Interviews are a great way to mix things up, to break out of your usual format and to talk to new and interesting people. Interviews are powerful, people love stories! Learn some tried and true techniques learned that I learned the hard way to get the most out of your interviews, including getting guests, preparing questions, interview flow, and more.
Returning listeners may remember that I teased the art of the interview and audio processing last time, but during production, I realized that to go in-depth and due both topics justice, they were just too much for one episode!
The Art of the Interview
I titled this segment “The Art of the Interview” because it really is an art–not a science. There is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” way. It depends on your personality, your show’s format and topic, and what your goals are. Your mileage may vary.
For over for years I’ve been podcasting Geek Cred, which is all about conversational and informal long-form behind the scenes interviews to give people the inside scoop on everything geek, and interviews are almost always done remotely via Skype. This is the perspective that I’m coming from, so keep that in mind and adjust as necessary to find what works best for you.
People often ask me: “How did you interview X on your show?” There really isn’t a special secret for how to book high-profile guests–just ask! Be fearless. In the words of Nike: “Just do it!” You can’t have what you don’t ask for! At worst, your inquiry will fall on deaf ears, and you’ve wasted a few minutes writing an email or making a phone call, but if they say yes, you’re in business!
Interview Request Inquiry:
- Show Name
- Show Topic/Description
- Method: Phone? Skype? In-Person? etc.
- Time Required: e.g., 30 Minutes
- Contact Information: Email, Phone
- Scheduling Availability, with Time Zone!
- Why are you interested in interviewing them?
- What would you like to talk about?
“I’m Steve Riekeberg, the host and producer of Geek Cred, the podcast that delivers in-depth, behind the scenes interviews on everything geek. If you have about 45 minutes in your schedule, I’d love to talk to you about your new project, the inspiration, production process, and what it means to you. If you’re interested, please contact me at your earliest convenience at…”
It’s okay to give some general topics, but unless they demand it, never include specific interview questions ahead of time! If guests can prepare questions ahead of time, it loses its authenticity.
Great interviewers are always great researchers–know your guest! If you’re interviewing someone to promote their latest project–such as a book, movie, or television show–and it hasn’t been released yet, ask for an advanced review copy or screener.
I like to always have at least 5-10 questions prepared for every interview–it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared!. Know what topics you want to cover; stay focused to a few specific areas. Don’t be afraid to ask; even if it seems stupid, if you’re wondering, your audience probably is too, and solicit them to submit their own questions!
Make sure that you have open-ended questions, not yes or no questions. Phrasing is important.
“Did you enjoy playing this character?”
“What did you like about playing this character, and why?”
It’s all about stories!
“What captured your interest and lead you to become a filmmaker?”
“What is it about the genere that appeals to you as a writer?”
“Tell me about your experience with quitting your day job to podcast full-time.”
Always be on-time, being respectful of your guests, and leave yourself a few minutes before to do a sound check. If you’re using Skype, do a test call (call “echo123″) to ensure there are no technical problems and that you and your guest will be able to hear each other properly.
Record everything–sometimes the greatest material will be when you least expect it. I hit the record button before we start talking to make sure I don’t miss anything.
While permission is arguably implied by having scheduled an interview, it is important to receive permission on the record, as recording someone without their permission can be illegal.
“This is being recorded. By continuing, you are giving me permission to use this as I see fit, do you agree?”
When in doubt, consult a lawyer, but this should cover you down the road.
Before you get started, establish the ground rules. Re-state the topics you intend to cover, and allow them to voice potential objections. If you edit, let your guest know that they can relax and not to worry about having to sound perfect. What your policy on language? If you edit or bleep out cursing, let your guests know what is appropriate so they can act accordingly. When in doubt, verify the proper pronunciation of your guest’s name.
If interviewing multiple guests at the same time, introduce them individually so that the listener can mentally associate the sound of each voice with each person, and start with easier “softball” questions to help your guests get warmed up before diving in to more difficult, in-depth topics.
Stay out of the way and let your guest talk! Remember that they are the star. However, it’s a conversation, so still stay engaged; make comments and ask follow-up questions. It is a fine line, and you will have to find the happy medium between the two extremes. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your list of prepared questions. Use your list as a guide, what you ask isn’t set in stone. Sometimes the greatest questions are spontaneous, on the fly.
A useful technique is when your guest finishes talking, stay quiet, leaving dead air. Our natural tendency is to fill this uncomfortable silence, and they will likely respond to this nonverbal cue by continuing to talk, and you can edit out this pause. If necessary, ask them to “tell me more!” Don’t be satisfied; you cannot be a passive interviewer.
Most of all, be yourself, and have fun!
How did you first discover and become interesting in podcasting? When did you decide to become a podcast producer? Tell me your story…
Share Your Thoughts!
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to PodcastPerspective@Gmail.com or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below!
I am available for one on one podcast consulting, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me!