How To Make The Best Out Of A Difficult Podcast Interview
Every podcaster has had the experience of having a lousy podcast interview (I have had my fair share of this). I want to be clear: this is not about good and terrible people (although some dishonest people occasionally get past your vetting process). It's about the result, succeeding or failing, to achieve our goals.
Being a podcast host for years — I've had all kinds of guests come on my show. My experience taught me how to avoid an awkward situation and make the best of a bad interview. I don't wish for you to go through this, but I want you to be prepared for it if you do.
A successful interview is done during the preparation stage. So, the first step in saving a difficult podcast interview is to avoid it from becoming awful beforehand by being as well-prepared as possible. You can start by researching your guest extensively since this will allow you to confidently ask questions that will provide the most value to your listeners.
Preparation also means making sure that the person who's going to be on your show is the right fit for you. Missing this step will not only affect the quality of your podcast episode; it'll also leave your listeners uninterested. Preventing this involves some planning, but if you have a system in place, you'll be able to have amazing guests coming onto your show.
Follow these steps to ensure that every guest is a home run:
- Do your research – it's only natural to know more about someone before you invite them over to your house — so it's important to have someone from your team research your potential guest first. Scroll through their LinkedIn profile or other social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
- Listen to shows they've been on – ideally, the potential guest you're eyeing has previously appeared on another podcast. Browse through their previous appearances and listen to a few of their interviews. This will give you more insight on their style, what they're like as a guest, and another way to get to know more about them.
- Properly screen potential podcast guests – having a filter integrated into your system will make it so much easier for your team to narrow down the number of potential guests on your show. Doing this will save you from many headaches down the road (trust me on this).
It takes time to properly screen guests. It may appear easier to simply take a chance and hope that the guest works out.
However, screening also helps you refine your questions, resulting in a crisp, engaging, and beneficial conversation. This way, you can say, “not today, difficult podcast interviewee!”
Make Sure Your Guest Is The Right Fit
If most of the guests coming to your show aren't the right fit, that’s a sign! Time for you to put a filtering process in place when choosing your guests.
So how are you gonna deal with guests like that, minutes away from hitting the red button?
One solution is to make it into what I call a narrative-style podcast. So, instead of a question, answer, question, answer – focus on the good bits, omit the bad, and just weave it into a narrative. Roll with what they say, pursue the interesting stories off script, and use follow-up questions to get better answers if they’re vague or omitting details.
What to Do When You Realize the Guest is a Bad Fit:
- Apologize, admit it's your fault – it's likely that someone from your team disregarded the criteria you set up for prospective guests — be honest about this with your guest. You don't want to waste their time giving value to the wrong audience.
- Offer to connect them to shows related to their niche – you can do this as a consolation to them. They may not be the right guest for your show, but they definitely have some value to offer — just not to your audience.
- Ask what you can do for them – what I usually do is ask them if they want me to give them a shout-out on social media or, as I said previously, connect them with someone. Remember, you're setting out to be a pro-giver. Even if you're faced with difficult guest interviews, always be respectful when treating with your guests.
Bonus tip: Don’t get mad at your team when this happens, work with them.
Not all guests are a fit. In many cases, few guests are going to be a fit. The reason why you bring guests to your show is not just to promote them, but it's to serve your listeners.
What If Your Guest Is Only Interested In Selling?
Now one of the main reasons why guests agree to come onto your show is to promote their business. It's not necessarily a bad thing – but too much of something is.
As the host, it’s your responsibility to steer the direction of the conversation where you make your guest look good to your audience. You can ask them questions that'll probe them to share their story. Let them share their struggles, advice, and insights with your listeners. This is a much more effective manner of converting your listeners into buyers.
To avoid over-pitching, inform your guest that time has been set aside for them to deliver a call-to-action, like visiting their website. Explain that they should increase their credibility by providing valuable, audience-focused interviews.
My Guest Lacks Talking Points!
If you feel like you're “pulling teeth” in making an effort to get your guest to get to the talking point, come up with the right questions. Here's how:
Stick To Your Goals
The goal of your show should be to add value to your show and your audience. Therefore, while inviting guests on the show, you need to consider the contributions they may make to the overall experience. You need to find out if they will offer academic knowledge, tutoring life techniques, or add humor to the show. All of these things are important to know ahead of time. These objectives will assist you in maintaining focus and directing the conversation in the most beneficial direction.
No Close-Ended Questions
Steer clear of questions with only two possible answers: yes or no. Make sure the questions you'll ask can be addressed with a detailed explanation at the level you seek. You can put those questions to practice on your own and ignore them depending on whether you answer “yes” or “no.”
Tip: Be sure to give your guest your undivided attention rather than daydreaming about the next question you want to ask them while they are talking to you.
Don't Go For Personal Questions
It's crucial to be less intrusive with your questions, although you might really want to hear the answers in great detail. If you want to avoid embarrassing your guests, you should avoid rushing into a personal topic about them. In addition, if a guest on your show is showing signs that they are uncomfortable with a subject, the appropriate thing to do is to back off.
Including some degree of flexibility is crucial, no matter how much you want to keep the show you host organized. An interaction between you and the guest that wasn't anticipated may be an interesting type of informational media. If you have the impression that there's more to learn about your guest, you can ask follow-up questions based on your intuition rather than adhering strictly to the interview's format.
Podcast Questions You Can Use For Your Next Recording
- What is one thing your business/successful venture did that you didn't expect?
- Who are your clients/customers/followers/fans?
- What sets you apart from your competitors?
- Where can we find you online?
- Tell us about your upcoming project.
- What's something about your industry that surprised you lately?
A conversation in a podcast is a two-way street, and it's your role as the podcast host to direct the conversation rather than fill it with your own words. Without you being overly involved, your guest should be able to freely discuss their experiences and knowledge and elaborate on the questions you've posed.
Recording a difficult podcast interview keeps every podcast host up at night. It makes perfect sense to us. No matter how much time and work you put into the preparation for the next interview or how excellent your intentions are, there's always the possibility that the podcast interview may not go as planned. This is true no matter how much effort and time you put into the preparation.
However, if you've prepared yourself with these sound tactics, you won't have to waste your energy feeling that something terrible will happen. If you've put in the time for preparation, worked on building up your self-confidence, and created a welcoming environment conducive to a good interview, then you've already built a lot of the foundation for making sure the next one is successful!
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