Interviewing tips

I found this article to include a few good nuggets and reminders. Thought it might be helpful and/or affirming, depending on where you are in your podcasting journey.

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Her, “You must do a pre-interview” is a point I’m starting to get behind.

This year I’ve been leaning more into doing guest outreach where I ask them to hop on a non-recorded call for half an hour. “We can chat and see if we feel there’s an interesting conversation we could have for the podcast.”

Generally this is working really well. Guests either immediately “no thanks” to my initial contact, or they’re willing to join me not-recorded just to chat. And once we chat, I can switch to their preferred comm medium. (I’m often doing first contact via some social network.) I do some light guest research before the pre-conversation, then I can do more before a full recording.

I’m finding people are more comfortable with “I don’t send the questions ahead of time for the recording” after they’ve talked to me a bit.

I know others here have long be on the do pre-interviews calls… what other things am I missing that I can do/try?

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I don’t send verbatim questions but, instead, general prompts that touch on the big ideas (and possibly a specific item) that our conversation will include. (The guest also knows that either of us might toss in something unplanned, of course, because of our discussion, as it is not a script but a probable guide.)

I do ask if anything is off limits so that I don’t inadvertently “go there” and create unexpected angst for the guest.

A pre-interview call is not always done, but when they are, it’s really helpful. Sometimes all pre-recording interaction is via email and those instances typically work out well. It’s slightly different per guest, but there’s enough consistency to not miss the big stuff that could derail the process. (Just yesterday I made a significant faux pas – two actually, but since I didn’t want to look up how to write the plural of faux pas … – so even a decent template isn’t foolproof. But having one mitigates my errors, at least a bit.)

I especially like this part of your post, @craigconstantine - “I do some light guest research before the pre-conversation, then I can do more before a full recording.”

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Thanks Dave for the article - I posted the list on the wall to remind me to confine interviews to those who fascinate—and then help our guests find new meaning in the interview - avoid the “just get it done” attitude. Not get too serious. I also appreciate Craig’s splitting the research between the pre-conversation and interview. We sortof do it that way, but routine really helps!

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Because of @davidnebinski’s post (thanks, @craigconstantine) I had an idea during the most recent interview I conducted. I won’t want to do this every time, but when the conversation leans in this direction, and when the timing of post-production and release date permits, I am toying with occasionally reaching out to someone who matters (to the guest) and asking them if they are interested in sharing a message with the guest. If yes, parameters are quickly discussed, and I am simply looking for a 30-second(ish) mp3 file which I can drop into my audio software and add a “surprise” message for the guest and, of course, something that still aligns with the overall episode. (That is, the “cameo clip” shouldn’t make the listener say, “What was that all about?”)

I just interviewed a gentleman who has beaten cancer twice and this third round is almost certainly his last. He was very candid with me about this. Our paths crossed years ago and I also know two of the three members of his immediate family, all of whom have naturally been through this 20 year journey with him. I am contacting the guest’s wife today to see if she, and their son and daughter, will send me the kind of message I outlined above. I think it will add a huge personal touch to the episode and will absolutely matter to the guest.

Thoughts?
Again, this is not going to be a standard element in each episode (at least I don’t think so right now), but considering it will be. As I think back on the episodes I’ve released thus far (and the number is very low considering it’s been four years), I think there are maybe ten guests where a “cameo clip” would had added to the value of the episode.
Note: the cameo message might be a statement made to the guest, or about the guest and his or her impact, or a lesson learned from the guest, and probably a few other angles I haven’t yet thought of.

This group, whoever reads this post, is a great group to share this idea with and see what kind of reaction or potential caveats or twists emerge. Thanks for your time!