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How to Handle the Five Types of Guest Interviews

Guest interviews are the mainstay of many podcasts. Listen to any of the myriad of marketing or business podcasts and you’ll find a who’s who of their respective fields pontificating on any given subject.

But interviews aren’t the bastion of marketing and business. You’ve got gurus talking about relationships, sex, pet care, automotive skills, house-keeping and lifestyle design. The list is endless.

Do Your Homework

It goes without saying to prep yourself before hand. Read their book or their blog –  watch their movies – listen to their music – find previous interviews, if available, and learn what hasn’t been asked and, more importantly, what’s been beat to death.

Meet or talk with them beforehand, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, to get a feel for the person. Are they chatty or subdued – are they knowledgeable on their topic as described or are they really full of fluff?

Armed with that basic information you can craft your interview using one of the five strategies below.

The Expert Interview

Whatever the topic is, there’s a guest claiming to be an expert on it. How you handle this is decided whether you’re looking to promote this guest and their knowledge or act as a polarizing figure and let that guest sink or swim based on how they handle themselves. Choose carefully because if word gets out that your show has a habit of pulling a Mike Wallace on guests, your well will soon dry up.

Promoting is easy. Ask open-ended questions that allows your interviewee to share their knowledge. If you find yourself asking a yes/no question, quickly follow it up with, “Why?” or “How?”

Some experts have a tendency to ramble. Closed-ended questions can tighten up the pace.

The Biographical Interview

These can be really fun with the right guest. Bubbly, vivacious and chatty is always welcome. What’s their story? What’s their personality like? If you’re interviewing a story-teller, just set up the question and let your guest run with it.

On the flip-side, these can also be heart-tugging interviews. A victim/survivor retelling their story. Probe with open-ended questions. But keep them on point. If you feel the interview is beginning to stray, use a set of yes/no questions to steer it back.

A Witness to the Event Interview

Your guest may be a witness to or participant in a special event or tragedy. Tap into your inner-journalist and the Five W’s. Keep your questions open-ended and search for the facts. Try to expand on each W before going on to the next.

These types of interviews are tough to fit into a certain time limit. You may get your information quickly and be done in a minute or two or more light may be shed on the event prompting further discussion. I prefer taping these types of interviews and later fitting them into the show.

Reaction Interview

A decision has been made. Your guest is either for it or against it. What’ their reaction to the decision? What’s the basis for their reaction?

You want to state what the issue is and what the final decision was on it. Then turn it over to your guest for their immediate reaction.

Follow up with:

  • What’s their next move?
  • How can they make that happen?
  • Is this the end of it?

To wrap the interview you can always asked the tried and true, “now what?”

Caller, Line 1, You’re On…

Much like the Reaction Interview, you’re testing the waters of the public by getting their reactions to a decision, a problem, a symptom, and idea, an act, etc.

In many cases, you’re going to set up the scene to your listeners and take a position either for it or against it. Explain your position, set the tone and ask your listeners for their reactions.

Now, test the waters. Which way is your audience leaning? Are they calling to praise you on your foresight or damn your positions?

It’s best if you have a way to screen the calls before you air them. You’ll always be getting the folks that agree with you but that doesn’t make interesting talk.

You’re looking for the detractors.

One good bare-knuckle brawl with a caller followed by two to four, “what was he talking about?” callers can make for a nice flow.

So, what can you add to this? Am I full of it or just fed up with bad interviews? Commenter 1, you’re on!

About Jay Walsh

With a combined 25 years of design, marketing, podcasting, video and social media knowledge, Jay created with the goal of helping you make a better podcast.

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