So, you feel comfortable with knowing How to Start a Podcast — you have done the work to hone your concept, define your target audience, and explored key topics you’d like to cover. But you’re set on it being an interview podcast — such a great format — and that’s an art unto itself.
Following these 5 easy steps, you’ll develop strong creative processes that inspire insightful dialogue and the best content.
First, what makes a good interview podcast? An iconic interviewer like Oprah Winfrey or a record-breaking podcast from a host like Marc Maron?
More importantly, what makes the BEST interview podcasts? An unmistakable creative perspective, interesting people, amazingly revealing conversations, big questions, real-life stories, authentic human connection, and conversations everyday people can’t wait to hear — to name a few. Vox Conversations is a great example of a successful, professional podcast based entirely on discourse with guests.
This kind of engaging content starts with a smart process that you refine for your own podcast — build on the steps below.
Step 1: Find the Best Guest For Your Interview Podcast & Your Target Audience
Individuals who bring value to your audience should top your list of priorities when looking for guests to interview. Diverse people with in-depth knowledge, natural artistic expression, and niche topic thought-leaders are what tend to draw listeners.
Your choices shouldn’t be based on seeking your favorite celebrities, musicians, or best friend (although it is tempting). Your invitations should rely strongly on your podcast goals.
Our how to start a podcast guide can help you define your goals.
When you’re just starting an interview podcast and don’t have a studio in your garage (think WTF with Marc Maron) or venture capitalists funding, vetting your guests is the best way to ensure the output is listen–worthy.
Qualify Interesting Guests
You don’t have to check every box with every guest but do pay close attention to previous recording and interviewing experience. Interviewing someone with experience recording helps, especially when you are new to podcasting.
Interview podcasts allow you to share content creation with your guests. New co-hosts for every episode. The final podcast episode should reflect your intent as a host and be mindful of your guest and their special requests. If it is not a live recording, remind them they can restate things and that you will edit out mistakes. These simple reminders will put them at ease, and encourage a relaxed and natural conversation.
Hint: Be a considerate podcast host. This is so important, as your current guest could be the one that helps you book your next big interview.
The Libsyn Connect remote recording tool mentioned in step 5 below — How to record your interview, helps take much of the risk out of interviewer mishaps for both new and experienced podcasters. Using Libsyn Connect helps ensure that the dialogue is being recorded. A lost recording of a fabulous interview is a real heart-breaker, the tales of which you’ll find many.
Learn more about Libsyn’s creation and audio recording tools.
Create a Podcast Guest Lead List
Regardless of where you are in the interview booking process, tracking your outreach is critical for you and the special guests you are interviewing. You can reach out to various people simultaneously as you begin the “getting” process.
Podcasters make great interview podcast guests — find them here
The following are a few sites that match podcast host and guests.
Podchaser — Provides an entire creator directory and popular podcasts
Podmatch — Automatically matches ideal podcast hosts & guests for interviews
Matchmaker.fm — Connects podcasters and guests.
Be wary of services that charge fees for you to list your show or make extraordinary claims about landing podcast celebrity guests like the host of Fresh Air or Guy Raz.
Step 2: Follow an Interview Booking Process
Should you send an email? A DM? How long do you wait for a follow-up? We’ve got you! This process is easy and free, and you can watch it in this video on How to Find & Get ANY Podcast Guest from the Libsyn team or follow along below.
In addition to the resources below, podcast conferences, meetups, and your local podcast community are also great ways to connect personally with potential guests and other creative thinkers. Have meaningful, intimate conversations about what interests your listeners have in common.
The best interview podcasts know their audience well and want to create content they will love. If you discover your audiences have similar interests, you don’t need to wait to send an email. Make the ask if the moment seems right.
Week 1 - First Email
Week 2 - Follow-up
Give the first email a week before your follow-up. Life for musicians, writers, and celebrities like Sean Hayes is busy. We’re all busy with our own life. When you follow up, keep it to a few words, with no in-depth interrogation, just a simple inquiry if they received your email.
Week 3 - Book & Start on Next Guest Conversations
If you’ve got a yes, step 4 will walk through how to help your guest, regardless of their interview experience level.
If you want one hour of content, block 3 hrs to record the interview content. If you are using Libsyn Connect, you can schedule and send your guest an invite right through Libsyn. They can join in a couple of clicks without purchasing a Libsyn account.
Each of your guests will want to go into the interviews differently. Some may want a list of questions. Others will want free-flowing conversations. Some may ask for approval of the episode, and others may not. Be flexible.
Scheduling a pre-interview is a great way to get to know your co hosts and test equipment.
Hint: Provide a document to your guests detailing your intended workflow, recording timeline, preferred recording tools, approval process, and how content may be repurposed for social.You should have this ready before you contact them.
If they didn’t respond, follow up on other conversations and pursue other guests. Be willing to explore other opportunities. Some interview guests will take much longer to book, others less. It’s hard work that can feel like a full time job.
Top-notch interview podcasts take time. The best interview podcasts can take years.
Step 3: Prepare Interview Podcast Questions
Think about some of the most well-known award winning interview podcasts.
Comedian Marc Maron and WTF with Marc Maron, Joe Rogan with the Joe Rogan Experience, or Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Is there a common thread between these popular podcasts?
Remember your research. Don’t ask your guest the same questions they have already answered multiple times. What part of your guests story will your next question reveal? What one thing do you hope they share with your audience? Great questions and casual conversation will help you find that crazy but true fact about your great guests.
Sample Podcast Interview Questions For Guests
Check these lists out and note what interview questions really appeal to you. Which will spark unforgettable conversations? You may find one you want to focus on in your next episode.
Bonus: Audience-sourced Questions
If you have enough lead time, tell your audience who your next guest is and ask them to submit questions pre-interview.
There is nothing like integrating your audience into your podcast and making them a part of the interview.
Tell them they’ll have to listen to the episode to see if their question gets used in the interview! Marketing and interview questions all at once.
Sharing a simple Google Form link for question submissions in your show notes is easy. Want to make it a little extra? Have them send you an actual audio recording of the question and integrate it into the show!
Step 4: Get Ready For a Great Podcast Interview
Now that your questions are ready, we recommend a couple of steps before you hit “record.”
How to Structure a Podcast Interview
It may seem that your interview will flow naturally from your questions, but many of the best podcast interviews are at least loosely structured before they begin. Here we give you an idea of what a solid, successful interview structure looks like.
How to Start Each Episode
Naturally, you will have your teaser and intro music, but what should your actual intro be? How do you set listeners up to really WANT to hear what your guest has to say? We find that some of the most engaging podcast interviews begin with a specific, unique quality or fact about your guest that nobody knows. For example, “Did you know that (guest name) once went undercover to interview a murder suspect?”
Beyond catching your listeners’ attention, you want to think about how to guide the conversation so that it starts flowing and fluidly leads to a deeper discussion.
This is the known as the conversation arc, which is often connected to coaching conversations, but works quite well as a framework for the podcast interview. The arc consists of these steps, which we have modified a bit to fit the engaging momentum of a podcast interview.
- Establish a focus — Now that you have determined what questions you want to ask that are fresh and play to your guest’s recent endeavors, pinpoint what you REALLY want to know — what’s got you and your audience super curious?
- Explore and discover — When pinpointing your focus, follow through by getting some history on the topic: how did your guest become interested in the topic? How are they involved? What motivates them?
- Identify and discuss challenges — This part is fun. Any guest who has achieved something certainly faced some barriers or obstacles. Discussing these not only adds depth and humanity to the conversation, but gives listeners a good way to think about similar challenges.
- Reveal the outcomes or solve — Here is where we close the arc with the result or solution. How did your guest succeed? How did they overcome? What are the benefits of the result for your guest and/or others?
How to End Each Episode
After you have come to your resolve, we recommend a brief summary of the conversation experience (“Wow, that was enlightening — I had no idea …”) and then thanking your guest, offering info on how to follow them on social media and giving a brief teaser of what your next episode has up it’s sleeve in terms of person and insights. Get your listeners excited about tuning in again.
Prepare Your Guest, So You End Up with the BEST Audio Quality
After you have noted the structure you want to follow, it is time to set up your recording session. Send your guest a list to check over themselves before any podcast recordings.
Interview Podcast Notes
- If you have notes for the interview/conversation, keep them on a device. Avoid paper notes that rustle.
- Turn off alerts or sounds on your computer, watch, Alexa, and smartphone (airplane mode if you needed).
- Keep your cell phone away from your computer; it might interfere with transmission.
- Are all cords connected/plugged in?
- Is your computer sluggish? Do you need to reboot or update?
- Is EVERYTHING fully charged with enough memory or space for your recording?
- Close all programs except the program that you are using to record.
- Use a wired connection for mics, headphones, etc., to avoid Wi-Fi cut-outs or lapses.
- If wireless is all you have available, it’s not the end of the world.
- Check out our headphone recommendations for under $100!
- If you have an external microphone, use it!
- If you have a mic connected, make sure it is selected rather than the built-in mic.
- Check out our podcast microphone recommendations for under $100!
- Make sure that your bandwidth is at least 1.5Mbps up / 1.5Mbps down.
- You can do a bandwidth test for speed here.
- Do your best to refrain from moving around. Keep gestures to a minimum and channel your energy into your voice!
- Do you need water? Chapstick?
- Make sure everyone (your co-host and guest/s) have reviewed this list.
- Ask your co-host to record locally as a backup.
Step 5: Remote Recording Your Interview Podcast
Online remote recording tools are more important today than ever. There has been so much innovation: Zoom, Ecamm, Riverside, and the new Libsyn Connect recording tool.
The most popular go-to video and sometimes audio recording service is Zoom. However, the quality of the output is not always ideal. Our video, The Best Zoom Settings for Podcast Recording, shows you how to optimize settings within Zoom, but for even better audio-only recording, we’ve got Libsyn Connect.
Connect is super simple to use, it allows you to invite guests, and all they have to do is click a button to get in. No account is necessary for your guest. Does your podcast have three hosts and 10 guests? No Problem. Libsyn Connect will provide separate recording tracks for up to 20 people.
Done recording? Check out these post-interview tips.Libsyn Post-interview Checklist
Bonus Step 6: Podcasting Tips Specifically for Podcast Interviews
As noted, the podcast interview format is its own animal. Here we provide you with a few extra tips to hone the genre and own it. We’re so excited that you’re in the game!
- Be yourself! That’s who your listeners are tuning in to hear.
- Concentrate on open-ended questions. Sure, you started with a list of questions but feel free to follow their lead. Don’t try to guide their response. Let your curiosity guide the interview. 10 to 1, your listeners are curious, too.
- Be a GOOD LISTENER! They are very hard to find and very much appreciated. When your guest says something unexpected, go with it, dig further. “How did that make you feel?”
- Let your guest talk. If a guest goes off on a tangent. Pay attention to what is in it. They didn’t get triggered to say that without some reason. Explore why they went there and what is meaningful to them about bringing it up.
- Be reactive. Don’t try to force the flow to match your loose structure If your guest says something you weren’t expecting, let them expound on it. You can always cut during podcast editing.
- Return to your audience. Keep your audience in mind at all times, especially when trying to control the content of your interview. Stuck? Think about what your audience wants to know? What information serves them best? You can’t go wrong catering to your listeners — they are what your podcast is REALLY about.
Give Your Guest Everything They Need to Promote Their Episode on Social Media
So your interview is over and you and your guest are both excited about sharing it with the world. That said, if you give your guests EASY ways to share the episode on their social media channels, they are much more likely to do so.
Share with them:
- The link to the podcast interview, of course.
- Images they can use in their posts.
- Pre-written posts they can easily copy and paste.
- All the handles they need to tag.
- The release date, so they are on top of the excitement.
you don’t need a whole team of writers in the other room for fascinating conversations. Listen to your guest and consider your audience. Leaving listeners wanting more is key.
. You can develop your unique interview style over time. Listen to your guest and consider your audience. Leaving listeners wanting more is key.