7 Podcast Interview Tricks for Leveling Up Your Technique

From Don’t Panic Management’s Lee LeBreton.

There are all kinds of ways to be a great podcast host.

No, you don’t need to have the megawatt extroversion of a late-night TV personality.

You don’t need years of experience as a hard-boiled investigative journalist.

All you need is to be able to greet your guest and audience with the best, most authentic version of yourself.

Set yourself up for success using these simple strategies for creating engaging podcast interviews.

  1. Find Your Software Soulmate

Today’s podcasters have an abundance of podcasting tools from which to choose. They also love to debate which of the most popular options—which include Skype, Zencastr, Zoom, and others—is objectively the best.

In reality, the “best” podcast interview recording software for you is the one that balances audio quality and ease of use. Some podcasters prefer Zencastr’s multi-track recording feature, some prefer to combine Zoom with Camtasia’s recording capabilities, and others value the ubiquity and familiarity of Skype. Whatever minimizes friction between you, your guest, and your production team (which may also be you!) while meeting your quality standards is your software soulmate.

  1. Expect the Unexpected

Capturing clean audio from two different locations simultaneously isn’t foolproof, of course. But there are several preparatory steps you can take to mitigate recording hiccups.

Start by communicating your recording guidelines to your guest in advance of the interview: find a quiet indoor location, use a stable internet connection, silence devices, avoid speakerphone, etc. Yes, your guest is being generous with their time, so you’re right to think twice before demanding they fill out a five-page pre-interview survey and learn a new software platform just to get on the phone with you. But they won’t consider you a tyrant for requesting basic etiquette.

Have a software backup at the ready (see above for a few popular options). Be on the lookout for interruptions that require a quick reset versus what can be solved during editing. Persistent static or clicking can be a serious challenge to edit out, whereas word fumbles or passing sirens are relatively easier to remove.

  1. Get Your Nancy Drew On

Reading a first date’s CV before meeting for coffee would be pretty creepy. Researching your podcast guest, on the other hand, is an essential part of being a great podcast host!

Make sure you’re clear on the basics, like the correct pronunciation of their name, job title, pronouns, etc. Be familiar with their recent work and background—asking for a short bio can help with this. And though we said earlier that a five-page pre-interview survey may feel off-putting, a shortlist of questions is a great way to spark interesting talking points.

  1. Nurture That Rapport

A warm, easeful rapport between guest and host is a major key to podcast success. You don’t need a longstanding relationship with your guest to create that ease—even small points of connection can help you both relax and deepen your conversation. As you research your guest, look for shared points of view, passions, or points in your origin story that might offer these opportunities to connect.

Between logging on to the call and kicking off the interview, you may also want to spend a minute or two loosening up by chatting casually (rather than talking shop) with your guest. Remember that our ears pick up all kinds of auditory cues in human speech, including whether or not the speaker is smiling, and listeners will detect if you’re stiff or relaxed.

  1. Create Your Hiking Map

Sure, many podcast hosts conduct interviews without any written outline. A few prefer the opposite: sticking to a specific list of questions and deviating as little as possible. Most successful beginning podcasters, however, will avoid these extremes.

Consider your interview guide less like a linear outline and more like a hiking map. Unlike an outline, a map allows for tangents and alternative conversation routes. This approach allows you to stay present with your guest and embrace opportunities to riff or go deeper while still keeping you on task.

  1. Push for Specifics

Details make an interview sparkle. Podcast guests speaking on their area of expertise may be so used to operating at a high level of fluency with their subject matter that they forget to offer specifics. It’s your job to prompt them to get concrete.

Stay alert for opportunities to jump in and ask for a recent example of the trend they just mentioned or a brand that exemplifies the concept they just referenced. Ask for their favorite tools and strategies for doing what they do. These details will help your episode stand out, rather than rehashing the same talking points your guest has touted all over the web.

  1. Make Your Podcast Interview Process Repeatable

Why reinvent the wheel each episode? Turn the emails and outlines you find yourself recreating over and over again into templates. When it’s time to prep for a new guest, simply customize that form email, refresh that interview map, and revisit that library of favorite questions.

These resources and workflows will also make it even easier to delegate these nitty-gritty production tasks when and if you decide to bring on a helping hand. And what post about podcasting wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that several of us here at Don’t Panic are expert podcasting sidekicks.

While you won’t find a “hack” to nailing an interview every time, you can become a more engaging interviewer with practice. Commit to leveling-up your host technique using one (or more!) of these tips.

Unofficial bonus tip: Set yourself a reminder to listen back ten episodes from now to appreciate how your skills have developed—then celebrate!

For more from Lee LeBreton:

Landing a Guest Interview

Thanks to Guest Columnist Kelly Glover – The Talent Squad

Landing a couple of podcast interviews is a great start to a podcast guesting strategy but don’t stop there! Earned media is cumulative (and SO valuable). Here’s a super-fast Podcasting Pitching Plan in 5 steps to give you a process & keep you on track.

1. Decide on Your Goal. Add Metrics 

Start with the end in mind. What action do you want the audience to take as a result of hearing your podcast interview? Add metrics. Once your recordings start getting published you can measure, assess, recalibrate, rinse & repeat.

2. Topics & Talking Points

Package your genius into pitch-ready talking points the media will love. Pitching a topic on its own won’t work. That’s way too broad! You’ll need to go deeper and really extract your genius. Turn them into topics that you could imagine seeing as a bestselling book title. You’ll need to write a scroll-stopping subject line for the email too. Your goal here is to grab enough attention to get that email opened.

3. Draft your podcast pitching list

After you’ve done a lot of pitches you’ll quickly be able to work out your pitch-to-booking ratio. This is important so you know how many shows to send to in order to get the booking. It’s not a one-to-one game. The first step is to research and create a pitch list so you can vet each show to the podcasts you’ll actually pitch. When doing your due diligence, there’s a lot more than just having a lot of Insta followers. There’s a lot of moving parts here so once you figure out your personal vetting process, make sure you document, add to a grid, so you can track, cross-check and verify!

4. Personalize your pitch

This is a crucial step of the podcast pitching plan. Customize every email. There’s no place for blasting out a copy & paste email. This isn’t off-the-rack, it’s bespoke! Podcast hosts absolutely hate it when you pitch them and don’t have a clue about the show. This is a highly personal process (as are podcasts). It’s manual and takes time but the payoff is worth it! Shallow host references are also a turn off so be authentic and make sure your pitch copy is a true reflection of your personal brand. This will be be a nice integration & complement to your podcast one sheet and online press kit. Personal branding is key!

5. Have a fantastic follow-up system in place

Set up a logical system to follow-up. You already have your pitch grid for easy tracking. It’s rare to do a cold pitch and get an instant yes. If that happens you’ve hit the podcast pitching jackpot and should celebrate. For all those other times, you’ll need to check back with the host and producer (without being annoying). At the Talent Squad, we call it professional persistence. I suggest checking to see if and when the e-mail was opened before you do any follow-ups so you know how to craft the next set of coms.

Good luck getting booked!

Bringing You Lessons from Top Podcasters

Gimlet podcasts from Spotify are heard by millions each month. Its slate of mostly narrative-style shows are known for their engaging content that keeps listeners coming back for more. Gimlet co-founder Alex Blumberg shares what he’s learned, gained from his years of working in audio. You too can produce podcast episodes that entertain, educate and connect with audiences on an emotional level.

Click here to access the lessons on Spotify. (free signup required)

Mastering the Art of Podcasting

At Podcast Movement 17 in Anaheim, Dot Cannon interviews Valerie on Becoming a More Powerful Podcaster.

“Podcasting isn’t easy,” says international broadcast consultant and author Valerie Geller.

But, she says, if you love doing it, that won’t stop you.    And if you’re producing a podcast, she can tell you exactly how to make it a magical experience for your listeners.

Click to Listen to the Entire Podcast.

How to Produce a Podcast

Thank you Simplecast for contributing this guest blog.

What goes into getting a job as a podcast producer? Being a podcast producer can be a very rewarding and creatively challenging role. Before you start applying to a bunch of producer jobs though, you first need to understand what it is they actually do. The role of a podcast producer is multifaceted and can vary depending on the person’s experience and the type of podcast their managing. To explain what we mean, we’ve outlined some of the responsibilities a podcast producer typically needs to take on for their job.

Production Management: Imagine everything that goes into making a podcast. Coming up with ideas, managing the production schedule, and strategizing how to promote the show can all fall under the podcast producer’s scope of work. The podcast producer is the person who oversees the process of developing the podcast and makes sure things are running smoothly.

Guest Research and Scheduling: Alongside managing the show, podcast producers are also responsible for finding guests to join the podcast. This includes administrative work like calling, emailing, and scheduling the guest, but it’s not limited to these tasks. The podcast producer wants to ensure the guest fits with the overall style of the podcast and so they will do their best to prep the host and guest before the show. They’ll pre-write interview questions and guide the guest on specific talking points.

Audio Management and Editing: Managing the podcast’s audio is probably one of the most important parts of a podcast producer’s role. They oversee recording, editing, and distributing of each episode.

Analytics Tracking and Reporting: The producer can monitor podcast metrics, like the number of downloads, listener demographics, and listening times, to make improvements to how the podcast is structured and produced. These analytics may need to be shared with other team members or sponsors and the producer is responsible for providing these reports.

Leadership: Lastly, they’re responsible for interacting with a lot of different people on the team and ensuring that everyone’s work aligns. This requires a podcast producer to be able to take on a leadership role to support the podcast’s host and team.

If you want to become a podcast producer and don’t have any experience in the areas we listed above, that’s okay. You’ll need to develop these skills with time and we’ve got some resources to get you started.

How to Develop Your Skills as a Podcast Producer

Start learning about the podcasting world

If you don’t have any experience with podcasting, it’s time to brush up on your knowledge. You can begin by learning from some fellow podcast producers. For example, The Podcast Dude is a professional podcast producer who has a podcast that helps people understand the ins-and-outs of becoming a podcast producer (aka Aaron Dowd, who you’ve probably seen around the Simplecast site!). Pat Flynn, another podcaster, has a YouTube series where he walks people through the process of setting up a podcast. These videos are a great resource for understanding the technical sides of podcast production and can quickly get you setup with recording. Once you learn more about podcasting, we recommend you start your own! This is the quickest way to gain hands-on experience and get a better understanding of the different aspects of podcasting. Plus, if you enjoy the process of making your own show, you know this is something you’d enjoy doing professionally.

Spend time recording, editing, and working with audio

A podcast is nothing without its content, and to make great content podcast producers need to know how to record, edit, and manage audio. Are you familiar with how to use microphones, audio interfaces, and soundboards? If not, study some of the tools that are available to you for capturing audio. Do you know how to record great audio in both studio and live environments? Read a bit about different recording environments and the equipment you’ll need for both. If you’re looking for online resources, NPR has some great training guides for audio producers, including a guide on identifying bad audio and another on training your ears to identify audio problems in recording and editing.

Get comfortable learning audio editing software

As a podcast producer, you’re going to spend a lot of time working with audio editing software like Adobe Audition, ProTools, or Logic Pro X. These tools are known as Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) and they are professional grade audio editing software that podcast producers use to mix, arrange, and edit audio. You’ll have to pay for most of these tools, but using a paid DAW is worth it in the long run. Also, if you’re not sure which one to start with you can always try free versions to get a feel for how each platform works. Next, start playing around with whichever DAW you end up with and get comfortable editing audio by watching some YouTube tutorials on how to make your audio sound better.

Learn how to develop great podcast content

Have you ever noticed that some of your favorite podcasts seem to follow a flow or storyline? This is intentional, of course! People love stories and incorporating stories into audio is a great way to engage with an audience. If you’ve never written a story before, try brushing up on your skills by coming up with a few podcast episode ideas and writing out the scripts. This will be useful in the long run when you need to craft episodes or brainstorm ideas for a podcast.

Get involved in podcasting groups

If you’re new to the podcasting world, the quickest way to get involved and learn is to meet people who are already in the industry. You can easily join podcasting groups online at Facebook (New Podcast Creators, She Podcasts, Podcast Movement, Podcasters Support Group, Simplecast Members Forum), LinkedIn (Podcasting Enthusiasts), or Reddit (r/podcasts). If you live near a bigger city, you may find some podcasting events on Eventbrite or Facebook Events as well.

Build your role

Today may be the first day you start learning the skills to be a podcast producer, but becoming good at anything is a process. As you develop your skills as a podcast producer, you’ll gain knowledge, confidence, and the ability to make an awesome show. With this in mind, don’t wait around for a podcast producing job to magically appear. Instead, start making podcasts on your own and use what you make to build a strong portfolio. Stick with it, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a professional podcast producer.

Thank you Simplecast for contributing this guest blog.

Creating Powerful Podcasts

Anyone can talk, so hosting a podcast should be easy, right?
If you’ve tried it, you know it can be a harder than it looks.
Are you doing a scripted podcast? An interview type podcast, with one or more guests?
Perhaps you’re doing a podcast in hopes of expanding your brand or creating more business?
Or maybe you’re hosting an audio blog – expressing your thoughts and sharing your stories…
Whatever type of podcast you’re doing – the essence a powerful communicator is storytelling.
I work with broadcasters and podcasters throughout the world. Many have found the following Powerful Communicator Principles to be helpful.
· Speak Visually – in terms a listener can picture
· Start with your best material
· Podcasts are pre-recorded. They last forever online. Make them perfect
· Never let anything go too long
· Listen
· Always ask: “Why would someone want to hear this?”
· Address each listener individually, use the word “YOU.”
· Stay Curious
· Relax, let natural humor happen
· Be who you are
· Take Risks.
If you find this useful, you’ll find more in the “Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age” book.
Finally, the top three principles of becoming a more powerful communicator:

  1. Tell the truth
  2. Make it MATTER