How To Prepare For a Podcast Interview

Engaging in a creative conversation is an underrated imaginative activity. If you are like me, you probably don’t label most conversations as creative. Most of us do not turn to conversations to generate the same feelings we associate with other private creative endeavors.

Podcasts are different. Podcasts are built to walk the line between preparation and spontaneity - much like improvised music. If you bring your part to the table, something unique is bound to happen as you mingle your thoughts with the host. The chance to tackle a central topic with someone else who is passionate about it is an often overlooked recipe for innovation.

Conversation is an Art

If you are an artist hesitant to promote your work, viewing a podcast conversation as yet another creative activity in your business routine can help you climb out of your hole. Viewing interviews in this creative light may help you get over some introverted hang-ups, meet people from around the world, expand your knowledge base, and have some fun. 

As with most activities, preparation acts as a decent antidote for anxiety. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind you can’t plan a conversation.  

Below are some tips I’ve learned over the years that have made press interviews of all kinds a more enjoyable experience.

  • Listen to (and review) podcasts frequently

Not only do podcasts help you learn about a variety of topics (from entrepreneurship to history), they also help you become a more critical thinker while also being entertained.

Being familiar with a wide variety of podcasting formats, styles, and topics can help you see what is out there and what you may be able to contribute as a guest. Listening with the intent of leaving a podcast review helps you listen more carefully while engaging your evaluation skills. Plus, leaving a quality review helps out the podcasts you admire and doesn’t take much time at all.

  • Listen to several podcast episodes of the show you’ll appear on

This is important for several reasons. First of all, you will become familiar with the overall story of your host. Listening is a chance to get to know them. Understanding a person can lay the foundation for an excellent two-way conversation. You will also discover topics that have been covered before, giving you the ability to add relevant tie-ins or avoid redundancy.

In addition, there’s something about listening to other conversations the host has had that is soothing and makes the anticipation of your experience less nerve-wracking. Most of all, you can internalize how talking isn’t a performance. It’s a chance to dive deeper with another human being about an important subject.

  • Open a brainstorming sheet

Do you go through hypothetical conversations in your head? I certainly do. Prepare some thoughtful responses by writing down fleeting thoughts you may have. I usually open up a document a month to a week before the interview to brainstorm reactions to potential questions.

Keep in mind, this is a way to structure your thoughts. You shouldn’t feel the need to respond in a robotic or memorized manner. Don’t be surprised if you do this exercise and don’t use anything from your document during the actual interview. Trust that journaling on the issues made you less nervous.

  • Buy a mic of some kind

As a past musician, I’m lucky to have some quality mics tucked away in my house. (I almost sold them at one point, but I’m glad I didn’t.) Most people can’t tell the difference between an expensive mic and a less expensive mic because they aren’t familiar with the nuances of sound.

At the very least, the sound quality shouldn’t be distracting for an average listener. From a sound quality standpoint, you owe it to your host to meet their expectations in this department. They are taking a chance on you (but they don’t want to take a chance on your tech).

  • Position yourself near your internet router

In the majority of cases, you won’t be interviewed in-person. In the distant past, I remember having to find a land-line for an interview because the host didn’t trust my cell-phone. I wandered down the street to where I knew a store owner. I conducted a serious interview on a corded phone in a small and dank space without being able to see the host’s face.

Fast forward to now, and I’ve been doing most interviews using Zoom or Zencaster. It’s been very pleasant. I sit at the table right near the internet router, and I shut off all the other devices in the house that could suck up magic internet power. Keep in mind, you might want to be in a closet for better sound quality, but I prioritize the internet connection. 

  • Make sure your space is quiet during the live recording

You want to cut down on the amount of editing your podcast host has to do. For me, this involves trying to record during my cat’s naps, my dog’s walks, and my child being somewhere out of the house with my husband (probably with the dog on a walk). The dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer do not run at this time. This leaves the cat as the only variable.

Last time I recorded, my husband and son came back early to smile at me through the window. It was pretty distracting. I’ll have to tell them not to do that next time. Some people just hide in a closet. Do whatever you have to do.

  • Allow for flexibility and spontaneity

This tip can be easy to overlook. Sometimes “nerves” make me sound more serious in interviews than I actually am in real life. I like corny puns. I have a warped sense of humor. I like to dig deep and resurface with something nonsensical. In other words, I like to leave room for mistakes that can be turned into human insights.

I really believe in Savvy History, so I want to represent it well. While I want to communicate my message clearly, I don’t record with a lot of notes around or items that will distract from the conversation that is happening. I try to remind myself - when being interviewed, it is just as important to be a listener.

Down For Some Discourse?

Humans want to overhear other humans talking. Podcasts allow for this ancient urge to be met on a scale and a breadth our ancestors couldn’t have imagined. 

I know artists and musicians with brilliant work who can’t stand the thought of being interviewed. At this point in my life, I’ve been interviewed over a hundred times. Only now am I becoming more comfortable with it.

If you struggle with the idea of self-promotion, being a podcast guest is a good way to contribute to someone else’s cause while also shining a light on your own product or service. Podcast hosts are constantly looking for guests to have on their shows. By default, you will be promoting their show when you promote your featured episode. Trust the experience. They wouldn’t have you on if they didn’t think you had something to offer.

If you engage in creative work, chances are you will be asked to be on a podcast (or you will pitch a story to a podcast host), at some point. I hope the above tips help when you are on the line for co-creating an engaging conversation.

We should all prepare while simultaneously being wary of overthinking it. 

Have you been a guest on a podcast? Do you host a podcast yourself? Do you have any additional tips to add?

8 Replies to “How To Prepare For a Podcast Interview”

  1. Insightful article Michelle. I’ve done a ton of interviews in my day including a recent one for Fates, but they’ve nearly all been in person, phone or email Like any skill, they get better with practice. I’ve never done one via podcast, so this was some sage advice. It seems like an interesting way to do an interview and perhaps one day I’ll have an opportunity (and some good info to refer back to).

    1. I agree that interviewing is a skill that gets better with practice (on average). Sometimes one has “off” days and it’s difficult to narrow in on exactly why that happened! I’ve done radio interviews where you are sitting with the person in the same room (I imagine this is your experience as well). I like that experience the best. Most podcasting experiences are remote, and I find I have extra anxiety about the technology, quality of the internet connection, etc. It probably taints the vibe a bit for anxious folks like me. I try to be myself but never feel like I exactly “get” there.

      Good luck to you with future podcast experiences!

  2. Good stuff… I’ve only been on two podcasts and I prepared for both since they both had a topic to discuss versus just a background or story interview. I found it to be fun but like most people I hated listening to myself after they came out

    1. I don’t listen to myself on podcasts either. It’s far too painful to think of how I could have articulated something better. I guess that’s why I like to write (where I still go back and wonder if I expressed myself well!)

      I know some people keep 5X3 notecards around while being interviewed. Maybe that is a wise idea. I really meandered on my last podcast interview (even after writing this post!) It was probably my worst interview yet and I wondered what advice of mine I forgot to take (ha ha).

  3. We’ve done a few podcasts and I have found that having our opening ready (as in who we are, what we are doing with our blog, life, etc.) has really helped with our podcast prep. Even if the host doesn’t ask us the specific questions, I think being prepared with that quick intro has made us feel more prepared than when we haven’t done it. Since there are two of us, we have also been lucky in being able to practice those words with each other.

    We always make sure to give a heads up to our hosts about the two cats we have. never know when one or both of them will come into the room while we are recording!

    1. Good points! I would love to check out the podcasts you’ve been on! Feel free to drop them below if you get back to this.

      Having a canned response or sense of who you are is really beneficial. I agree – you are often asked to explain yourself in the beginning. It’s good to have a succinct expression for what you do, why you are there, and why anyone should care. I’ve never done an interview that includes my husband. We are awkward alone – let alone when you put us together! I doubt it will ever happen (and that’s a good thing).

      Cats are quite the variable! Good luck with that.

  4. i was on one once. i didn’t think it went great. it was a group thing with the escape artist from england and a couple of bloggers i don’t really agree with much. i held back with the interviewers for not wanting to sound mean spirited. in real life i would just walk away from people i don’t “appreciate.” if i could do it again i would just let it rip.

    i don’t think i’ll be doing another one unless it set up better for success….really as what i see as success because it’s my time too.

    1. Good points Freddy. I say yes whenever I’m asked for press because I’m generally too lazy to seek it out on my own (especially in the past). Now that I’m older, I realize it’s my time too and my time is valuable. I could say yes to everything, but I also want to make time to say yes to the right people and things – which takes research. Bottomline – marketing yourself is hard!

      It reminds me of a dilemma I’m having today. I keep having financial products reach out to me (3 emails declined right now as I’m sitting here – two even involving acquaintances online that I respect). I would love to have the blog make money. But I have no interest in even researching some of these products… let alone using them. I guess I will just keep writing – no adds, no affiliates. Vanguard is about the only financial brand I could possibly imagine partnering with.

      Anyhow – random tangent – but yes, only say yes to things worth your time. And I certainly listened to that podcast you were on (ha ha ha)!

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