You’ve experienced this. You play an episode of a podcast talk show, anxious to learn. But 10 minutes in, the host loses control of the conversation, the guest starts rambling about completely irrelevant topics, the episode ends, and you’re left feeling deflated, disappointed, and with little desire to tune into that podcast again.
As a podcast host, you might want to blame your guest for a poor interview. But here’s the brutal truth: it’s your show and you are in control. Your interviewing skills need to be sharp or you run the risk of losing listeners.
So how do you improve interviewing skills? It doesn’t require a masters degree in journalism. But it does take effort and practice that is necessary if you want to grow and maintain your listenership.
We’re going to share with you the Three P’s, our tactics to running effective and valuable guest interviews.
1. Know Your Purpose.
As the interviewer, your purpose is to create value for your listener. It is your responsibility to take the guest’s stories, thoughts, and ideas and transfer them into valuable information.
Before each interview, you must ask: what value can this conversation provide to my listener?
For example, if you work in public policy, perhaps your listeners want information on how they can get involved in advocacy efforts. With this value for your listeners in mind, you can run the interview in a way that helps your guest provide that value to your listeners..
Now that you know what value to give your listeners, you can better prepare.
2. Preparation: Research and Rehearse.
Bad interviews usually happen when the host does nothing to prepare. If you don’t prepare for an interview, don’t expect your guest to provide value to your listeners.
Here’s how you should prepare:
Research everything about your guest and the topic they’ll discuss. But wait, isn’t that what the interview is for? Not for you, Host! By thoroughly researching your guest and topic, you can know what’s relevant in their experience and what your listeners frankly won’t care about. Good research allows you to be the proxy for your listeners.
Now that your research is complete, start rehearsing. Don’t read from a script, but don’t wing it. We recommend using notes that structure out the conversation, then reviewing them several times before recording.
You’ll want to especially rehearse how you’ll introduce your guest. Do not let your guest introduce themselves. Why? Because as the host, you are in charge of telling your audience what specific value the guest will give them. It’s not the guest’s job, it’s yours.
Thorough research and rehearsing allows you to then guide the conversation during the interview.
3. You Hold The Power.
Your job is to listen to your guest and lead them in the conversation. Let guests tell their stories, but don’t let them control the conversation.
Your guest might share a compelling story that isn’t relevant to the topic. Or they may jump ahead in the conversational structure you planned. Don’t panic. Gently bring your guest back to the agenda comfortably and consistently. You can do this by recognizing their story as significant and then naturally transitioning to a previous or totally new topic.
We recommend using transitional phrases to cue your guest and guide them through topics. You can help your guests stay aware of the time with phrases like these:
- “To start off…”
- “As we near the end of our time…”
- “Before we jump ahead to ____, let’s go back to something you said….”
Guiding the conversation is the perfect median where you can stay in control of your show, recognize your guest’s value and thoughts, and stay on track in delivering that value to your listeners.
When In Doubt, Remember The Three P’s.
Purpose, Preparation, and Power. When practicing these three strategies in every interview, you can guarantee to your listeners that they will gain something valuable from every episode.