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An Introductory Guide for First-Time Podcast Guests

Have you been invited to appear on a podcast for the first time?  Not sure how to prepare?  This article is for you!

I often get asked by guests how they should prepare for a podcast interview, and so I thought I’d put together this short guide.

Most podcast interviews take place over Skype or a similar VOIP system, and are recorded using a recording App such as Call Recorder for the Mac or Pamela for the PC.

Because of this, and bearing in mind that you, as a guest, might not be accustomed to appearing on podcasts, here are a few tips for giving a great interview:

1.  Audio Setup

As we are talking about audio interviews, it is of course obvious that the audio setup should be good.  But that does not mean it needs to be difficult or expensive!

podcasting setup

First of all, it is usually best to choose a good, relatively quiet location from which you are going to appear on the interview.  Normally a quiet room in your house or office would be a good choice. It doesn’t need to be completely silent, however – you don’t need to go to a recording studio – and some background noise is quite common in podcast recordings.  I’ve listened to many podcasts where there is a bit of traffic or a dog barking in the background, and usually this is not an issue – in fact it can even add to the authenticity and relatively relaxed atmosphere of a podcast.   Of course, if there is something in your environment that is likely to have a big, ongoing impact, then it would make sense to try and avoid that – while it might be amusing to hear a dog bark at one point on the recording, no-one is going to want to listen to that kind of interference the whole time!

From an acoustic point of view, a small room is usually best, but I would say that most rooms in the majority of homes and offices would fit the bill.  It’s only if you’re recording in a really large space, such as a big hall or auditorium, that the quality of audio is likely to be affected, and in that case it might be advisable to find a more suitable location.

Secondly, when recording a podcast, the choice of microphone is going to have a significant impact on the overall sound.  Also at this point, I would suggest recording the podcast interview from a computer, and not on from your smartphone.  I have interviewed guests via a smartphone , and it has turned out well, but I think it is generally easier if you are sat at a computer and it’s easier to control the audio settings etc.

In terms of the microphone, PCs and Macs almost always come with a built-in microphone and it is more than sufficient for many things, but probably not the best way to go for recording a podcast interview.

You will also need headphones – first of all so that you can listen to the podcast host much more carefully – it is much easier to concentrate when listening through headphones.  Also, if you are listening via speakers then that audio can get fed back into the mic, and can cause all kinds of confusion.

So, given that you are going to need a mic and headphones, one solution is to go for something like this:

Mpow Headset

Headsets like this one are very easy to use (plug and play) and therefore all you need to do is order the mic in plenty of time for your interview and test it in advance.

The reality is that if you are only going to be doing one or two interviews, and if you don’t already have a decent mic, then you may be able to borrow one – after all, if you are only going to use it once or twice, then that might be the sensible option.

If you plan on participating in several interviews, then purchasing a headset such as the one mentioned above would be a good option.  This is already going to be significant step up from the built-in microphone.

If you are looking for a more advanced setup, then I would suggest going for  the combination of a USB microphone, pop filter and separate headphones.

Below is a suggestion for each piece of equipment in such a setup:

Samson Go Mic

Pop Filter

Headphones

Having these separates allows you a bit more control and a higher quality of audio compared with the combined mic / headphones above.

Podcast hosts often have even more advanced setups – with a high-quality mic connected to a mixer or sound interface, but that is not going to be necessary for you as a guest.

2.  Preparing for the Podcast Interview

When I am interviewing guests, I often get asked exactly what questions I am going to ask.

Of course I always like to give guests an idea – and as a podcast guest it always makes sense to ask the host in advance what he or she intends to cover in the podcast. However, I don’t like to give a full list of questions and the first reason for this is that I don’t usually have them (I have an idea of what I would like to talk about, and the questions which I would like to ask, but I don´t have a complete list).

Secondly, I don´t want the guest to prepare all of the questions in advance because I want the answers to be natural and spontaneous!

3.  Telling your Story

As a guest, it’s important to go with the flow of the interview and answer the questions from the host.  I always think that it’s a good idea to give answers of a reasonable length – not too short, and not too long.

If your answer is too short, you are really not giving any value to the audience, and that is what podcast interviews should be all about – providing value.  And if your answers are too long, the audience may get bored or confused, and the host could even get a little frustrated.  So, I suggest keeping your answers to a ¨reasonable¨ length.

Apart from keeping your answers to a good length, you should also be focusing on really proving value. You don’t need to give away all of your secrets, and you should ensure that you don´t say anything that you are not legally allowed to (such as revealing a client’s name where you have an agreement to keep such information confidential). BUT, you should be sharing lots and lots of free, useful, interesting, and inspring information.  Of course, understanding the types of people who make up the audience will help you to provide the right kind of information, and that is something you can definitely find out beforehand, either by talking directly to the host, or by doing a little bit of research online.

A successful podcast interview will often contain one or two great stories, and we all have these great stories in us, whether we know it or not!  So, it is well worth thinking about a couple of short stories that you might be able to include.  They can often be relatively simple, such as how you got started in a particular industry, or why you ended up in your current location.

For me, one of the most important points is to act naturally and be authentic.  A podcast interview is not normally over-produced or heavily scripted – the best podcast interviews happen when the host and the guest are able to have a natural, informative chat – as if they were sitting chatting over lunch, for example.  This is also, in my experience, what listeners are looking for – lots of information, yes, but with a personal touch and some snippets of information, or interesting or different facts that they might not be able to find elsewhere.

And don’t worry about making mistakes, as these can be edited out later (see section 5, below).

4.  Advertising your Brand

While your focus should definitely be on providing value – ¨value bombs¨ as podcast expert John Lee Dumas likes to call them, there should also be plenty of opportunity to promote or advertise your company or product.  This should be done in a very sparing and careful way though, as it is very annoying to listen to a podcast interview where the guest simply wants to sell their product or service.

The best approach is not to view a podcast interview as a sales opportunity, but when the host asks ¨how can we find out more about you?¨or something similar, that is your chance to share you company details and website.  You may even get the chance during the interview itself – just don’t overdo it and remember that successful guests provide information first – ¨Serve first¨as experienced pro Pat Flynn likes to say.

5.  At the end of the interview

Most podcast interviews are not broadcast live, but recorded for release at a later date.  This means that the podcast can be edited before being shared with the masses.  While this is really the job of the host and her team, you should speak up if there was any part of the interview with which you weren’t comfortable with, as it can possible be edited out or even, in some cases re-recorded.

podcast editing

If you are not used to hearing yourself on a recording, then when you listen back to the interview you are likely to be overly critical of yourself – many guests feel that they hesitate too much when giving answers, or say too many “ums and ahs”.  But the reality is that this is just what a natural conversation sounds like!  So, if you say something that really needs to be edited out, then don’t hesitate to mention it, but if it’s just a case of a few minor mistakes or hesitations (or you dropping a pen next to the mic) then most hosts will probably just want to leave it as it is.

6.  After the Podcast Interview

Once the podcast has been released, usually on a platform such as iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud etc., now is your chance to share it with your audience.  This will help both you and the host – the more listeners you get, generally speaking, the better the result for both parties.

So, you might choose to share a link to your podcast interview on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter etc.  You can also share the link on multiple occasions in the future (when it comes to social media it’s always a good idea to share something quite a few times).

Depending on the content of the interview, you might also find it worthwhile sharing with potential investors, business partners, or clients.  The great thing about podcast interviews is that they are a form of digital content, and that content might prove useful for years to come!

Finally, it is worth noting that many great business relationships have started up between a podcast host and a podcast guest, and so, if you found your interview stimultating, and you had a great connection with the host, then you should consider cultivating that relationship – you never know where it might take you!

Looking to the Future

Many people find that after their first podcast interview (either as a host or as a guest) their interest in doing more of them increases.  If that proves to be the case for you, then you will only get better as time goes on, and you’ll be able to provide valuable information to more and more people!

Enjoy podcasting!

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