The best interviews come from doing the most research on both your guest and the topic ahead of the interview.
Find something unusual, little-known about your guest that you can bring up in the interview. Did your guest do something in his childhood that most wouldn’t know about? Does your guest have a little-known, unique hobby? Know what that is and then ask her about it. The more you know about your guest, the better the interview and the more flattered your guest is because most interviewers will not do this homework ahead of the interview.
Always ask open-ended questions, such as, “Tell me how you built your business.” What kind of mindset do you have to have to persevere and succeed?
Search for questions that have a common ground with your audience. Ask the questions that other people might be afraid to ask. Even if you think it’s a tough question, asking it in a diplomatic way will increase the odds of a good answer. For example, “What was one thing that hurt your business? What’s one fear you’ve overcome in business and how did you do it?”
Pause after you ask a tough question. Don’t speak right away. Let there be a moment of silence if necessary, even if it’s uncomfortable. This will usually get your guest to answer the question or, at least, say something. While the goal isn’t to make him uneasy, it is to get him to give you information that hasn’t been rehashed over and over again in every other interview your guest has done.
If you want a unique interview, prepare and ask questions others might not. Think like a journalist and consider what is really important to your audience. What do they want/need to know and take away from this interview?
Think on your feet. If you ask a question and then your guest brings up something interesting, don’t just go on to your next question. Pause. Then form your next question based on what your guest has said. This requires attentive listening. Too many poor interviewers miss this entirely because they’re not really hearing what their guest has to say. If you listen, some of the best questions come on the fly based on what your guest has told you.
Have prepared questions but be ready to leave those out if more interesting information surfaces and requires different follow-up questions.
Use data, stories, and statistics to set up your questions but don’t make them complicated. Example: It’s been reported that businesses that have blogs have a 126% increase in leads generation. “What have you found works best in the digital world for lead gen?”
After you ask a question, silence is best. Don’t suggest answers or give too much verbal feedback. Watch TV journalists and you’ll notice they nod their heads and make eye contact but don’t give verbal agreements as we do in ordinary conversations because it creates too much “noise” in the interview and/or makes the interview go too long. Once you’ve asked the question, your job is to listen and be ready to ask the next relevant question.
Keep your questions relatively short. Some questions do require more setup and you want the interview to be conversational, so don’t just rapid-fire your questions (unless, of course, that’s part of the Podcast style…kind of like a game show). If you ask a two-part question like the one I wrote in #4, know that your guest may forget the second part. So, you may need to re-ask it. Don’t say, “I already asked you this…” Just simply restructure the question and ask it again.
Don’t be afraid to ask a question again in a different way. This is a favorite strategy for journalists. They frequently ask multiple questions on the same topic because they’re searching for clarity, consistency, and the best answer to their question. Don’t badger your guest but help her give clear answers to your questions by taking her down a path and serving up questions that lead to answers with important information. To do this best, you have done your homework on the series of questions and you know or have an idea about what the answers are before you ask. But, again, if there’s a surprising answer, be ready to divert course, and fire off some new questions based on the answers.
Be calm, confident, and compassionate.Your interviewee might be a little nervous. Even if your guest has done many interviews, he will appreciate and maybe even mirror your energy. Be friendly and relaxed and you’ll get better answers and a more stimulating conversation
Have fun! Everyone remembers more when having fun. You’ll do better at the interview and your audience will retain more if they’re enjoying the podcast.
Phoebe Chongchua is a multimedia Brand Journalist, Brand Consultant & Marketing Strategist who is revolutionizing brand communication with consumers. She makes companies remarkable using brand journalism storytelling to grow their online presence, build a community, and gain greater market share. Phoebe is a former TV News journalist who helps brands gain a competitive advantage by learning to "Be the Media". Phoebe is the host of "The Brand Journalism Advantage" podcast and a "Top 50 Podcaster To Follow". Listen in iTunes or at ThinkLikeAJournalist.com