How to Prepare and Conduct a Podcast Interview

Podcast interviews are a great way to get more listeners and grow your podcast. In fact, podcast episodes with guests get about 30% more listeners compared to other formats. 

But interviewing a podcast guest is a lot more difficult than it sounds. It takes a bit more work than simply having a second microphone and an extra set of headphones in the room. 

The best podcast interviews start with thorough planning—setting the host and guest up for success once the interview starts. 

Whether it’s your first time conducting a podcast interview or you’re a podcasting pro that wants to do better interviews, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll walk you through the process of finding the right guest and preparing for the interview before sharing my favorite tips for making sure the interview runs smoothly. 

Finding the Right Guests For Your Podcast

Conducting a good podcast interview all starts with the right guest. Otherwise, the episode could get boring quickly or just turn into a sales pitch for whatever your guest wants to promote. 

Some of you might already have guests lined up for your upcoming episodes. But for those of you who need help finding guests, here are some of the best ways to find quality podcast guests:

  • Invite other podcast hosts to join your show
  • Survey your audience on who they want to hear
  • Look for someone seeking free publicity (such as promoting a new book or movie)
  • Reach out to your colleagues, friends, or family members
  • Put your networking skills to good use
  • Add a guest application form to your podcast website
  • Join a mastermind group of like-minded professionals

There are also dedicated platforms designed to help connect podcasters with guests., PodMatch, Podcahser, and are all solid places to start. 

How Podcast Hosts Should Prepare For Interviews

Assuming you’ve found the right guest to interview, it’s time to begin the preparation phase. Depending on the interviewee and your experience, this process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. 

Research Your Guest

The first thing you need to do is get to know your guest. Depending on the person, this information may be fairly easy or somewhat challenging to find. 

Research their background, including where they were born, where they grew up, and try to piece together a quick timeline of their life. You’re looking for anything that could be interesting or relevant to bring up during an interview. 

Identify any major events or significant accomplishments they’ve made. 

If the guest wrote a book, read it. If they starred in a movie, watch it. You can also watch videos or listen to other interviews they’ve been part of to get a sense of who they are and what topics you should be talking about. 

Prepare a List of Questions

You should never “wing it” in a podcast interview. Take the time to prepare a list of quality questions in advance. 

The list of questions will ultimately be a map or blueprint for the episode. So try to come up with interesting and thought-provoking questions that will lead to longer answers, stories, and insights that will resonate with your audience. 

Once the interview actually starts, it’s ok to veer from the list. You can skip a question or ask another question that comes to mind based on the guest’s response or the flow of the conversation. 

Start with at least 10-20 questions at first, and you can ultimately whittle them down later on. 

Write a Bio For Your Guest

I’m not a fan of reading off a script during a podcast episode. But a guest introduction is the only exception. 

Not only does this introduce the guest to your audience, but it also sets the tone for the remainder of the interview. 

This is an opportunity for you to pick the key highlights from your research to paint a picture of who your guest is. Even if you have an ultra-famous celebrity on the show, assume the audience knows nothing about them.

The bio should be about 20 to 30 seconds long and hint at what’s to come based on the theme of your episode. 

After the bio gets read, you can prepare for some small talk with your guest before jumping into the interview. Take a few minutes to have some casual conversation about how the guest is feeling, their travel experience getting to the interview, or reminiscing about the last time you saw each other. 

But start with the bio introduction before you jump into any of this, as it makes for a more natural flow. 

Set a Date, Time, and Clear Expectations For the Interview

It’s important to get you and your guest on the same page before the interview starts. 

Let them know the exact date and time of the interview and confirm that it works for their schedule. You should follow up with them at least once before confirming it again. 

This is also a good time to let your guest know any information about you, your show, or what you expect of them. The idea here is to avoid any surprises when the guest arrives. 

For example, let them know if the interview location is in your home or if there will be a video recording of the episode. Tell them how long you expect the interview itself to take and how much of a total  time commitment you’ll need from them.

If they’re flying in for the episode, are you arranging transportation? Are you putting them up in a hotel? Let them know if you’re going to have snacks, water, coffee—whatever. 

Send Your Guest Some Questions Ahead of Time

Your guest shouldn’t be surprised by anything you’re asking them. It’s in your best interest to send them the list of questions about a week or so before the interview. 

This gives them a chance to prepare answers in advance. Otherwise, they could be put on the spot and come up blank if they’re hearing a question for the first time. Nobody wants to listen to an episode where the guest sits in silence for two minutes, trying to think of answers to every question. 

You can also give your interviewee a chance to eliminate some questions or topics from the discussion. Maybe they recently went through something that’s an off-limits subject. It’s better to scratch this from the interview now rather than get them upset once the interview starts. 

Conduct a Pre-Interview

Ideally, you and your guest should have some time to speak before the episode starts. At least 20 or 30 minutes of sitting and talking can be really helpful. 

This helps settle everyone’s nerves and ensures your guest feels comfortable when the interview actually starts. 

You can quickly go over some of the questions again and lay out how you’re planning to structure the episode. 

9 Tips For Conducting a Great Podcast Interview

Now that you’ve prepared for the interview, it’s time to make sure the interview itself runs as smoothly as possible. Here are the top pro tips and best practices for conducting an amazing podcast interview:

Eliminate Distractions

You and your guest should both be totally focused on the conversation. So turn off your phone and TV, close doors, and put your pets somewhere else. If your dog starts barking or jumps on your guest in the middle of a story, it’s going to break their concentration and ultimately hurt the interview. 

Make Sure Your Guest Feels Comfortable

Nervous and uncomfortable guests make for terrible interviews. So do everything you can to make sure they’re feeling good. Have some water, snacks, and maybe some fresh fruit available for the guest. Make sure you let them know where the nearest bathroom is and tell them that they can pause at any time for a break. 

Avoid Basic Questions

Successful interviews come from outstanding guest responses. But you won’t get these if you’re asking basic questions. Rather than asking something like, “What can you tell us about the book you’re promoting?” you can say something like “You’re best known for your book on mental focus. Why do you think readers resonate so much with your concepts?”

Do Not Interrupt Your Guest

Your guest should be speaking for roughly 70% to 80% of the interview. Never cut them off during a story or response. If they’re rambling, you can look for alternatives to get them back to focus. But generally speaking, adding your two cents while your guest is speaking should be avoided at all costs. 

Avoid Yes/No Questions

Asking a yes or no question will lead to the shortest interview of all time—not to mention boring. Instead, frame your questions in a way that will provoke a longer response from guests. 

Don’t Lead Your Guest Into an Answer

This takes a bit of practice. But make sure you’re not framing questions that unintentionally (or intentionally) elicit a particular response from the interviewee. For example, asking, “Did this experience make you feel angry?” will automatically lead the guest into talking about anger (or lack thereof). Instead, you can ask, “What emotions were you feeling during this experience?”

Go Off Script

Remember, your list of questions is just a point of reference. But you have the freedom to skip some or ad-lib a bit based on the direction of the conversation. Never refer to your list of questions either or acknowledge that you’re bringing up a topic that you weren’t planning on. This makes for a bad listener experience. 

Prepare For the Unexpected

While you have the freedom to go off-script, you should also prepare for your guest to say anything. Maybe they’re going to say something extremely controversial, or maybe you’re going to hit a touchy subject that makes them tear up or get emotional. Whatever happens, don’t let it throw you off too much. These unexpected moments can make for amazing episodes. 

Prioritize the Guest Experience Over Your Audience

Try not to let your audience dictate the flow of the interview. For example, maybe your show tends to be a bit more loose and humorous, but this particular interview is very serious. That’s ok. Rather than trying to force some humor onto your guest, you’ll have a better interview if the guest has a good experience. 

Final Thoughts

Podcast interviews help create an intimate way for hosts to build their personal brand, connect with guests, and ultimately improve the listener experience. The best interviews are thought-provoking and pull deep insights from a guest’s experiences—adding tons of value to the audience. 

But successful interviews don’t happen by accident. They start with careful planning and extra steps to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. 

Refer back to this guide every time you conduct a new podcast interview, as this blueprint will help you prepare the right questions and set up an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

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