Four Lessons for Making Your First Podcast Interview Not Suck


Well, I did it. I conducted my first podcast interview this week. I cleverly signed up someone very near and dear to me to be my first guest. (More on her later) Which kind of felt like cheating, but I'm fine with it.

This friend of mine definitely fits the bill for an efficiency expert - she masterfully organizes really important things every day and then acts like it's no big deal. It's in her blood. So I knew we'd be able to have a fruitful conversation on the topic of making businesses work better.

The Interview

We met one afternoon in my home and set up a cozy nook in my living room to have our chat. I got out my new little audio recorder, adjusted my levels in pure amateur fashion using cheap earbuds, and we set out to do this thing.

As soon as I hit record, I realized I had no idea how I wanted to kick off the interview (Face-palm). So I channeled my inner Tim Ferris and did my best to ramble off an introduction that did my guest justice. (Learning #1: Define how you'll introduce your guest ahead of time.) I think it turned out ok, but I'll find out later this week when I start editing.

The conversation itself also started off a little bumpy, because I'd decided ahead of time that I just wanted to "have a conversation and let it flow" instead of being tethered to the questions I'd come up with. (I’m so chill, aren’t I?) But the conversation has to start somewhere. And it's helpful to figure out, ahead of time, where that somewhere should be. (Learning #2: Define your initial question ahead of time.) I ended up asking her to share a bit about how she came to be the process nerd she is today. Which, again, was fine, but could've been better because it felt too abrupt.  

But I started feeling more at home as the conversation continued. Questions came to me as we talked, as I knew they would, and I did my best to point out insights and connect with her story throughout. I think we both enjoyed the conversation and got something out of it. It didn't feel 100% natural, but I'm sure that's something that will come in time as I get more practice in having these conversations.

In retrospect, though, I lost sight of my "why" for this podcast. And that’s a pretty big deal. She and I were just sort of geeking out about processes, but I wasn't keeping it focused on what my listener wants. This podcast is supposed to be for business owners who feel like their business is an operational Hot Mess, in some way. They don't enjoy geeking out about processes - they enjoy some other aspect of their business: Sales, marketing, strategy…whatever. They need help with the operational part, not further confirmation that they are not wired the same way these weirdos are. I'm supposed to be helping them to feel less alone and giving them strategies for making things work better. I let my listener down.

As I reflected, I recalled something Rob Lawrence taught me at the podcast workshop I attended a few months ago. He said we should think of our audience as a single person who is right there with us while we record. It's our job to keep drawing them into the conversation, just like any good host would do at a real party.

Think about what they're interested in.

Keep connecting to things they'll find relevant.

It's about them. That visual is really helpful for me and I intend to use it next time. I'm also planning to start each podcast by restating what it's all about in the first place. (Learning #3: Keep returning to "who it's for" and "what it's for” throughout.)

Finally, when we got to the end, I encountered a similar problem from the start…I hadn't really worked out how to wrap things up (Face-palm again). I ended up coming up with what I think was a pretty decent question on-the-fly, but this will definitely be something I'll sort out beforehand next time. (Learning #4: Define how you'll wrap up your interview ahead of time.) I love when podcasts start and end in a consistent way each time. It’s a thread that connects each episode to the next. I want to do that.

So, to sum up…

All-in-all, it went…decently. And as much as the perfectionist in me wants to re-interview her to apply all my learnings, I'm not going to do that. First, because there were some valuable gems tucked in throughout our conversation that I think my listener will appreciate and enjoy. But also, because I want to be a living example of shipping before it's perfect. I'm going to do my very best to edit this episode down to make it as valuable and high-quality as possible. And at the same time, I want to look back a year from now and cringe at it because I've come so far. I can't do that unless I get this one out the door.

Deep breath…next comes learning how to edit a podcast.

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