How To Be A Great Podcast Guest

So you’ve been invited to be a guest on a podcast. It can be nerve-wracking to think that you will be heard by an audience of thousands of strangers. The very thought of talking in front of people brings back pubescent memories of standing in front of a middle school English class, reading a book report with a frog in your throat. Not exactly everybody’s comfort zone.

We are approaching our 500th author interview on The Author Stories Podcast, and in conducting those 500 interviews you learn that there is a particular rhythm in conversation. These hours of recordings that I’ve collected over the last several years have been some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had the pleasure of participating in. I’ve learned more from these guests than I ever bargained for, made some really great friends, and as I hoped when I started, I’ve gotten a better understanding of what makes creative people tick and received insights into the creative process from some of the very best.

I tell my guests that the tone of my show is two friends talking about writing, and that is how I approach each interview. Two friends sitting down, sometimes with coffee or a Diet Dr. Pepper, talking about what makes the writing life what it is. Sometimes you meet someone and instantly hit it off, sometimes it takes a few moments to find the rhythm and connect with one another. If you are going to be a guest on a podcast and want your experience to be the best it can be, here are a few things that I think might help you have the best experience you can. I’ve also reached out to some friends that just happen to be some of the best podcasters out there to offer some thoughts of their own. You’ll find their thoughts sprinkled in with mine below.

Be prompt

This one really should speak for itself. If you commit to an interview time, do your best to be on time or at least email or call to let the host know what’s going on. We’re all human and have families and other commitments. Trust me, we know about life getting in the way. But if you are a professional, or striving to be one, then treat this podcast interview as if it is just as important as sitting down with CNN or a literary magazine. The honest truth of the media landscape today is that the humble podcast you’re guesting on just might have a wider reach than those prestigious legacy media outlets anyway. And even if they don’t, to be a professional you have to act like one. This is a great place to start practicing for that inevitable appearance on Good Morning America.

If you’ve agreed to a time, make sure it’s on your calendar and you’ve set up alerts, had your VA set up alerts, or otherwise just have some reminder to be there. Sitting and waiting for a guest who turns out to be a no-show is infuriating, and doesn’t exactly make me want to bring you back for a re-do.
That said, when you DO have to reschedule, do it as early as possible and reach out to let me know. Don’t make me track you down just so you can tell me you had a conference call.
Treat me the way you’d treat any client, business partner, or other professional contacts. Remember, this is for YOU. I’m giving some of my time, which is important, in exchange for some of your time, which is also important. But the end result is more about promoting you and your work than anything. Show some professional courtesy.
Give me some valid contact info, including a way to reach you last minute. And show some trust with giving me your contact info. Sometimes it’s me that has to reschedule, and if you’ve gone through a PA or PR agency or some other go-between, it all works best if I can reach you directly.  – 
Kevin Tumlinson, The Wordslinger Podcast

“As a guest be punctual. Realize podcast hosts might have a ‘real’ job and this is the only day or time they can record, or they have multiple guests on that day to record and not being on time might screw up their recording” – 
Armand Rosamilia, ArmCast  and Project Entertainment Network

Can you hear me now?

The internet has opened up avenues of communication never before available. Most of the interviews I conduct are over Skype. Some podcasters use YouTube or Google hangouts, and there are always new technologies emerging that enable us to connect with people, sometimes across the world. These technologies are relatively easy to use, and can utilize what most of us already have in our homes or offices. But there are a few things you need to consider.

Most podcasters take pride in the sound they have worked hard to cultivate. We invest in microphones, fast computers with lots of memory, and sometimes outboard equipment that helps us tweak little things here and there. You as a guest don’t need to worry about all that, but you do need to make sure that you are in a quiet environment and have a decent microphone and headphones. Life happens to all of us and the occasional dog barking or toddler squealing is completely understandable, but a television in the background will wreak havoc. You can buy an inexpensive microphone on Amazon that is more than adequate. Also, a set of headphones that are comfortable for you will eliminate feedback and will keep the host from hearing him or herself repeated, which can be confusing and throw off the conversation.

Talk. Please.

When I first started podcasting, I recorded a show that never aired. I invited someone on that had just hit a milestone in their career and had a pretty nice following. This does not automatically translate to podcast gold.

I don’t script questions, and most of the podcast hosts that I know don’t either. We usually have good background information about the guest, are familiar with their work, and have a question or two in mind to start with. Anyone that has listened to Author Stories knows that I always start with the same question: “What is your first memory of wanting to be a writer or storyteller?” This question always springboards us into a conversation that lasts for thirty minutes to an hour, and we wrap it up when the conversation has come to its natural end.

“Tell stories. Don’t be afraid to talk.
Don’t give yes or no answers. Get into the show.
The host and their listeners are listening because they WANT to know about you and what you have to say. This is your time to let them get to know you.
When in doubt, elaborate. It’s much easier for a host to work with someone who talks, than someone that speaks in one sentence answers.
Have fun with it. Ask people that know you to tell you things about yourself they like, or they don’t like, that information can be helpful in painting a true picture about yourself. – 
Josh Hayes, Keystroke Medium

The key here is conversation. If you are sitting in a room with a friend and they ask you a question, you don’t just answer with single sentence answers. That’s not much of a conversation. Well, when this conversation wrapped up I looked down at the clock and we were twelve minutes in. I had nothing left to ask or say. It was terrible. Don’t be afraid to elaborate and expound on what the host asked. When they ask you a question, that is your cue to run with it and tell us an interesting story. We WANT you to talk.

The soft sell.

This is a biggie. Most of the time when someone invites you to their podcast, it’s because you have something to promote, or have done some interesting things that we’d like to hear you talk about. We know you have something to sell and promote. The nature of the business is that we all have something we’d like to bring to people’s attention at any given moment. But here is the fact of the matter, people tend to fall in love with a person and then support their work more than the other way around. Tell engaging stories, offer advice about something you’ve learned as you honed your craft, tell us something funny or heartbreaking, but above all else, give us something to like about you and something to connect with. Then people will buy your stuff. And don’t worry, we as podcast hosts are more than prepared to give you plenty of time to talk about your new project, we asked you here so that you could. But let’s get to it in the natural course of conversation.

“As a veteran health podcaster since 2006 having conducted more than 2,000 interviews over that time period, I’ve literally seen it all when it comes to podcast guest etiquette. Some people are very natural at being lucid, engaging, and informative while others make me work hard to get any useful content out of them. But if there’s one pet peeve I have about a podcast interview guest that supersedes everything else, it’s who I will refer to as Car Salesman Carl. Poor Carl tries so very hard to sell you on what he is offering and neglects the details of what it takes be a good guest. When you only show up to an interview to sell your product and not provide information, you’re just gonna frustrate the interviewer and all of his audience of listeners. But if you provide nuggets of practical information throughout the show and the host promotes what you’re offering at the end, then you’ll likely get more people buying your stuff. It’s only common sense. Don’t be “that” guest that never gets invited back for another interview or recommended to other podcasters.” – 
Jimmy Moore, The Livin’ La Vida Low Carb Show, Keto Talk, The Nutritional Pearls Podcast, The Keto Hacking MD Podcast

“As a guest, sell yourself. Not your book. Show your personality. Have fun. This is to promote YOU, so don’t turn off potential readers by seeming boring or cocky. You’ll sell way more books by smiling when you answer questions and showing you are fun.” – 
Armand Rosamilia, ArmCast  and Project Entertainment Network

Be humble

This one should be self-explanatory, but here goes. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If a host has invited you to their show, chances are they’ve already put in hours of preparation to get to know about you and your work. Then they will spend somewhere near an hour with you. Then after the show they will spend several more hours editing the audio, writing show notes, publishing the show on various platforms, and promoting it everywhere they can. Thank the host for having you. Act like a guest in their home. Be nice. Be humble.

Don’t be an ass.
Be humble. – 
Josh Hayes, Keystroke Medium

Now this is not to say you can’t have fun, and if the conversation is going well and you and the host have a rapport, be funny if that’s your style. But be cognizant of how your words might be interpreted to the audience. You want people to want to know more about you, not be impressed by your rapier wit and cynicism.

Help people follow you.

You’ve spent the time preparing for an interview, you’ve told witty, engaging stories, you’ve sold the audience on your new book or widget, now give them something to remember you by. Be sure to share your website and social media with them. Don’t have a web site? This isn’t 1985 anymore. Stop right now and setup a site. You can start a site at WordPress.com for free until you can have a professional help you. This is non-negotiable in today’s world. Give people a way to follow you forward and to find out news about you.

Share.

The podcaster that has invited you on their show has gone to great pains to build up a loyal listenership. They will share you and your work with their audience and appreciates if you will do the same. We all benefit from exposing our personal networks to each other’s work and in the end the exponential nature of networking works for all our benefit.

SHARE YOUR INTERVIEW. The idea is for us to combine our PR powers, reach our mutual networks, and spread this thing as far as possible. It helps promote you, it helps promote me, we are promoted. We are in bliss. ” – 
Kevin Tumlinson, The Wordslinger Podcast

I hope you find these thoughts helpful, and thank you to Jimmy, Josh, Kevin, and Armand for chiming in with their thoughts and experiences as well. Podcasting has grown from a frontier technology to the very center of the mainstream. I hope we help you find a new audience and continue to share your stories with us. Without great guests like you, we couldn’t do what we do.

Let me leave you with one last thought. Relax. Have FUN. You’re going to do great.

If you liked this article, please share widely. 

Be sure to follow my guest podcasters at:

Jimmy Moore

Josh Hayes

Kevin Tumlinson

Armand Rosamilia

The Author Stories Podcast

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