There are now more than 700,000 podcasts. And it’s no wonder that’s the case, as podcast statistics show that listening (and listeners) are on the rise. A larger potential audience = more shows, right?
I’ve interviewed more than 350 people on Social Pros and have been a podcast guest more than 150 times myself over the past decade. That’s nearing 500 hours on the microphone in one form or another, and while that’s way short of Gladwell’s famed (and ultimately, debunked) 10,000 hours, I feel like I’ve accumulated some knowledge on the topic of good vs. mediocre podcast guests.
Thus, this little guide to being a great podcast guest (with companion checklist you can print out). I wish you scintillating conversation, perfect audio, and no retakes!
Be a Great Podcast Guest: Before the Show
Here are 6 things you should do before the interview commences:
Listen to at least two full episodes
You want to have a feel for the cadence and rhythm of the podcast.
Note any consistent segments or “bits” the show uses
Many shows have a format that includes one or more segments that are the same every week. My Social Pros podcast, for example, asks each guest the same two questions to close the show, and has done so for nearly nine years. As a podcast guest, you want to know what these segments are, so you’re prepared to participate.
Read the reviews of the podcast
Go to iTunes and/or Chartable and look up the podcast and read the reviews. It will give you a better sense for the audience and what they like (or don’t like) about the show.
Write down a description of the typical listener and why he/she listens
If you understand the audience and their motivations for listening to THIS show among all others, you’ll be a much more relevant podcast guest. Take the time to literally write down a persona description of that representative listener.
Prepare at least three stories you can unfurl at any time
The truth is that being a great podcast guest isn’t about answering questions, it’s about telling stories. Make sure you have at least three relevant stories that you can tell whenever and however.
Do the requested podcast prep
Increasingly, podcast hosts ask their guests to complete a pre-show questionnaire to provide information and insights before the recording. This is the same system used by talk show hosts in the “pre-interview” with producers. At Social Pros, we have our guests complete this survey before each episode.
Be a Great Podcast Guest: During the Show
Six things you should do during the interview itself:
Have the best possible audio set-up
Nothing kills a podcast like bad audio, and it’s made geometrically more difficult in multi-host and multi-guest situations where everyone is in different locations, calling in via the Web. Pay attention to the background noise (even air conditioning or heating hum), get yourself a good microphone (I use a BLUE Yeti), and do a quick dry run before the show to make sure you have it hooked up correctly. To minimize audio issues, we send a USB headset/microphone to all of our guests at Social Pros, with our compliments. We’d rather spend $100 per episode than have the audio be terrible.
Also, because more shows are using video snippets as promotional assets, podcast guests should always assume they will be on camera unless specifically told that is not the case. Get yourself a good webcam like the Logitech c920.
Use the host(s) name
Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. As a podcast guest, you are just that…a guest. Use the host(s) name(s) in some of your answers. Keep things warm and conversational. This is not a courtroom appearance!
Keep your answers concise
Almost all podcasts have an approximately recording length they are trying to hit. For my show, it’s 39 minutes (we usually blow it and end up at 43 or 44). As a podcast guest, you indeed want to tell good stories, but wherever possible keep your answers punchy and tight. This gives the host(s) air time and allows them to ask more questions and get to their standard segments, etc. without running short or having to rush the show.
Don’t ask for a do-over, unless….
Podcasts are taped live, but not broadcast live. Consequently, it is possible to make edits after the episode has been recorded. Some podcasts do a LOT of editing to make every utterance perfect. Others — like mine — do light editing and mostly correct for big issues like a dropped Internet connection, barking dog, etc.
As a guest, if you aren’t happy with an answer to a question, you can ask to do that part again, but make this request only if you REALLY think you messed up. Every edit costs time (and money) for the host(s). They’ll embrace a do-over when needed, as long as it’s for a legitimate reason. Also, if you want a do-over. ask for it IMMEDIATELY. Not the next day once you’ve thought about it, and certainly not once the show airs.
Reference prior episodes, if relevant
If you’ve listened to past editions of the show, it’s a nice touch to mention one or more of those shows, if it’s contextually relevant to do so in the conversation.
Have a specific call-to-action for listeners
It’s common for host(s) to ask guest(s). “tell the audience how to connect with you” or such. The best way to handle this is to create a simple landing page ONLY for listeners of that show, and include a special offer. For example, when Daniel Lemin and I were doing the podcast tour for the launch of our book, Talk Triggers, we often created landing pages for podcasts on which we appeared.
For example, here is a landing page we created for listeners to the popular podcast: Entrepreneurs on Fire. During the show, I asked the audience to go to TalkTriggers.com/fire for a special offer just for them.
Be a Great Podcast Guest: After the Show
Here are 4 things you should do after the interview:
Send a thank you note
The podcast host(s) are helping you spread your message. Give them some love. I often use a quick video thanks via the Vidyard GoVideo plug-in for Chrome.
Promote the episode
The host(s) want podcast guests to amplify the episode, helping them reach a larger potential audience. They may provide shareable graphics to promote the episode in social media. Use them. Tag the hosts wherever possible in your posts.
If you know other people who would be a great podcast guest for this particular show, recommend them to the host(s). They’ll appreciate the referral.
Ask for referrals
By the same token, after the show airs, send a quick email to the host(s) thanking them again, and ask what other podcasts they know about where you would be a good fit as a guest. These referrals will help you get in the door with other shows.