How do you conduct a successful interview? Whatever medium you’re interviewing in – that is, whether it’s for podcast, TV, radio, or to write an article for later – there’s plenty you can do to make the interview enjoyable for your guest and entertaining for your viewers.
Before we get into the more substantial tips, we’ll start with this: always keeping your audience in mind. You need to think about what they want to hear and what is going to be most useful, fun or interesting for them. You should also know your guest, prepare thoroughly and ensure you’re in the right kind of environment.
Now let’s dive a little deeper into the fundamentals of how to interview someone for TV, podcast or radio.
1. Get to know your subject in advance
A big part of how to interview someone on TV – or via any other medium – is researching your guest. If they have written any books, articles or blogs, reading these will help you understand their work and their perspective on their specialist subjects.
If you’re interviewing an actor or musician, make sure you’ve seen or listened to their work! It’s also a good idea to look at their profiles on social media platforms, as these can give you a sense of what drives them and what they really care about.
“Preparations are the key here every single time,” says former BBC and Sky News presenter Arron Armstrong. “Know who your guest is, know their backstory, do your research so you know exactly where they might go [in the conversation] and where you might take it.”
2. Send a brief – but not the exact questions
When conducting a podcast interview or one for TV or radio, you should inform your guest of the subjects you plan to cover. It’s not a good idea to give them your questions word for word, as this can result in prepared answers that can come across as rather flat and uninspiring.
“I would definitely try to steer away from providing the exact questions,” says Armstrong. “It leads to quite a sterile interview, because they know what’s coming, and because then you might feel obliged to stick to those questions. The best interviews are not like that – they’re organic.”
That said, you can still give your guest a sense of the direction you’re planning and the material your audience will be most keen to hear! This will help them feel more prepared and the interview run more smoothly.
3. Conduct the interview in a professional environment
Next up, you should carefully consider your interview venue. A podcast studio is the ideal solution for delivering a professional interview, as it has equipment that you can rely on and is soundproofed. You don’t want to be let down at the last minute by faulty equipment or distractions that could have been avoided. Booking a podcast studio means that you can conduct yourself as a professional and give your interview the gravitas it deserves!
4. Make sure your guest feels comfortable
Another big part of learning how to conduct a good TV or podcast interview is ensuring your guest is relaxed. As mentioned, you can help make that happen by giving them relevant information about what is going to take place beforehand so they feel in control of the narrative.
“If you have time,” suggests Armstrong, “especially in a podcast situation, have a conversation with them beforehand. Just cover the areas that you’re going to be going through in the interview and prep them for that.”
You should also think carefully about your own body language and how you will appear to them in a visual sense, and consider subtly mirroring their posture and gestures to help them to feel at ease. Basically, just try to be thoughtful and considerate of both your guest’s emotional feelings and their physical comfort.
5. Ask open-ended questions
As you’d probably expect, the questions you ask are also very important in how to conduct a podcast interview. If you ask questions that only require a “yes” or “no” answer, you’re not likely to get much more than that.
“Always ask open questions,” Armstrong says on this topic. “Why, where, what, how, when? Something like, Why did you write this book? Or, What prompted you to make that move in your career? A popular one at the moment is, How do you feel about this? Act a little bit like you’re a therapist.”
Guide your guest in a better direction by asking what drives them to succeed and why their work is so important to them. You can also ask how they feel about particular eras or events in their career, and of course, what the future holds for them.
6. Be an active listener – but let them talk
It’s crucial to show your guest that you are truly listening to what they are saying and their point of view. You can use words to do this: “Oh, that’s such a great point” or “Yes, I completely agree.”
Getting into a sort of flow state with your interview also means scaling back on the big questions. “When you start getting good, long answers, you can ask fewer open-ended questions,” Armstrong says. “You want the interviewee to have enough space to speak. At this point, a short, sharp question is better than a long rambling one.”
Non-verbal listening cues also work well, such as nodding, smiling, or simply maintaining eye contact. The guest should be doing most of the talking, so if there’s a pause, feel free to wait and allow them to fill it.
7. Just don’t lose control of the conversation
If your guest starts talking about something irrelevant or something that could cause offence to viewers, take control and steer them back to the main thrust of the interview. You can do this by acknowledging what they are saying, then suggesting that they tell us more about the area you want to focus on – and asking some compelling follow-up questions to keep them on your desired path.
Another useful approach, especially for live audio, is to have someone else on the air to potentially counter your main guest. “If you suspect you’re going to have somebody controversial come on, you have to have somebody else on,” says Armstrong. “This should be someone who knows the facts to balance out that conversation, so you have both sides of it. And remember, you’ve always got the right to cut the interview short.”
8. Redo parts of the interview if needed
It’s not always possible to do this; for example, if you are broadcasting live or your guest is very pressed for time, you won’t be able to redo the interview. However, if these factors are not an issue, and there were some parts of the interview that were a little lacking in flair, then it can be a good idea to ask your guest to revisit them with you.
And there you have it: 8 tips on how to interview someone for TV, podcast or radio. Remember, you can set yourself up for interview success by booking an amazing studio with all the equipment hooked up in advance!
At Premiere Podcast Studios, you can rent our Shoreditch studios at any time that suits you and your guest. We’ll also provide an onsite producer and any support you may need when recording. Book a session today.