It takes a lot of things to make an interview go well. When everything clicks, it can make for great content. If things go wrong it just wastes everyone’s time.
First of all, just remember not every interview is going to go perfectly. Sometimes the guest is boring, they rambled all over the place, they focused on pitching their own product, or they had horrible sound quality.
Preventing this from happening requires some preparation work. Once you have a process for it though, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to repeat.
Have a pre-interview call (or email)
Generally if you’ve gone through the trouble of trying to book someone to begin with, you have a pretty good idea of the insight and experience they bring to the table. But once you actually have the interview scheduled, it’s a good idea to talk to the guest ahead of time just to give them an idea what to expect from the interview.
As I’ve mentioned before, don’t be afraid to tell them what questions you plan on asking ahead of time. At the very least give them the broad strokes of the topics you want to discuss. You’re not Perry Mason interrogating them, and giving the guest plenty of time to come up with the best answer possible is going to make for better content.
If it turns out they’re just reading talking points or otherwise giving less than genuine answers, you can ask follow up questions to make things a little more interesting. But you don’t want to blind side the guest. Even if you’re not worried about having the guest on again, it won’t make for very good content if you’re trying to surprise them and it ends up putting them on their heels.
Be clear about technical expectations
Guests who aren’t podcasters themselves may not understand what sort of setup they need in order to sound good on recordings. The COVID-era has certainly changed that since many people have upgraded their home offices,
If it all possible the guest needs to have a microphone, not just speak into their laptop mic. Even headphones with built-in microphones end up producing a decent result.
Don’t assume anything is common sense. Some guests call in for a podcast interview from a loud place like an airport. Always ask the guest to be in a quiet place for the interview, even if you have to delay or reschedule the interview to get the best results.
Do a deep dive into their background
When you schedule the interview, ask the guest (or their publicist) to send you a bio for the guest and any information on what they are promoting.
Take a look at their previous interviews. There might be an interesting angle that you explore more deeply or one that went horribly wrong that you’ll definitely want to avoid. It pays to know that stuff ahead of time.
Ask the guest (or their publicist) if there are a few specific questions the guest would like the host to asks. Generally if they have a specific thing they want to promote, they’ll be more than happy to give that to you. That doesn’t mean you have to focus exclusively on what the guest wants to promote, but you should know what they are looking to get out of it.
Be clear about what everyone wants out of the interview
Most guests are going to have something specific they want to promote. That’s not neccessarily a bad thing, if it gets them in the door. Just remember the interview should serve three angles: the podcaster’s audience, the podcaster, and the guest. In that order.
Some guests are going to treat the interview as more of an opportunity to pitch their products or services. The only person that benefits is the guest. It doesn’t do much for you or the audience, though.
Just be clear with them about what you’re looking for. Maybe reserve a specific part of the interview for pimping their product. Explain that they should build up their credibility with an educational, audience-first interview. If they give the audience a reason to be interested, they’ll stick around to hear about the book and/or product in question.
Ask the guest to help promote the episode
Guests can help grow your podcast’s audience. Even if they don’t have a huge built in audience, if they have one person who becomes aware of your show that’s a good thing.
The more specific you can be ahead of time about what would be helpful for you (and them), the more likely the guest will follow through on promoting the show.