What Makes a Podcast Interview Great?
Have you ever thought about what makes a podcast interview great? There are hundreds of interviews done each day, but only a few really and truly stand out. They stand out not because they are naturals or because they have a magic secret. They stand out because they are intentional in how they choose to prepare for a great experience.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Oprah Winfrey has been highlighted as a model for her interviewing skills. She has an ability to connect to the heart of the guest through probing questions that many would be afraid to ask. She does this while demonstrating empathy and compassion and is constantly focused on one main thing.
As a professional speaker, trainer, and host of the Bridge to U: Understanding and Black Unity podcast, I often speak heavily about understanding your audience to keep your audience engaged and bring them relevant content that can help to improve their lives.
Keeping your audience centered at the forefront of your mind allows you to ask questions you know they would want to hear and affirm or challenge your guest in a way your audience can appreciate. Nothing is more frustrating than watching or listening to an interview where deep questions are avoided, or the conversation is just bland.
4 Common Mistakes Podcasts Interviewers Make
Mistake #1 – Focusing on what you want to say rather than extracting what the guest wants to say and what the audience needs to hear.
When I see this challenge, I encourage clients to complete the first exercise in The Ultimate Speaker’s Guide. This takes them back to their why. Why are you interviewing your guest? Why are you hosting this show? We don’t stop at the answer to the first why but go many layers deep into understanding the core mission of what drives you. If your why is not aligned, you will feel frustrated over time.
Mistake #2 – Winging it and not being prepared.
I would say, for the most part, podcast hosts perform some level of research. However, sometimes this aspect gets lost in the pace of a busy life for those that are new or seasoned. Missing this critical step will negatively impact your interview by at least 40%.
When I see this challenge, I encourage clients to do more background research. Research everything you can about your guest using online and offline sources. Listen to interviews they have done before and write down questions you would ask that are genuinely curious to you. Avoid asking the same questions every other interviewer has asked the guest.
Preparation helps you stay on track and shows your guest that you value their time and are prepared for a great experience. It also enables you to stay relaxed because you have done your homework.
Consider having a few general questions you will use to kick off the show. This is a great way to warm up your guest. You can also let your guest know before the show what you hope the audience gets from their interview. Remember to smile. When you smile, it transfers energy to your guest and the audience in a positive way.
Mistake # 3 – Constantly interrupting your guest.
There is a balance needed to interrupting your guest. Without an interruption, a guest can go on and on without a focused point. It is your job to help them stay on track. On the other hand, too many interruptions will come across as insensitive to your audience and create a bad experience for your guest.
When I see this challenge in clients, I will tell you it is not easy to develop. It requires active listening practices as well as training exercises. With intention and practice, however, it can be mastered. Your number one goal is always to make your guest feel welcomed, valued, and appreciated in these instances. Without guests, you’d have no show, and interviewing yourself would get old at some point. Your guest brings valuable insights and contributions to your platform, and it should be a mutually rewarding experience.
If you struggle to interrupt verbally, you may let your guest know before the show if you are doing a face-to-face or video interview that you will raise your finger or make some form of hand gesture to indicate that you have a point you want to make.
Mistake # 4 – Over scripting the interview.
When an interview is over scripted, it does not leave much room for exploration. No matter what answer the guest gives, the interviewer continues along their line of scripted questions.
When I see this challenge in clients, there is often a huge fear of losing control and perfectionism. I encourage them to embrace the mindset that nothing is perfect and that some of the most powerful conversations come from an unscripted experience. I guide them through asking open-ended questions and avoid leading the guest to what they expect to receive. I encourage them to take notes during the interview to capture a point they want to go back to to keep the conversation fluid and timely.
The art and skill of being an effective interviewer involve active listening, self-awareness, and empathy, and public speaking skills. It requires you to think in the moment of the multiple audiences such as your guest and your listeners to find the angles that would be most intriguing and insightful. Remaining curious and open are attributes that will enhance your interview and take it from good to great. Everyone can develop and harness these skills.
Monique Russell is the host of the Bridge to U: Understanding and Black Unity podcast, inspirational teacher, professional speaker, author of The Ultimate Speaker’s Guide, Intentional Motherhood: Who Said it Would Be Easy, and Founder of Clear Communication Solutions, LLC – a global communications training coaching and consulting firm in Atlanta, GA.