Podcast interviews tips for newbies—and everyone else

Even those who have gone ‘on mic’ for radio segments and other audio formats can benefit from these hints on smart preparation and staying easy-breezy while delivering key messages.

It’s time to get comfortable with podcast interviews.

Business professionals might participate in speaking opportunities ranging from staff meetings to industry events, but going “on mic” for this increasingly popular channel might be new to some.

Experts say 42 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, with 85 percent listening to all or most of the podcast. The predominant age group for podcast listeners is 25 to 54.

For a business leader, that’s a fabulous opportunity to display your industry expertise, promote the benefits of your company’s products or services, and discuss the challenging problems your listeners are facing and how you can solve them.

If you’ve been invited to be a podcast guest for the first time, you may be wondering what to expect and how to prepare.

Robert Ferguson, a strategic marketing professional, hosts the KEY 5 speaker podcast, in which professional speakers share information and ideas with other speakers.

He shares advice for podcast newbies and tips that even seasoned speakers will find useful. Here are nine gems to remember:

1. Ask about the format and interview length.

Podcasts vary in length, so find out in advance how long your interview will be. Also, will it be a straight Q&A format, or will you be expected to banter with multiple interviewers or other guests? Will there be questions from the audience?

2. Prepare for the expected and the unexpected.

Typically, the interviewer will send you a list of questions or topics so you can prepare your content. Practice your answers out loud to make sure you’re staying within the allotted time, but don’t treat your prepared responses as a script to memorize. Doing so will make you sound stiff and inauthentic.

Also, realize that the interviewer may want to delve deeper into a topic and ask additional questions that weren’t on the list.

“I’m expecting my guest to tell a story or relate something that happened,” Ferguson says, “but if you’re caught without anything further to add, it’s fine to simply restate what you said earlier.”

3. Practice with technology.

To participate remotely (as most podcast guests do), you’ll need a standard USB headset with a microphone that plugs into your computer. It’s important to avoid using your cell phone or a conference room phone, which will deliver poor sound quality. Also, make sure you have a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed.

Your host will help you get set up with their conferencing software tool. If you haven’t used the tool before (and even if you have), practice with the technology to avoid any missteps on interview day.

4. Build in a buffer.

Business people are often running from one meeting to the next without factoring in time to switch gears and get mentally prepared. Ferguson recommends building in a 15-minute buffer between your last task and the interview start time. This gives you the chance to read the questions, review your notes and collect your thoughts.

It’s also a great idea to set up a calendar alert, so you’ll be sure to have that wiggle room.

5. Don’t be late.

This may seem obvious, but being even a few minutes late shows disrespect for others’ time. As Ferguson notes, the cardinal rule for every speaker is to start on time and end on time.

6. Do a sound check.

The interviewer will probably give you a few quick instructions before you get started. Use this as an opportunity for a sound check. Does your voice sound the way it should? If something seems wrong, let the interviewer know. If there’s a technical glitch, starting again is better than completing the whole interview and finding out the recording is unusable.

7. Give vocal cues to the interviewer.

As you finish answering a question or making a statement, it’s helpful to use vocal cues that let the interviewer know you’re done. Some people have a tendency toward “up-speak,” a vocal inflection such that your pitch rises at the end of a sentence. This habit can confuse the interviewer and result in awkward pauses and cross-talk. Instead, practice using a downward pitch to signal the interviewer that you’ve completed your thought.

8. Stick to the positive.

“As you would for any other type of media interview, be prepared to say what’s true and what’s positive,” Ferguson says. “Denigrating any brand, person or company won’t serve you well. Like anything on the internet, once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. If you don’t know the answer, say so rather than making something up. If you say something untrue, it can really come back to bite you.”

9. Make the ending memorable.

A good interviewer will let you know when you’re answering the last question. That’s your opportunity to sum up and leave a lasting impression. “Be brief and have a good punch line, story or tip that’s memorable,” Ferguson recommends.

That’s good advice for any presentation. Your goal as a speaker is to make an impact, influence thinking and encourage action. A catchy sound bite helps your audience grasp your message and inspires them to share it.

Those nine tips apply to most business presentations, so try them in a variety of circumstances.

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stakes presentations. Learn more at professionallyspeaking.net and professionallyspeakingblog.com.

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