Turn a good podcast interview into a great interview!

SoundCartel’s executive producer, Heather Dawson, has built a career producing interview-style shows for the ABC, BBC, Hong Kong Television Radio and audio programs, like Business Essentials.

She’s interviewed thousands of people in her career and conducted media training for a range of business people, politicians and others in the public eye.

Chris Ashmore asks Heather for her interviewing tips.

What’s the most important thing about a great interview?

The most important thing is of course the speaker. Does he or she know how to talk with passion? Do they know their topic, do they understand what they’re talking about and are they fluent? And all these things come up into a big batch of what makes a good interview.

Someone who speaks with passion, not only knows their topic but understands the value of storytelling to really get their point across.

It’s often talked about these days, storytelling, but if you’re talking about a business or business success or a really successful business person, you don’t just talk about the business, “Well, we did this and then we did that and that happened”, because that’s just chronological. But it’s the drama in between. It’s the personal stories, the ups and downs, the heartbreaks and all those things along the way that make a fascinating story.

And so, speakers, if you want to be known, you want a profile, find your story and work out what it is and find the anecdotes that go along the way.

To bring those stories out of the speaker, does it come down to the questions you ask?

Yes, indeed it does or it can do. But it helps really if the speaker has got some personal feeling about what they’re doing in their life and in their business.

An interviewer, sure, can bring it out but it needs to be there in the first place and it needs to be spoken with passion. Speak in pictures, I think is a good way of putting it.

Do you have an example?

I remember talking to Leanne Faulkner from Billie Goat Soap, which is a successful brand as well and she made it really successful and then what happened?

She fell into the depths of depression. She describes just simply not being able to open her bedroom door, not being able to get up, not to be able to face her staff every day.

And she picked her feet up and got going and got back into life again but she painted a very bleak picture of how it was and that’s what business people go through and it’s good to hear those downs with the ups to know that people can get through these times.

What else does the interview have to think about?

The interviewer has to do their homework. They’ve got to honour the speaker and the audience by taking the time to study their story to draw out all the dramas and the personal anecdotes and all the things I’ve spoken about already. And anything you can do to discover the background and bring that story to life.

Think about who some of the great interviewers are that are familiar to people here like Andrew Denton, Richard Fidler, Michael Parkinson, they’re all sticklers for research.

They get to know their subjects in advance, they scrutinise every detail, they prepare and prepare.

Even though they have an enviable knack I think of making it sound so easy during the interview, many people just, they’d be amazed at how much work goes into it all beforehand.

What tips do you have for speakers who want to raise their profile on a podcast?

I think if you’re about to go and do an interview on a podcast, just try to talk naturally, talk with expression. Don’t use jargon because that’s just alienating and I must say I get a little bit dispirited by too much technical talk or too much modern marketing spiel.

Don’t patronise or condescend. Things like I don’t know if you’re following me, really? But most importantly, speak from the heart and if you think that you’re not speaking from the heart, just practise a little bit more on putting more emphasis into your words and away you go.

Chris Ashmore’s interview with Heather Dawson is on Episode 14 of Podcasting Essentials.

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