According to recent research from The Infinite Dial report, conducted by Edison Research, 67 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly (more than practice Catholicism) and 42 million listen weekly (more than a precious trip to the movies).
I don’t think anyone truly predicted the insane rise in popularity of podcasts, but I love podcasts, so I’m certainly not complaining!
The beauty of podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things, like running, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and driving to work. They’re a passive form of media, and they allow you to get lost in a story.
I host my own podcast, and my team produces many, many popular podcasts, so we’ve seen our fair share of successes and failures in podcast preparation, both from the hosts and the guests. I wanted to share a few best practices to make your podcasting life easier, whether you’re an ongoing host or a frequent guest.
Podcast Preparation For Hosts
1. Be Clear About Your Podcast Format
You can’t host a successful interview without being clear about how you want the interview to run. And look, I’m not saying you have to run the same kind of show or host the same types of adequately as everyone else out there.
But when you’re clear about the types of questions you’re going to ask, the cadence and length of the show, and perhaps one or two questions that you’ll ask every guest, it helps you be more prepared and also gives your listeners an easier time binging because they’ll know what to expect.
Decide what kind of show you want to have, make sure you’re consistent, and if you do want to make changes, that’s okay. Just make sure you’re communicating them with your guests and your audience.
2. Send a Pre-Interview Survey
Even if you think you know your guest really well, sending over a pre-show form for your guests to fill out is helpful for everyone. It allows your guest to get a feel for the types of questions you like to ask, and it helps you gather the information that directly relates to your show, as opposed to public information you can find on the web or through casual conversations.
These forms don’t need to be long but could include information and questions like:
- Information about how you record your show
- Information about who your typical audience is and what they expect from the podcast
- How do you pronounce your name? (So you don’t have to waste time asking on the actual recording!)
- What makes you uniquely qualified to discuss [TOPIC]?
- What’s a crazy-but-true fact about you? (This could be a point of connection between you and the guest.)
- Why is [TOPIC] so important to you?
- If there’s one piece of advice you could impart on the audience, what would it be?
And so on. You can make these forms your own, but be sure to make them simple enough for your guest to fill out, so you’re not overstepping your bounds.
3. Research Your Guest
In addition to requiring the pre-show form, do some research of your own. Google is your friend here. If it’s a professional podcast, LinkedIn can also provide a lot of interesting work information. But don’t overlook old blog posts, other podcast interviews, social media updates, and personal news that you can connect upon (new babies, puppies, or houses are common!).
4. Read the Book
Many podcast guests are looking to get their message out there because they’ve released something new, like a book. And especially in the business world, having penned your very own book boosts your credibility in the industry, which is why so many people are turning to book-writing these days.
But remember, if a guest is coming on your show with the goal of promoting the book and its message, you’ve got to read, or at least skim, their book. You’ll be able to ask more interesting questions, and your guest will feel welcome and appreciate your attention to their efforts.
5. Create Set Recording Times
I understand that not everyone’s schedule is predictable, but it’s helpful to develop set times per week or month that you’ll do recordings. Creating a plan is beneficial for a few reasons:
- You (and everyone on your team) will know that your schedule is blocked at very specific times so that you won’t get double-booked.
- You won’t have to go back and forth with guests about who is available when and where.
- Your times will be non-negotiable unless a guest can never make the time for whatever reason. As a result, you’ll be able to protect your schedule more effectively (which is increasingly important for successful professionals).
- You’ll be able to plan out the rest of your week or month around those times so you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to be a great host.
If you aren’t able to set aside the same times for your podcast recordings, at least try to batch them. When you can schedule two recordings back to back, it helps.
6. Minimize Distractions
You wouldn’t believe the amount of noise I’ve had to edit out of podcast recordings… or at least I’ve attempted to. Some can’t be saved.
But distractions don’t just come in the form of email notifications and phone calls. They’re social media messages, dogs barking, mail men and women… the list goes on.
If you’re scheduling recordings, try to do them when your baby is usually sleeping, or the mail has already arrived, or people aren’t popping into the kitchen next to you to microwave their leftovers.
Also, be sure to put your phone on airplane mode, close your email programs and Facebook, put the dog in the other room, and wait to eat your lunch until after your recording wraps. No one wants a post-lunch belch to show up in their interview.
Podcast Preparation for Guests
1. Listen to the Podcast
This seems self-explanatory, but I’m always surprised to hear the number of guests who ask me what the format of the podcast is, or what kind of show it is, etc. If you’re being invited to join the show as a guest, you’re being promoted by the podcast and you’re being put in front of new audiences. That’s an honor! Do yourself a favor, and prepare by listening to the other kinds of guests the host has had on the show, what kinds of questions the host normally asks, and how you might be able to differentiate yourself.
Which brings me to my next point…
2. Offer an Angle
Consider your pitch. What’s your unique value proposition? Why does this host even want to have you on their show, using a precious 30 minutes to an hour of their life talking to you?
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the host will have asked YOU to join their show. What an honor! In that case, the host will likely have an idea of what they want you to cover and how it will affect their audience.
If, on the other hand, you’re out there hustlin’ and bustlin’, pitching yourself for podcast appearances (as most professionals are), you’ll need to make that thing that you are uniquely qualified to do very clear.
Try to offer this in two sentences or less, something like:
I am looking forward to explaining the power that virtual assistants can have on growing a business and getting out of your own way. I’m excited to share some ideas about how your audience can find, hire, and train a VA quickly and efficiently… without losing their minds.
Not only will this impress your host, but it will help them develop questions that you can effectively answer. No one wants to be stumped on a podcast interview!
3. Provide a Bio and Headshot
Whether we like it or not, not all podcast hosts will have read this blog post (hehe) and be completely prepared to have you on their show. Or, they won’t have stellar research skills and won’t be able to find your latest headshot and bio.
To avoid any confusion or any outdated information, do your host a favor and offer up your latest headshot and a short bio. It will help them introduce you, can be included in show notes, and will save everyone any embarrassment of sharing information that’s no longer accurate.
4. Invest in a Good Microphone or Headset
You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, but again, you’d be surprised at how many people are like, “I want to be on your podcast!” And then are like, “Wait, how does the internet work?”
Look, podcasting is generally all done with VOIP tools like Skype or Zencastr, which require a stable internet connection (wired if possible) and a good quality input. Producers like me can only do so much if you sound muffled, staticky, or if you’re blowing out your microphone.
Now, some of this is on the host to let you know how you sound when you join the show, but a lot of issues are avoidable if you buy a Yeti microphone or a USB headset. Avoid the Bluetooth for best results.
5. Ask What You Can Prepare
Your best way to be an amazingly prepared podcast guest might just be to ask what your host needs. Maybe there are some special recording instructions or tools, or perhaps there are a few questions that they always like to ask (which, frankly, you should know about if you’ve listened to a few episodes of the podcast), or maybe the host needs you to prepare a short blog post to go in the show notes.
As a guest, it’s your job to make the host’s life easier. It’s your job to do everything you can to make the interview freakin’ awesome. You can’t help a bad host—that’s just sad and always hard to listen to—but you can do your part to make sure you’re not to blame for a terrible podcast episode.
I hope these tips help aspiring and veteran podcasters alike, but I’m sure I’ve missed something important. If you’re a podcast host or frequent guest, you’ve probably come across something you wish you knew sooner. Let me know in the comments below and I’ll incorporate your suggestions accordingly!
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Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm
Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now: panicproofbook.com
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