro interviewer knows to actually listen to their guest, visual what they are talking about and, when appropriate, respond to what their guest has said rather than moving on to the next set question.
Just sitting there and listening can seem daunting, because if you aren’t prepared you could end up with dead air as you figure out what to say next. But at least when you are starting it is worth practicing being present in the moment and properly listening to your guest.
Ask open-ended questions
If you want to get the most out of your guests, make sure to ask your W questions (when, where, how, why what), rather than questions that result in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
An experienced guest knows to expand on an answer and give as much as possible, but shy guests, first timers, or even children may take questions like “Do you like ice crem?” at face value and just say yes/no.
Also even for experienced guests, avoiding those questions is nice because it means they don’t have to work as hard either.
Avoid double-barrelled questions
When you are a bit excited, or a bit flustered or even uncertain as to whether your question is good enough, you may find yourself asking your question, only to follow it up with another question along the same vein “Did you watch the Grammy’s last night? Like are you into music?”.
This risks a) confusing your guest and not getting a clear answer out of them and b) only getting an answer to one of those questions, and it might not be an answer to the question you wanted.
Don’t Interrupt/Respond Silently
If people have come to hear what your guest has to say, there’s a very good chance they are not incredibly keen to have you interrupt your guest because you want to add your own story that relates to what they are saying.
If a guest is talking, reeeaally let them talk. Even when it’s your show, if you have a guest, it is not about you.
But just as importantly, stay silent while your guest is talking.
No one wants to hear yeah saying “yeah”, “Uh huh”, “mmm”, “ok” over and over whenever there is a slight pause. If you do this, that is ok, it’s a natural thing many of us do to ‘fill the silence’ or space, but in a long form interview it becomes very noticeable and annoying.
Instead, try just nodding, or smiling at points your guest makes. You won’t nail this straight away and that is also ok, but it is worth doing.
Now this isn’t to say that if your guest cracks a joke you don’t laugh, of course you laugh! But you just have to make sure to give your guest space to shine.
You may have planned 20 different questions but if they start talking about something you hadn’t expected and it’s really interesting and would be engaging to your audience, keep going with that and give up on your questions. You may have time to return to them later, but don’t get so caught up in the ego of your own questions that you don’t take the gold an interviewee has handed you.
On the flip side, if they just start talking in depth about what they had for breakfast, don’t be afraid to move them on from what is definitely boring content.