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Avoid the Walkout: Podcast Interview Dos and Don’ts

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Fri Dec 10 2021

Avoid the Walkout: Podcast Interview Dos and Don’ts
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I am a big fan of interview podcasts. There is something about listening to folks tell their story or offer up their thoughts on an issue or event that is just good fun for me. The vulnerability needed to ask and answer some of the questions is intoxicating, and I am compelled to keep listening. I also secretly wonder sometimes what was cut out. Is this really all of the interview?

It reminds me of those celebrity walkout videos—those highly publicized celebrity blow ups in which the interviewer asks the wrong question or somehow insults the person they are interviewing, and the celebrity drops the mic, gets up, and storms out. I think there is much to learn from those about what not to do in an interview.

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Here are four tips to help you avoid the walkout and make your podcast and guest look professional and polished.

1. Research Your Guest

Review their LinkedIn profile and other social media so that you know who they are, what they represent, and what they are lobbying for, as those things could come out in the podcast. Review any other podcast or video experiences that they’ve had and public appearances that they’ve made. For those of you doing an internal corporate podcast, you may not have any previous experiences, but consider their history of public speaking. For example, if you are interviewing an executive who tends to clam up or give short answers, you can expect them to do the same thing when they’re on your podcast.

2. Prepare Your Guest and Yourself

Start the preparation by sending the questions and episode format to the guest ahead of time. Some guests require more time than others. I try to give at least 72 hours. Prepare them by setting expectations about how you will get the podcast started, when they can expect their episode to air, and what else you may need from them outside of just the recording time. Consider including the scripted introduction to the podcast and a link to previous episodes so that the guest can get a sense of how the episode will flow.

On recording day, do tech checks. Log in to your recording software early and check the technology before your guest arrives. Have a backup plan ready in the event of technical difficulties.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Your questions should require tangible answers. They should require opinions, examples, and stories related to the topic. Be sure to include some reflection questions, such as “How did you feel?” or “What did you think?” Avoid political issues and other controversial topics (unless, of course, you are doing a podcast about political issues and controversial topics).

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Use questions or statements like “Tell us about …” Ask questions that draw out the story and elicit descriptive answers. Avoid “why” questions that don’t connect to understanding positive intention or public information. When asked why, people are often put on the defense because they have to explain themselves and their behavior. Set up your guest for success by asking them questions that they can answer in a positive and appropriate way.

4. Be Respectful

The first way to show your guest respect is to ask them for the correct pronunciation of their name before you even hit the record button. Practice saying their name correctly. They will appreciate your effort. Be interested in what they have to say; let curiosity lead the conversation. Be grateful that they spent this time with you and shared their story with you. Be polite and grateful on and off the mic.

Sometimes being respectful is politely interrupting them. If you are having a technical issue and realize that your platform isn't recording or something seems to go awry with the sound, politely interrupt them and ask them to start again once you have fixed the problem.

Lastly, if you are asked to change the subject, change the subject. Even when you follow these four techniques, sometimes guests get goofy. Read the social cues. Even over audio only, listeners can tell when someone is checking out of the conversation.

Bonus Tip

Want to get better at interviewing? Listen to more interviews. Find podcasts that do interviews or watch news programs that do interviews. Intentionally listening to what the interviewer is saying will help you to ask better questions. Don’t be afraid to capture great questions. Most interviewers ask open-ended questions that are tailored to the situation. Take that open-ended question that you just heard and tailor it to your situation.

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If you follow those four techniques—researching your guests, preparing your guests and yourself, asking the right questions, and being respectful for the whole process—your podcast interview will be successful, your guest will be happy, and you will have avoided the walkout.

For a deeper dive, join me February 8, 2022 at ATD TechKnowledge for the session Podcasting as a Learning Solution.

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