When you listen to a good podcast episode, and the interviewer and the guest seem to be on the same page, there is a great back and forth, there are interesting questions and answers, and the show sounds great, you might think, gosh that is easy! Much the same with watching Michael Phelps win an olympic gold, there is a lot more than meets the eye to creating a good podcast episode. After more than 30 episodes recorded for the Art of Adventure podcast, I’d like to share with you the process that I and other top podcastersÂ use to create a top notch episode!
Step 1. Find and connect with your guest:
Maybe you hunt them down and use the contact form on their website, maybe you already know them (One of my firsts guests was my wife Mary), or maybe you are introduced through a friend (bonus if you were introduce by a previous guest because you asked them who else you should talk to). Once you have an idea that a guest might be a good fit for the show, send them an email proposing that they come on your show and why. One easy way to add value and help your guests is when they are launching a new book or product that they want to get the word out about. Your initial email should explain the show and their role and then simply ask if they are interested. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to commit, so with the first email you are just looking for a â€œyesâ€ reply. After that you can lock down the scheduling details. Scheduling was providing me with endless frustration with lots of back and forth emailing, so I started using Schedule Once which helps do all the time zone calculating for you and your guests. If someone pitches you to come on your show, I sometimes suggest a quick Skype chat/pre interview to make sure they will be a good fit.
Step 2. Doing research on your guest:
Once you have your guest booked for the interview, you can begin preparing for the show. You may have a formula where you ask the same questions each time, or you may have an off the cuff conversational style, but either way you should be informed about the guest. Of course you are going to start by going to your guest’s website and read the ‘about’ page. I like to try to get a little bit deeper and get inside their head a little. Now, we might not have time to read every blog post or listen to every other podcast a guest has appeared on, but you have time to get a feel for what their personality is like, which can help when you are interviewing them. Try to listen to at least one podcast that they have been on to get an idea for how they speak, and the way they answer questions. Try to read at a least one blog post to get a feel for how they write. Someones writing voice can tell you about how they want the world to see them. Go to their Linkedin or Facebook and go through their recent pictures and projects so you have an idea of what their life has been like recently. If they have a book – read the book! If they are promoting a course, ask if you can have access for a week to get a feel for the course.
Step 3. Brainstorm questions for the interview:
I have some themes that I want to touch on in all my interviews, which are my personal priorities for this show (and life) those are: Learning, Love (passion), Teaching, and Movement (athletics). I know that I am going to try to get a little bit from each interviewee on these topics, but I also want to get some unique insights from each individual based on their expertise. I usually try to come up with at least 30 good question to ask. I donâ€™t ask all those 30 during the interview – I usually pick the best eight or so and then rely on my ability to ask follow up questions and have a conversation. When you have lots of questions, you can hone in on the ones that will give the most interesting and informative answers.
Good interview questions help the guest tell personal stories, analyze an experience for you, or dive into their psychology. Some of my favorites:
“What didn’t you expect about that?”
“What has been a lesson or advice that stuck with you?”
“Can you give an example of that?”
“What are you most excited about these days?”
Step 4. Set aside at least 30 minutes prior to the show to do your warmup:
This is something I learned way back in high school when I was taking the public speaking class. If you are warmed up you will have a better performance. My warmup involves both lifting my mood, and getting physically warmed up as well. I always try to get some humor into my life right before a show. Maybe Iâ€™ll watch some comedy and hope my mirror neurons can pick up on some of the good delivery that comedians use, and maybe it will get me to LOL. If I need a quick laugh, I will head over to Damnyouautocorrect.com where you are guaranteed to find the most ridiculous texting mistakes. I also listen to the Comedy Bang Bang Podcast on morning runs to help get me in a quick thinking, comedic frame of mind
Next, I put on some pump up music. My go to song is Jessica by the Allman Brothers band, but I also like Kâ€™naanâ€™s waving flag (remember the world cup in South Africa?) or more recently, Pharrellâ€™s Happy. I then let my self dance around like the crazy cracker that I am and really get loose. You can tell you are warmed up when you back is no longer popping while you are dancing. Jumping up and down a few times is another good method borrowed from improv warmup to stimulate the flow of adrenaline. During the physical part of the warmup, I also practice my power poses – body position that enhance your charisma and confidence. My favorite is putting both hands up in a victory pose and grinning like a fool for two minutes. You can learn more about power posing from Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk or The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism Finally, I say a few tongue twisters and drink some warm tea to open up my vocal chords.
Step 5. Do the pre-interview chit chat:
After jumping right into my first couple interviews awkwardly, I adopted the 10 min pre interview briefing and get to know you session, where I talk with the guest about how the show will work, and what we are going to talk about. This is a good place to figure out the pronunciation of their name, and if they have anything that they want to mention during the show. Give them the heads up about how they can look good and if they can expect any hard questions from you (if you want to be nice). I also like to tell them we will end the interview and then take a few minutes to debrief after. I do a five second hand count down to start.
Step 6. The interview:
I have my basic questions that I will be asking all lined up on a sheet of paper next to me, with plenty of room at that bottom for taking notes. During the course of the interview, I usually have to write down ideas that I want to follow up on (sometimes ones answer will lead to multiple follow ups!). It seems to work well in this conversational format to asks question and then follow up on some part of that answer at least once before going onto the next pre-set topic. I also like to jot down sound bites or good quotes from the interview to be used later when I do the write up of the show. If somebody does a verbal flub and you want to edit that out later, you can make a note of the time when it happened.
Saying “yes, and…” you can take a lesson from improv comedy during the interview and keep adding to the conversation by saying “Yes, I love that! and I also want to add X thought or idea!”
Host the interview with good posture! For me this means standing up! I can think on my feet better when I’m actually on my feet! This also helps your charisma by giving you a straight spine, and your vocal tonalityÂ by opening your chest.
Step 7. Post interview:
Most of the time, guests will like to stay on the call for a few minutes after you wrap up the formal interview to debrief the show. This is that best time to ask who else they think you should be talking to, and to get into discussions of things that were brought up in the show, like what books they think you should read or websites to check out, that sort of thing.
Step 8. Thank you note!
Your momma probably taught you this, but send a thank you note every time. It doesnâ€™t have to be an actual letter, just a quick note saying what a good guest they were. If you forgot to get something from the guest (like a head shot that you want to use for the blog post, or the spelling of a specific mention in the show) you can ask for it in the follow up as well. Offer to help them with something the mentioned in the show, or to connect them with someone, now that you know more about what they are working on. You are already giving them good press by being on your podcast, you can add extra value by helping them with their projects!
Step 9. Episode Launch Day!
Presumably you are interviewing somebody that has done something interesting, is successful, and already has an audience. Beyond the promoting of your podcast to you own audience, you want to give your guest the chance to share the interview with their fans. This can be a great way to get new listeners exposed to your show as well. So on the day their episode launches, send them an email and humbly ask them to share the links to the show with their followers.
Podcasting is a win-win for both the host and the guest. Both of you will look good if done right. The host gets access to high quality people, and can learn exactly what they want to know about because the host pick the questions! The guests get a platform to share their work with a new audience and access to all the connections of the host!
Do you have a friend who is interested in starting or improving their podcast? Share this article with them!
Do you already have your own interview show or are thinking of starting a podcast? Let me know in the comments below which of these ideas was the most helpful.