10 Interview Tips for Podcasters


by Deborah Ng

I don’t know about you, but I always get a little nervous when I’m doing a live interview. I find that if I don’t prepare properly, my listeners receive dead air and “umms…” and “ers…” instead of useful information.  As most of our hosts know, hosting a podcast or online radio show is all trial and error. Though it’s always good to learn as we go, it’s not good to choke during an interview. With that, I give you this:

10  Interview Tips for Podcasters

1. Touch base with your interview subject beforehand– It’s a good practice to contact your guest before hand to discuss the interview. Find out if he has any upcoming projects, or even if there’s something in particular he’d like to talk about. If there’s a topic that is off limits, you’ll want to know that as well in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Let him know some of the things you’d like to talk about, and find out if it’s OK to open the phones to callers. Touching base with your interview subject before the show saves you from surprises later.

2. Create a list of questions before the show – Don’t go in cold. Write down every thing you’d like to ask before hand – even if you have too many questions. You want to avoid dead air so make sure you have plenty of material on hand.

3. Do lots of research – In the days before your interview, learn as much about your guest as possible. Try and go beyond the obvious. For instance, it’s one thing to talk about your guest’s book but what about that unusual nickname he had in high school? Or how about the fact that she coaches her son’s ice hockey team? Don’t seek answers people already know, find the fun and unusual details that make an entertaining interview.

4. Give the folks in the chatroom and forums a chance to ask questions – If you’re opening the chatrooms or have a forum going, invite your listeners to ask questions too. Sometimes the most thought-provoking questions don’t come from your own list.

5. Announce the interview beforehand and invite your listeners to email questions – Use your blog and show description pages to your benefit. Build community and create interest in the interview by inviting potential listeners to send in questions before hand. Who doesn’t like to hear his or her name mentioned on the air?

6. Don’t ask yes or no questions – Try asking the questions that go beyond a simple yes or no answer. Sometimes guests aren’t so forthcoming with their information. Find topics that can’t be answered with one word. If necessary, ask your guest to expand upon his answer.

7. Keep a list of “universal questions” handy – I have a list of what I call “universal” questions. For instance “What advice would you give someone starting out in ________” or “What are some common mistakes people make when ________”? Think about questions you can ask everyone who visits, and keep them at the ready…just in case.

8. Keep a pen and paper handy – As your guest talks, take notes and ask any additional questions.

9. Choose interview subjects that interest you – Don’t bring on a guest just for the sake of having a guest. Choose someone who appeals to you and your audience, and has something interesting to say. If you don’t find your guest appealing, it will show in the interview.

10. Always allow a minute for shameless self promotion – Invite guests to plug their latest projects. They most likely agreed to be interviewed because they want the promotion. Always offer your guest a couple of minutes and then say” thank you” for taking the time to meet with you.

And a bonus – Be a good listener. Of course your job is to ask questions, but let your interview subject talk and get his point across without interruption. You might be gung ho to get to the next question, but your listeners will want to hear the entire response.

What are your favorite interview tips?

2 thoughts on “10 Interview Tips for Podcasters

  1. literarymediacoll

    Some really good tips Deborah. Sometimes the guest also springs a surprise on you by saying something that deviates from the set questions and then that’s when the off-the-cuff questions have to be quickly formulated in the mind as the guest speaks.

    I had a couple of questions I wanted to ask my Guest, a renown author and film producer producing films with Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland and Sharon Stone, yet we spoke about how he looked 20 years previously when I’d first met up with him. A remarkable experience to speak about on air.

    The only chance, often, actually as I’m normally so busy, I can’t discuss this unless it’s at an event of writers.

    Good points, Deborah, thanks.


  2. Deborah Ng

    And thank you, Coll. A good interviewer is always prepared and never blindsided, right?

    I love that podcasting and online radio gives us an opportunity to speak to people we might never have had the opportunity in the real world.


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