A podcast is only as good as the content that’s in it. Sounds obvious, right? Well, if yours – like the vast majority – is an interview-style podcast, the content rests almost entirely on the shoulders of your guest and what they have to say.
How, then, do you ensure that your guest is informative and entertaining so that your podcast is engaging from start to finish?
Much of it comes down to the preparation that you do as host.
At SoundCartel, we take seriously the preparation of each episode on our entire suite of podcasts. It goes without saying that the longer a podcast episode is, the more preparation is needed to achieve an engaging piece of audio.
Business Essentials is our flagship audio program. Launched in 1984, it’s the world’s longest-running business audio magazine. It’s the foundation of our Business Essentials Daily podcast, launched in May 2020.
So, what better example than Business Essentials to illustrate the steps to preparing a guest for a podcast?
Where do we get our ideas from?
Fortunately, because we’ve been doing this for so long, our reputation in the market means we often receive requests and suggestions from PR agencies, business leaders, publishers, and long-time contacts.
Furthermore, we closely monitor newspapers, magazines and other media for current trends and business stories. During COVID, for example, we paid particular focus on businesses surviving and readjusting to the “new normal”.
Because we’re producing an episode every day, we need to be uber-organised and ensure we constantly have enough interviews in the pipeline.
Once we’ve decided on a particular topic, we approach the interviewee via email. These days, it’s fairly easy to find the business or professional email address of almost anyone. If an email is not forthcoming, then a phone call to their place of work, or an approach via LinkedIn or a similar platform, will normally suffice.
When requesting an interview, we clearly and politely cover the following:
- Who we are. It informs the potential guest where the contact is coming from, and on the credibility of our organisation.
- What the podcast is. It gives the guest a chance to check us out and – who knows? – they may have already heard about us.
- Who our audience is. It allows guests to understand the listener demographic and whether the audience is one they would like to talk to.
- How it will work. We explain in simple terms what they as a guest will need to do. It’s a good idea to make it as easy for them as possible.
- Availability. If indeed they are interested, ask what time/date they would be available.
We have a high conversion rate – more than 90% of those we approach agree to be interviewed. However, if a request is rejected, we don’t dwell on it. The show still goes on.
Most people are actually quite chuffed they’ve been asked to be interviewed, and they understand the personal benefits, like free content and positive PR.
Setting up the interview
When a guest has agreed to an interview, the next step is to secure a time and date for recording. Recording times for our interviews are normally around 10 minutes, and we book 30-minute slots.
For Melbourne guests, it’s ideal for them to record at our professional recording studio in Hawthorn East. What differentiates our interviews from other podcasts is the quality – high-quality audio reflects well not only on the SoundCartel brand but also the guest’s personal and professional brand.
For guests outside Melbourne, we record remotely using, Riverside.fm software. It’s convenient with an outstanding interface and records studio-quality audio. The guest needs only to click a link with a Chrome browser. Of course, a good quality microphone and headphones are also important.
We provide the guest with a remote recording guide that clearly sets out the ideal location and recording equipment required for the podcast, which we’ve written about before.
Preparation is the key to getting the most out of your interviewee. Veteran TV presenter, comedian, and host of the former hit ABC TV show Enough Rope, Andrew Denton, says “There’s just not too much information I can have” when it comes to preparing for an interview.
We spend considerable time researching articles, blogs or books written by or about all our guests.
The questions you ask will determine the quality of your guest’s answers. So, the questions have got to be good. That’s why research is so important.
During the interview you need to listen carefully and have the flexibility to go “off script” – but that’s a blog for another day.
Provide the questions to the guest
As a rule, we provide the guest with questions a day or so beforehand. This allows them to feel comfortable on interview day, and time to consider their responses so that they sound natural and more off the cuff, rather than too ‘read’ and formal.
This approach is far more engaging for an audience, with the aim of the interview to sound more like a conversation.
Although it’s obviously important, the interview itself is the least time-consuming part of producing a podcast. At SoundCartel, we go to great lengths to ensure the questions we ask elicit engaging answers. And that comes down to thorough research and proper planning.
If you have any questions about preparing or conducting an interview, don’t hesitate to contact the team at SoundCartel.