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10 Absolutely Best Podcast Interview Questions to Ask

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10 Absolutely Best Podcast Interview Questions to Ask
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In this episode of Audience, we’re taking a break from interviewing to talk about…interviews, and help you come up with podcast questions to ask during your podcast interviews. 

Being a good interviewer often means asking thought-provoking podcast interview questions but what does that mean? 

To answer that question, we’re taking a step back and look at how to interview someone for a podcast. From the prep work to coming up with a list of questions you should consider asking, this is a comprehensive look at how to generate a great podcast interview.

If you’re using Kai’s tips from our last episode, you’re hopefully already booking new guests for the show. So let’s get to showing you how to come up with questions that will spark engaging conversations with your guests.

But let’s get something out of the way first…

Why the Questions You Ask Matter So Much?

As a podcast host and the interviewer, it’s your job to make the guest feel comfortable. You want them to tell stories that they haven’t divulged in other interviews, after all. You want them to open up, and share information that’s going to resonate with your podcast audience, be it emotionally or intellectually.

To do this, you need to ask questions that guide the guest to immediately talk about the emotional parts of their story and skip over the pieces they’ve said on repeat. 

These responses are more likely to tug at your audience’s heartstrings, keeping them on the edge of their seat until the final minute of the show.

But there’s another side to this too. 

You see, great questions make up for amazing stories you can tell too. 

Every time a guest on your podcast answers a question is an opportunity to retell their story to make it more relevant to your audience. 

In fact, that’s what great interviewers do all the time. They ask a question, listen to the answer, and then, reiterate whatever key thoughts the guest has made. What’s important – They do it from the audience’s perspective, making sure that these points relate to their listeners. 

And none of this would have been possible without clever questions, of course. 

Podcast Interview Questions That Create Interesting Answers

Do yourself and your guest a favor by skipping over their general answers. Instead, try these 10 interview question frameworks that promise to generate interesting stories.

  1. Tell me about a time when…
  2. What was the hardest part about…
  3. How did you feel when…
  4. Describe your process behind…
  5. What is one common myth about…
  6. Who are three people who have helped you…
  7. On a scale of 1-10…
  8. What do you wish you had known when…
  9. What would you change about…
  10. How has X changed your thinking on…

You’ll notice every question ends in ellipses. That’s because the ending should be tailored to each guest and their background. To fill in the gaps, you’ll have to do your homework. 

Let’s talk about that now.

How to Come Up with Great Podcast Interview Questions

The answer is simple. By doing a lot of prep work ahead of time. And I do mean, a lot.

Changing your mindset and researching the guest’s background will help create probing questions that get to the meat of their story.

Here’s a simple framework to prepare for a podcast interview.

#1. Define the Goal for the Interview

Interview preparation starts by defining the goal. You are the expert in what content your audience likes to hear, so it’s your job to guide the guest there. 

Figure out how the guest connects with the topics your listeners love then share this goal with the interviewee. Being transparent about what you’re looking to get out of the interview is an important step in setting the guest up for success.

If they know where you want the conversation to go, they can tailor their answers to get you both there. If the guest has no idea what topic or angle you want to cover, they may not share information that your audience would find fascinating.

#2. Research Your Guest 

Once you have a clear goal in mind, it’s time to do your homework. 

Scout the web to find out as much as possible about their guests, from background information to current projects. Here are few places to get started:

  • Guest’s website: either a personal website or their company’s online presence. Read the About page, consume their latest content, and figure out what initiatives are most important to them right now.
  • Social media channels: Hit all the major channels from Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Read the bio information, scroll through the latest posts, and see what conversations the guest is chiming in on.
  • Previous interviews: Google your guest’s name to surface their most recent interviews. Listen to old podcast episodes the guest has appeared on, read previous Q&As, and dig deeper to find their past conference or panel presentations.
  • Published works: read recently published articles or books, listen to their podcast, and subscribe to their newsletter.

#3. List the Guest’s Interests and Expertise

As you go through the research, make a note of all the things you know that your guest does, and has an interest in. Most of the items on your list will, most likely, relate to their professional background and your podcast’s topic. But don’t ignore their personal interests. Sometimes asking about their favorite team or hobby might help break the ice, and relax them enough to open up more in their answers. 

Also, look at the episode’s topic from the guest’s perspective. Do they have a specific interest in something relating to the topic? Have they been vocal about it? 

Knowing about their guest’s strong stance on the quality of Google’s data (we’re talking an SEO show here, by the way,) a friend of mine once asked his guest about issues with keyword volume he noticed in the Keyword Planner. That sparked a lengthy tirade from the guest about such problems and resulted in the most popular episode on his podcast ever.

#4. Jot Down Ideas for Questions

While researching, write down about 10-12 questions that pique your interest. These shouldn’t be yes or no questions, instead remember the above frameworks to draw out storied responses.

Should You Send Podcast Questions in Advance?

Well, the simplest answer is, you can. But you don’t have to.

The benefit of sending questions ahead of time is that your guest will know what to expect, and might prepare better answers to your questions.

But the downside is that it forces too much structure in the conversation and doesn’t allow as much for the fluidity that comes from a truly natural conversation.

Podcast Interview Best Practices

If you produce an interview style show or work with a co-host, these podcast interview best practices are for you. For newcomers and veterans, here are some practical tips to continue refining your craft.

Guest introductions

It may be tempting to start every interview with, “so tell our listeners about yourself and what you’re working on.” Don’t. During your research, you’ve heard your guest rattle off their intro thousands of times. Why waste precious interview time with a question that you already know the answer to?

Instead, you should introduce the guest and highlight the points of their career or life that are most interesting to your listeners. Since you’re the expert on your audience, you can craft an introduction that will hook them instantly.

Start with the guest’s standard introduction from past interviews or their website, then add interesting tidbits that will grab the audience’s attention. Great introductions also include why the listener should be excited to learn about the guest’s prospective and high-level topics you cover during the interview.

We recommend recording the introduction right after you end the interview. That way your voice will sound the same and the interview topics are still top of mind.

Refine your interview questions

As a guest, there’s nothing worse than answering questions you’ve answered thousands of times before. It’s easy to use a canned response, especially when it feels like the interviewer didn’t time in crafting unique questions.

Instead, take the 10-12 question you jotted down during the research phase and pare them down to 5 or 6. The shortlist should only open-ended questions that will illicit creative answers. Focus on the topics that help achieve the interview’s goal and use these to guide the conversation.

Make your guest feel comfortable

At the start of every interview, it’s your job to make the guest feel at ease. The best way to do this is take 5 minutes before the recording to chitchat. Start with running through the goal of the interview again so you’re both on the same page and reacquaint yourselves with each other.

Another tip, especially for guests who don’t often appear on podcasts, remind them the interview will be edited. This means the guest doesn’t have to get their answer right on the first go. They have the option to start responding, cut themselves off, then start again. Knowing you can mess up without repercussions while help everyone ease up.

Be an active listener

Contrary to popular belief, the interviewer’s voice should come second to the interviewee. Active listening means fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing a response.

Take this sound wave example from Mark Shaefer. Mark, who’s the guest, has most of the airtime while the interviewer leads the conversation.

podcast interview questions interview sound wave example
An example of a balanced podcast interview. (Image source: Mark Schaefer)

The best podcast interviews are balanced and are give-and-take. The guest takes center stage while the host coaxes the discussion forward.

Don’t forget the follow up

Part of active listening is responding to a guest’s answer. Rather than asking rapid fire questions, take the opportunity to dig into their responses with follow up questions. The best interviews tell a story and emotionally entangle an audience so work to draw out these pieces of information.

Follow up questions are just as important as the set of 5-6 questions you already nailed down. Don’t derail an interview just because you want to get to every question on your list. Embrace the tangents as they often surface stories a guest has never told before giving your podcast the exclusive scoop.

Another bonus of follow up questions is it makes the interview sound more conversational. Podcasts are windows into intimate conversations between multiple people. Craft that intimacy by piggybacking off a guest’s answers, you may be surprised at what they say.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

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