Podcasts come in many flavors, and one very popular format is the interview format. Do you fancy yourself the next Larry King or Oprah? Are you interested in interviewing people in your industry, company or political party? I’ve decided to write about two methods of interviewing that I’ve been experiementing with. The first favors preparation and list-building. The second suggests going in cold with no preparation at all. Here are a few interviewing tips and tricks for you.
You don’t need to know your guest’s life story—that’s not what being prepared means. Before connecting with your guest for your recording though, you should have a bullet point list of topics as well as a short list of specific questions. The list of topics should be related to the reason you invited your guest to your show to begin with. I produce a show called Inside Internet Marketing that is primarily an interview series, and all my guests work in the affiliate marketing industry. My goal is to interview them about how they got into the industry, what they love and hate about the industry, and how their passions play into the work they do. BAM! There’s three topics, and that’s just me describing what the show is about. I can expand on my topic & questions list by researching any new projects or products that my guest might be promoting, any conferences or events that s/he might be speaking at, or if there are any links between this guest and past guests. Listeners love stories.
One major benefit of preparation like this is that it gives you a way to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to do. If your guest starts to ramble, it’s very easy to use your list to bring the conversation back in line.
I use Evernote to organize all my show notes for all my shows. I have a notebook called Show Notes, and a note for each show with the name and episode number for the title. This gives me a very easy way to cross-reference things that I’ve asked of past guests, ideas for topics and my bullet points for the next guest. I’ve also got Evernote on my iPhone and iPad for keeping track of ideas when I’m out and about. If you’re considering organizing your notes, I recommend an application that has both desktop and mobile functionality.
Be Completely Unprepared
One of my favorite speakers is Kim Ann Curtin and I was fortunate to have her as a guest on Inside Internet Marketing. When I last saw Kim speak, she talked passionately about listening. She drove home the point that to have the most effective conversation with someone, you needed to actively listen, process what is being said, and respond accordingly. It isn’t enough to show up; you need to participate.
I decided to use my interview with Kim as a test. I didn’t tell her ahead of time, but I didn’t prepare any questions for her. I only had one thing to begin the conversation with and then it would be up to me to participate and really have a conversation. There would be no list of questions to read from. There was no safety net. I had to listen accutely to what Kim was talking about, internalize it, and respond with an appropriate comment or follow-up question. I needed to be on my toes the entire time.
It was one of the best interviews I’ve ever conducted.
Given that I knew Kim beforehand and was comfortable talking to her, it was not a tremendous risk trying this method for the first time. Had I been interviewing a famous celebrity or someone whom I’d never met, I would not have tried it. Now that I’ve successfully done it once, I’m more likely to try it again and again. After it becomes second nature, I won’t think twice about using it with anyone at all.
What’s Best for You
One of these approaches will certainly work best for you. Whichever way you go, the same advice will apply: practice. That might seem odd when thinking about an method that favors unpreparation, but practicing the art of conversation is the key to success with it.
Are you an interviewer? What kind of advice would you give to podcasters?