Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast or interview series?
Or perhaps you’ve been asked to moderate a panel discussion at an event or conference.
Conducting a great interview is a valuable skill to have, and in this month’s column, I break down a few important tips, which may help convince your audience that you’ve been doing professional interviews for years.
Tip 1 – Determine your format
People are drawn to many different styles of podcasts. Whether you’re aiming to create a professional, research-driven podcast, or whether you simply want to sip beers while chatting to your friends with a microphone in front of you, there’s a potential audience for all sorts of interview formats.
The reason it’s important to identify the format before getting started is so that you can prepare your guest for what he/she can expect during the interview. If it’s more on the professional side, provide your guest with a list of topics/questions you’re looking to cover. If it’s a casual Zoom call over beers, let your guest know he/she may want to crack a cold one, relax and be ready to dive into a wide array of topics depending where the conversation goes.
The more prepared the guest is, the more comfortable he/she will be, which usually results in a higher quality piece of content.
Tip 2 – Research your guest
Whether your podcast is serious and formal or laid back and casual, it’s still important to take the time to research your guest.
I’ve seen way too many podcasts and conference panel discussions where the host doesn’t seem to know anything about the interviewee. If you haven’t done your homework, your guest may find this insulting and your audience may not enjoy the content as much as they would have if you had come prepared.
I host a couple of different podcasts, and for both, I like to read a bio of the guest as an introduction before we jump into the conversation. I challenge myself to write a bio goes beyond low-hanging fruit and can’t easily be found online. This acts as an early signal to your guest that you have done your homework and you are ready for the interview.
Many podcast hosts skip this step and the first question they ask is: “Can you please introduce yourself and talk about your background?” In my opinion, this is lazy and a sign of a host who has not prepared for the conversation.
Tip 3 – Come with lots of questions
When it comes to the total number of questions you should have prepared for an interview, too many is always better than having too few.
While studying journalism in my second year of college, I was on a practicum placement at a small town newspaper. For an assignment, I was asked to conduct an interview with a local business owner about the oilfield industry. I came prepared with a total of six questions. I asked the first question and the response was: “Yes.” I asked the second question and the response was: “No.”
Before I knew it, I had run out of questions and left the business owner’s shop with my tail between my legs and very little information to help me fill out what was supposed to be an 800-word story.
It is my suggestion to always come prepared with more questions than you think you’ll need. Also, ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” On the flip side, don’t get hung up on your questions if the interview takes an interesting turn. The best interviewers tend to be great listeners who can come up with clever follow-up questions on the fly to ensure smooth transitions in the conversation.
Tip 4 – Bring energy
If you smile and are upbeat when interviewing your guest, not only will your guest feed off of your infectious energy, but your audience will as well.
I understand an energetic interview may not be appropriate for certain subject matters; however, for the vast majority of podcast topics, it is better to be upbeat than slow and monotone.
Even if your interview is an audio-only conversation, still force yourself to smile as you talk.
Tip 5 – Eliminate “mmms”
It’s tempting to add in unnecessary sounds when interviewing someone, because this is a typical practice in everyday conversations.
For example, if somebody is telling you a story at a social event, you may periodically jump in with a sound such as “mmhmm,” to indicate you are still following along with the story.
On an audio or video interview, it’s best to limit these sounds. Audiences may find too many of these sounds from the host to be distracting and even take away from the conversation. Instead, if you’re doing the interview via Zoom or in-person, you can simply nod at your guest so he/she knows you’re still following along in the conversation.
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This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.