Preparing podcast guests is vital. You can have a confident host, a great topic, the best production, pricey microphones, and still create a crappy show if your guest isn’t prepared. As a pro podcaster with A-listers under my belt, it breaks my heart when a great opportunity goes to waste. If you’ve ever asked yourself how to prepare a podcast guest for an interview, here are 7 things that will ensure you never run into trouble.
How to prepare a podcast guest for an interview
In the last week, I received two calls from concerned podcasters, asking why their genius guests weren’t so genius when interviewed on their show. While it’s true some guests just suck at being interviewed, they’re the minority. A guest choking during an interview is rare, so if it’s happening often the solution is probably 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. You can use this guide to make this easier.
1. Sending a podcast guest background prep info
To prepare podcasts guests in advance, it might sound like a great idea to send them the questions, right? But don’t you dare 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, that could 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.
- Upkeep on classic cars
- Clubs for classic car owners that provide value
- Mistakes to avoid when repairing
2. Don’t protect your podcast guest during the interview
Be careful not to “protect” your guest during the interview. Early on in my podcast career, I noticed I would steer the conversation away from what I considered to be difficult questions. I was trying to “protect them” to spare them 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 and requires a lot of intellectual energy, making your interview style akwaard. 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, and it will really get them thinking. This is a good thing, and believe it or not, makes a better interview. If you doubt their ability to answer tough questions, they’re a bad guest!
To prepare podcast guests, prepare to ask great questions.
3. Preparation for a podcast guest requires research
Ask stupid questions, get stupid answers. If guests are crapping the bed, 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 almost 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.
4. Break the ice before a podcast interview.
To prepare podcast guests for my interview with them, 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 special, so doing this helps them perform. Make sure this isn’t 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, but laugh with them or perhaps share a personal story. If they feel comfortable, they will be more emotionally prepared.
5. Prepare podcast guests by sending past interviews
Make sure to prepare podcast guests by sending them previous interviews of guests. For most people who don’t understand the podcast world, finding podcasts is a bit confusing. 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.
6. prepare podcast guests… by finding the right person.
If you bring a guest on that doesn’t truly know their stuff, this is ultimately on you. Maybe this is surprising to you, but many podcast guests will eagerly 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.
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.