Improving Your Podcast Interview

Last week I wrote about booking guests for your podcast. Today I’m going to address interviewing performance. There are two types of interviews that I’ll elaborate on and why they’re different.

In journalism school you learn how to conduct interviews. You must prepare, including getting as much background information as possible about your guest as well as having a deep understanding of the subject matter for discussion. Research and preparedness is critical, irrespective of the transmission medium: radio or podcast. My favourite interviewers are ones that engender an environment of safety and comfort. A skilled interviewer will be able to elicit the most interesting responses from the subject.

Research your guests

Knowing your subject is conducive to a better interview for both parties. By collecting as much background information as possible, you will be more confident during the interview. Spending the time to take interest in learning about the subject will make your guest feel more comfortable with you. It’s never about you, so act selflessly.

Write down critical topics to discuss

Preparing questions in written format is not something I use during interviews, but I do write down the critical topics for discussion and order them appropriately. The reason why I won’t write questions down is because I don’t want to read them, which makes the interview sound scripted and unnatural. My goal is for the listener to feel like a fly on the wall in a private conversation. If I can do that, I have done my job.

Look for something interesting to delve deeper

If you’re asking the right kinds of questions, the flow of the conversation should naturally progress and lead from one interesting topic to another. You should use reflective listening techniques to focus on what the other person is saying. Reflective listening is different from active listening and is described as follows:

Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. It attempts to “reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to the client”. Reflective listening is a more specific strategy than the more general methods of active listening. It arose from Carl Rogers’ school of client-centred therapy in counselling theory. Empathy is at the centre of Rogers’ approach.

When your subject mentions something intriguing, don’t just let the moment pass. Ask them to tell you more about it. This can often lead into new, interesting, and unexpected territory.

First time interviewing: invite a friend to interview and record the talk so you can review later.
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You can only improve your interviewing skills and level of comfort by conducting many interviews. If you haven’t interviewed before and don’t know where to start, ask a friend if you could use them as a test subject. Make sure you record the interview and listen back to it so you can critique your own performance.

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