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Tips to Help Nail Your Next Guest Interview

Nail your next guest interview with our top tips! From researching and formulating questions, we'll help you master the art of interviews.
Kendall Breitman
Social Media & Community Expert
Published:
December 11, 2023
Last Updated:
January 14, 2024
10
min
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Compelling interviews leave lasting impressions on an audience. But what makes an interview compelling? And how can a host set themselves up to create unique, inspiring conversations? That all comes down to a few simple strategies that hosts can utilize, from how they research their guests, to the way a host words questions and the order in which they ask them.

Here you’ll find some of our favorite best practices and strategies to help ensure that your guest interviews are unique and thought-provoking for your audience. These tips were taken from Riverside’s recent webinar, “How to Nail Your Next Guest Interview.”

Researching your guests

Guest research and preparation is an essential part of the interview process. There are a number of sources that you should check to research your guests, including:

  • previous podcast or video appearances
  • YouTube videos
  • previously published articles
  • social media posts
  • social media profiles, and
  • industry news and trends.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should be looking for as you check these sources:

Previous interviews, videos, and articles: 

Look for questions that your guests have been asked repeatedly. You will want to skip these questions, or press them a step further to get new, unique responses (see our recommendations below on how to do this). Also make sure to look out for moments where your upcoming guest was particularly animated during previous interviews, moments where they did not give great answers, or places where their opinions may have evolved since their last interviews. 

Social media posts and profiles: 

Look at what your guest is posting online to see what they’re interested in, where they’re currently commenting, and what they’re currently commenting about. And don’t stop there. Look at their profiles for character and personality-building posts, such as pop culture, news, or other topics that may not directly relate to your show. This can open up opportunities for you to connect with your guest on a personal level or show a new side of your guest to your audience that they may not be aware of. 

Industry news and trends: 

Subscribe to newsletters and follow journalists that relate directly to your niche so that you can stay on top of the latest news and trends in your space. Make sure to ask questions that align with current events within your industry. Then, make sure to take it a step further and look at wider current events. Asking your guest about a current event that is more widely followed can expose your content to new audiences and create newsworthy headlines from your content.

Crafting questions

To get compelling content, you have to ask compelling questions. Here are a few of our favorite tips to consider when writing your interview questions.

1. Ask the same questions, get rehearsed answers: 

We touched on this in the section above, but do your guest research, and keep in mind the questions that your guest has been asked repeatedly. Asking those questions will yield rehearsed, not-so-exciting answers. You can choose to skip those questions, or you can take them a step further. For example, you can ask “I heard you’ve been asked a lot about [topic], but I didn’t really get a sense of how you feel about [related topic]. Could you talk more about that?”

2. Flip the script: 

Try taking a “boring” question and putting a new spin on it.  You may find that putting a negative spin on a question can yield a more exciting answer. For example, instead of asking something like “What is one thing all podcasters should be doing” try asking something like “What is the one thing that most podcasters are doing wrong?” This will help you get unique answers. 

When you are writing questions for your next interview, try writing a more “obvious” version of your question on one side of a piece of paper. Then draw a line through the middle of the sheet, and on the other side, come up with more unique questions that relate to each “obvious” choice. This can help get you thinking about new ways to frame your questions. 

3. Know your goal

You know the story you are trying to tell. Make sure to ask questions that lead your guests toward that goal. For example, instead of asking guests to tell you about their background, ask them how they got into the field you’re discussing. Or to take it a step further, you can ask them how their first-ever job prepared them for the role they hold now. These questions create more interesting answers and lead your guests down the right path. 

4. Show your research: 

Guests like to know you did your research. By asking questions that show that you studied up, you can also summarize the points that might take your guests a little longer to make. For example, instead of asking “What is your role at Riverside?” you can ask “You’re a community manager at Riverside. What does your day-to-day look like in that role?”

5. Highlight their character: 

Go beyond biographical questions and ask your guests about their feelings and emotions. It's the best way to connect your guests to your audience (and yourself) on a more personal, human level. To do this, try staying away from questions like “Tell me about your career pivot to [role],” and instead, try “How did you feel when you made your career pivot? What were you most nervous about?”

Structuring your questions

Crafting compelling interviews is just as much about the questions you ask as they are about the order in which you ask them. A poorly-ordered list of interview questions can sink an interview. Start your interview with questions that set the scene, and then go into questions that show off your guests’ personalities. Making your guest feel comfortable at the beginning and middle of your interview will make you as a guest seem more approachable, and will open them up to answer any more controversial, deep, or tough questions later on. 

Asking follow-ups

As you ask each question, make sure to leave room for them to pause and think. Don’t feel as if you have to immediately fill any silences. Sometimes the most profound answers come after a guest takes a moment to stop and think. And, if not, you can edit out those silences later (and for that, we recommend Riverside’s Remove Silences tool). 

You should also adapt your interview depending on your guest’s answers. The list of questions that you came into the interview with may not - and should not - be the list that you end up asking live. Instead, listen thoughtfully to your guest’s answers and ask follow-ups. Listening and responding is essential to nailing your interview. 

Here are a few questions you can consider asking as follow-ups:

  • How did you feel at that time?
  • I want to dig deeper into what you just said. Tell me about [X] moment.
  • I noticed you used [X] word, why that word choice? 
  • You used this [X] phrase, what does that phrase mean to you?
  • I want to get some more clarity on this part of your answer…
  • How do you think that affected you?
  • What were your takeaways in that moment? What did you learn?

Following these tips will help you nail your next guest interview. And to learn more tips, methods, strategies, and best practices, check out Riverside’s webinar that covered this topic, or watch any of our other webinars on the skills you need to create content successfully. 

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