Prepare podcast guests like a pro

Preparing a podcast guest for their interview is just as important as the interview itself. You can have a confident host, unique topic, great production, and nice microphones, but still create a crappy show if your guest isn’t prepared. As a pro podcaster myself, it breaks my heart when a great interview opportunity goes to waste due to a lack of guest prep. (Been there) If you’ve ever asked yourself how to prepare a podcast guest for an interview, here are seven proven tactics that will ensure your interview is smooth.

How to prepare a podcast guest for an interview

I received two calls from concerned podcasters recently about preparing guests. They both asked why their brilliant guests weren’t so brilliant when interviewed on their show. While it’s true some guests suck at being interviewed, they’re the minority.

A guest choking during an interview is rare, so if it’s happening to you often, the solution is to fix your process. To prepare a podcast guest for an interview, send them background on your show, do thorough research on them, listen during the interview, and make sure they’re comfortable. I’ll break this down into bite-size chunks.

1. Send the podcast guest background

To prepare a podcast guests in advance, it might sound like a great idea to send them the questions, but don’t do it. Your show will sound scripted and unnatural. Instead, send a brief idea of the direction you will take the interview. Your guest should have a broad idea of the questions being asked, so they can mentally prepare, but not the exact questions.

Send them some major points you will touch on, giving them an idea of what to be prepared for. If you were interviewing a classic car person, your email might look like this:

Hey Biff, I can’t wait to have you on my show. Here’s a general idea of some stuff we will cover.

  1. Upkeep on classic cars
  2. Clubs for classic car owners that provide value
  3. Mistakes to avoid when repairing

2. Don’t protect your guest during the interview

Be careful not to “protect” your guest during the interview. In earlier days, I would steer the conversation away from what I considered to be difficult questions to “protect” the guest. I was unconsciously sparing them, and myself, the embarrassment of possibly not answering a difficult question. Don’t do this!

Trying to protect a guest disrupts the natural flow of a conversation. It requires a lot of conversational gymnastics and ruins the natural flow of a discussion. Once a guest senses your discomfort, the awkwardness can throw them off. Or they can sense you don’t trust their expertise.

Instead, ask them tough questions! If they’re an expert, they will have no problem answering tough questions it will open up dialogue the listeners value. This is a good thing. Believe it or not, tough questions make a better interview. If you doubt their ability to answer tough questions, they’re a bad guest! To prepare podcast guests, prepare great questions.

3. Prepare podcast guests… by finding the right person.

If you bring a guest on your show who doesn’t know their stuff, this is on you. Maybe this is surprising, but many podcast guests will accept an interview opportunity that isn’t right for them if it means getting exposure to your audience.

Many individuals and companies are completely lost when it comes to their personal brand. They’re looking for others to define it for them. If you extend an invitation to someone who isn’t a good fit, they will not be prepared. Simple.

Never accept a guest because they asked or pitched you, or a friend said you should. They must be qualified and have value for your listener.

4. Preparation for a podcast guest requires research

Ask stupid questions, get stupid answers. If guests are laying goose eggs, it might not be a guest preparation issue—it might be YOU. Doing thorough research on your guests before the interview is a basic requirement. If you dig deep, you will know what things you can ask that are well within their wheelhouse.

Read their LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook feeds. Read their blog. Read their book. You should have an idea of what they will say before they say it. A great podcast host is rarely shocked by the general direction a guest goes in the interview. The best way to prepare podcast guests for your interview is to prepare yourself.

5. Break the ice before a podcast interview.

To prepare podcast guests for an interview, warm them up before recording. Tell them how fun the interview will be, and how excited you are to speak with them. Thank them for their time. People want to feel respected and listened to, so doing this helps them perform. Don’t be fake though. Only invite guests you’re excited to speak with and share this with them.

It’s ok to shoot the breeze for a few minutes ahead of time as well, as long as you respect their time and end when you promise to end. Don’t make things too formal; laugh with them or perhaps share a personal story. If they feel comfortable, they will be more focused, and more prepared.

5. Prepare podcast guests by sending past interviews

One good tip to prepare podcast guests is to send previous interviews. Finding podcasts is a bit difficult for most. Keep in mind, most podcasting apps are terrible. Because searching for shows is actually quite difficult, they probably won’t find your show or know what to listen to. So, send them your top 3 or most recent interviews.

To further prepare podcast guests for an interview, it’s also a great idea to send them like-minded guests. If they’re an author, send them previous interviews with authors. If they’re a chef, send examples of previous food service guests. Not only will this put their mind at ease seeing a name they recognize, but it will give them an idea of your pacing and style.

7. Don’t waste the good stuff pre-interview

A rookie mistake I learned during my live radio days for iHeart Radio was to never ask a guest questions better suited for the interview. Friendly discussions before the interview are healthy, but as a podcaster, you should avoid asking questions that your listeners would want to hear the answer to.

It helps to prepare podcast guests by keeping things simple. That means not asking questions twice. It can be difficult for the guest and host to separate what was discussed “on air” and “off air.” This confusion can lead to insufficient answers, or referencing things discussed previously the audience didn’t hear.

Thank you for contacting me!