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Please, Stop Talking: How to Better Interview Your Podcast Guests

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better podcast interviews

Please, stop talking.

Have you ever had a personal crutch or cliché that you used more often than you thought? It may have been something you didn’t realize until somebody brought it to your attention. Have you ever said, “Wow! I had no idea I did that all the time”? I’m here to tell you to stop it.

A good coach will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. You need to hear this. When you are interviewing anyone on your show, stop talking. Ask the question, then get out of the way. Let your guest shine.

Here is an example. This is a recent question I heard during an interview.

Host: “Doesn’t money just really make you more of who you already were? It’s like money affords your personality to flourish, right? If you’re loving and generous and then you become wealthy, you’re going to be able to express more of that love and generosity to a greater degree. If you’re a jerk and you become wealthy, you’re just going to become become a colossal jerk. So, isn’t it really just an expansion of who you were at the core anyway? I mean, it’s not the money’s fault. It’s basically just a magnifier of it.”

Guest: “And it’s … that’s a good way of putting it. It just amplifies who you are, and makes it more apparent. It has a greater impact. Yeah, absolutely.”

This host kept talking to the point that he answered his own question. The guest had nothing left to say. The guest tried to paraphrase the same thing the host said, but couldn’t even make that happen. The host made his own point. The host’s question was seven sentences. The guest’s answer was basically, “Yeah.”

There are three points to remember when interviewing guests. If you keep these in mind, your guests will feel great about being on your show, and you will look like a brilliant host. Just stay out of your own way.

1. Know the Answer

Your job is to make your guest look great. You have invited your guest to your show to provide something you couldn’t provide alone. They have a story to tell. It is your job to help them tell it. Lead them to the punchline, climax or conclusion.

You need to do your homework prior to the interview. You need to know what makes your guest interesting. What will make your guest engaging to your audience? Find that story, and help your guest bring it to life.

The story will have a conclusion that you should already know. You’ve done your homework. You know what happens at the end. It is an art to help your guest tell that story without telling it yourself.

Prior to their appearance on the show, guests on The Late Show with David Letterman are interviewed ahead of time by a show producer. It is that producer’s job to find the interesting story. If the producer discovers the guest was recently stuck on a roller coaster during a family vacation, Dave will tee it up. He will help his guest shine by asking, “How’s the family? Have you had time to get away with them lately?” Suddenly, the guest is off and running telling the hilarious story of the roller coaster.

It looks like Dave got lucky. Dave just happened to stumble across a great vacation story. Reality is homework. Dave already knew what would make a great story. His homework (or that of his producer) revealed the gold. He simply helped his guest get there.

Our host above knew the answer to his question. It was obvious by the lengthy set up. Unfortunately, he proved it rather than letting his guest flourish. The host could have simply asked, “Doesn’t money just really make you more of who you already were?” The guest would have been off to the races. The guest could have really explored that theory. The host would have looked like he has great questions. The guest would have looked like he knows his stuff. Everybody wins. Instead, we get, “Yeah, exactly.”

Know the answer, so you can let your guest shine.

2. Be Brief

Make your questions brief. If you want to make your guests look great, you need to give them room to spread their wings. Short questions will allow that to happen.

Ask your short question, then stop talking. If you are talking, your guest is not. Your listeners have come to hear your guest. Let the guest talk. If your listeners have come to hear you, your guest isn’t necessary. Stop wasting everybody’s time.

Many hosts feel the need to prove how much they know. Hosts want to display all of their knowledge to impress the guest. Unfortunately, this is a myth. By showing how much you know, you are only trumping your guest. If you appear to be the most knowledgable person on the show, your guest will feel uncomfortable. You will soon find it hard to get guests.

When you ask brief questions that make it easy for your guest to tell great stories, your guest will look like a star. He will truly enjoy being part of your show. Your guests will want to return. Word will spread. Your show will grow. Finally, your audience will love the new information and engaging stories.

Everybody wins when you talk less.

3. No Yes/No

Ask open-ended questions. When you ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no”, some guests will take the opportunity to answer “yes” or “no”. Your interview will go nowhere.

Yes/no questions make it difficult for your guest to elaborate. When your guests tell stories, they become engaging. Stories are easy for your guest. Stories have natural flow. Elaborations take a lot of thought. Make it easy for your guest.

Our host above started with, “Doesn’t money just really make you more of who you already were?” All of a sudden he is faced with a yes/no question. He has forced his guest to elaborate. In order to help his guest, he continues with another yes/no question. In fact, he follows with two additional yes/no questions. Suddenly, his guest has nothing left to say.

The host knows that money simply makes you more of who you already are. He could have positioned his guest with, “How does money affect the core beliefs of an individual?” With that short question, the guest is now able to expound with his “more of who you already are” theory. The guest looks great. The host looks brilliant by somehow knowing that money affect the core of individuals. The listener gets to hear a great story.

Everybody wins when you stop talking.

It is your job to make your guest the star.

That is the reason you’ve invited her to your podcast. She offers something to the show that you cannot deliver as well by yourself. Let her do it. Lob that ball to your guest, so they can hit it out of the park. You don’t need to prove how well you can pitch. The goal is to let your guest hit home runs.

Make your guest look great. She will love you for it. Your listener will love you for it. You will learn to love yourself for it when your podcast begins to flourish.

Ask the question, then get out of the way. Please, stop talking.

Erik K. Johnson has coached radio personalities since 1995. By building audience relationships, he has guided multiple radio stations and shows to ratings success. His writings are aimed at transforming your information into engaging entertainment and your podcast into meaningful, profitable relationships. Find more at PodcastTalentCoach.Wordpress.com or Erik@PodcastTalentCoach.com.


Feedback

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  • Ron Tracy

    Great post and advice Erik. I’m shocked that there have been so few comments or tweets! Wake up NMX groupies…

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