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Taking Your Podcast Interviews from Chats to Captivating Conversations
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In podcasting, being a master interviewer requires going beyond casual chit-chat with guests. You must hone your skills to create meaningful emotional connections with your guests. Nicole Christina shares techniques in this blog post to transcend surface-level conversations and build genuine emotional rapport with your guests. By mastering these skills, you’ll invite your guests to open up and share their authentic stories, captivating your listeners and leaving them longing to be part of the conversation. Get ready to elevate your skills as an interviewer and create more engaging share-worthy episodes!
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Hi. I’m Nicole Christina, Podcaster and psychotherapist. Now, here’s a standard run-of-the-mill scarf. Nothing wrong with it, it gets the job done, but it’s nothing special. There are a million of them out there.
It’s fine, works, and nothing out of the ordinary. And here is a handed scarf with hand-dyed yarn. And it’s one of a kind. It’s special. There’s no two like it in the world.
Which would you rather wear? If a podcast host interviews guests, you must create unique, memorable, and shareable podcast interviews. With millions of podcasts, you must ensure yours rises to the top. So today, I will share some interviewing techniques I have mastered as a psychotherapist for 30 years. And by the end of this talk, you will learn seven skills that will elevate your interviewing immediately.
“Your podcast has tremendous power to affect people worldwide.”
You will become more than a podcast host. You will be a master podcast interviewer and offer an experience to your audience that’s unusual and that only you can offer. Your podcast has tremendous power to affect people all over the world. And people are so hungry to connect on a deep level because, increasingly, connecting with others means sharing dog pictures with a Facebook friend you may not even recognize on the street.
And we’re mammals. We’re wired to connect.
Humans have a deep need to feel heard and understood and to know that they are not alone. So by learning ways to cultivate an emotional connection with your guest, your audience will experience something more valuable than pleasant chit-chat. They will feel like they’re part of something important. They will come to count on you, and you will have an opportunity to impact and improve their lives. So don’t underestimate your ability to influence your audience with your thoughtful and thought-provoking podcast interview.
“Humans need to feel heard and understood and to know that they are not alone.”
Today, we will level your podcast interview skills by going from chatting to having a real, substantive, and memorable experience. And those are the kind of experiences people want to share.
Learning basic podcast interviewing skills allows you to get beyond the sound bites and canned responses and build an emotional connection with your guests and audience. I’d like you to think about the conversation as a mini relationship. That way, guests will open up and speak more honestly and be more vulnerable, and the conversation will draw the listener in. Your audience will wish they were part of your conversation, and that emotional connection is gold. It’s simply irresistible.
Now, sometimes, of course, guests have been interviewed so many times that they give back rehearsed answers. I had a guest who worked on TV, and I could not get beyond her memorized pitch, but that’s rare. Most guests have appreciated having more spontaneous and vulnerable conversations, and I hear that regularly. My husband teases me by asking if I made my most recent guest cry. I don’t aim to do that, but I try to get underneath the surface.
Did you get your ticket yet?
So let me tell you about an interview that illustrates this emotional connection in the extreme.
Maybe you’re familiar with the CNN story a while back about two women scientists who call their project Hearts In The Ice. These are two over 50 women. They’re both grandparents and went to the high Arctic to research global warming. They had been living in a small hut without running water or electricity for nine months and were 90 roadless miles from the nearest neighbor. Our interview was by satellite.
The interview quality was terrible. It sounded like when the astronauts were speaking to Houston. But it was so emotionally powerful. And I went right for the emotional content.
Examples of questions that drive emotional content:
- How was it to live with another human in a living space the size of a walk-in closet?
- How did they resolve conflict? How would they readjust to civilization?
- And they had their dog with them.
- What was that like?
…So it was obvious that they were delighted by these questions because they had been asked, how did you eat?
What did you eat? How did you go to the bathroom in so many previous interviews? So, at the end of the interview, I was so emotionally overcome I had to compose myself. I couldn’t believe I had spoken with women in the Arctic doing such important work. And by satellite, no less.
Of course, not every interview is like this. And it doesn’t always elicit this kind of reaction, but this gives you a taste of the power of a good interview. During our goodbyes, we were all emotional. They asked how I was doing in the political climate and the time of COVID. It was kind of like having a conversation with a long-lost friend. Warm, connected.
And this interview offers my audience an extraordinary experience. And to say it was fun for me is an understatement. So let’s break down what I have learned about creating a memorable podcast interview based on 30 years as a psychotherapist.
#1. Only Choose Guests who Fascinate You
The first one is to only choose guests who fascinate you. They don’t have to be famous, but they have to be interesting to you because you can’t fake passion.
“You have to prepare because it gives you an edge.”
That’s my secret sauce. I was so excited to speak with Suniva from Hearts in the Ice and Hill Day. I couldn’t sleep the night before. That’s a dramatic example, but I think you get the point.
#2. Prepare for Podcast Interviews to Get That Edge
You’ve heard this before, but you must prepare because it gives you an edge.
I watch my guests’ videos, study their websites, and read articles about them, so I know what’s already been asked. I want my podcast interview to be fresh. Asking new questions makes it more fun for your guests as well. And then they’re likely to share the episode. Bring your unique self to the conversation. You can feel the energy change when they are having fun, engaged, and not just answering your questions.
“Bring your unique self to the conversation, and don’t underestimate your ability to influence your audience.”
One of the most common pieces of feedback I get is, wow, that was fun. And I take that as a serious compliment. I believe listening to people having fun is fun too. But the ability to have fun means you have prepared. You haven’t winged it.
It doesn’t make your podcast interview more spontaneous to wing it. It makes it sound less professional. Remember, this isn’t a chat at a cocktail party with your friends. It’s got to be intentional. I make a rough outline to help me feel confident.
And you can always go off-script. So preparing thoroughly really came in handy. Here’s a good example. I interviewed Joe Mosely. She’s a middle-aged mom who paddle-boarded across the UK and picked up trash to draw attention to plastic use.
I love those kinds of guests. But she had been asked the same questions before. Oh, that’s so cool. You paddle-boarded across the UK. How did you do it?
Tell me the story. But I had stumbled upon a little-known detail I knew my audience would love. In one of her interviews early on, she talked about having a nervous breakdown in the cookie, or biscuit, as she calls it, aisle of the grocery store. Once I brought that up, the interview’s tone was much more intimate. I guess she felt more understood, and she knew I took the time to learn about her and that I got her.
And I’m noticing now that she brings up the mental breakdown at the grocery store in her interviews since ours because it’s a great story. So it pays to read their books, go on their websites, and know what makes your guests tick. It will give you an edge, and your interviews will shine.
#3. Help Your Podcast Guests Feel Comfortable and Secure
Lastly, be sure to help your guests feel comfortable and secure. This is right out of the psychotherapy training books.
I want my guests to feel comfortable so they open up and our conversation is more than chit-chat. So I send my guests a PDF with instructions about what I need, including a short intro. And my correspondence looks professional. And the message is, I know what I’m doing. You’re in good hands.
I will respect your time. This will be mutually beneficial. I’ve done this before. I want my guests to know that just because I’m a psychotherapist doesn’t mean I will analyze them in our podcast interview. And I also let them know, and this is very important, that their audience is educated, progressive women in middle age worldwide so they can tailor their answers appropriately.
Related Post: How to Thrive as a Podcaster in The New Era of Content
They seem to appreciate this detail, and it’s our job to make our guests look great.
#4. Listen, Listen, Listen
You’ve heard it before, but it’s tough. Listen. Listen. And it’s occurred to me lately that sitting with a client in a session for 45 minutes with no devices is almost archaic.
We don’t give people our full attention anymore. Listening profoundly is not a skill that most of us are great at, especially now. But listening makes your next question obvious. Where’s the emotion? Does their voice crack when they talk about certain things?
#5. Follow the Emotional Breadcrumbs
This is when to forget your outline and go where the conversation takes you. Let them lead.
Some of my follow-up questions are:
- how’s that?
- In what way?
- Why now?
- What surprised you?
- Can you reflect on that a bit more?
There’s always more to be described or explained. The saying the devil is in the details is true regarding interviewing.
Invite your guests to elaborate. You’ll be surprised by what they come up with, which makes your podcast interview original and unique.
Avoid the temptation of talking too much. This is about your audience, not you. Always keep that in mind. And this is the same principle we use as psychotherapists, by the way. If it doesn’t benefit your client, don’t say it.
Let there be silence in your podcast interviews.
You don’t need to fill up every second. A pause allows your guest to say more about what’s important to them. This is a well-known technique with professional interviewers. You’ll be surprised what you hear.
#6. You Must Do a Pre-Interview
Because not all experts are great talkers, you may have already learned this. If you’re not sure your guest will be a good conversationalist, you’ve got to do a pre-interview. Even if they won the Nobel Peace Prize, nobody cares if they aren’t good talkers.
I once interviewed a filmmaker who had traveled all over the globe doing the most exciting and dangerous work. She was a filmmaker, but she sounded so emotionless when I had her on. We could have been talking about the weather. Lesson learned!
#7. Know When to Wrap Up Your Podcast Interview
I learned this the hard way and knew when to wrap up. Leave your audience wanting more. I used to get so excited about speaking to guests. I wanted to pump all the information out of them while I had them. The podcast interview would just kind of fizzle out at the end, and I guess I feared that my guest options would dry up.
But now I’ve learned that 30 minutes is a sweet spot, and there’s an endless supply of guests. These techniques will help you develop a more genuine and emotional connection with your guests and audience. The audience will be brought in, and they will wish that they could be part of this conversation. You’re leaving your listeners with a feeling that comes with being heard and understood, and in this way, they become attached to you and your show because that’s the feeling we all crave as humans, especially these days. As the host, you will have regular pinch-me moments because the interviews will be so exciting and rich.
“Know when to wrap up and leave your audience wanting more.”
You won’t believe how fun and satisfying it is to speak with people you’re fascinated by. You know that your conversations are heard worldwide and have a positive impact. At the end of your podcast interviews, you will have created art, something special that’s uniquely yours. Thanks for your attention, and happy interviewing.
About Nicole Christina
Nicole Christina is the host of the multi-award-winning Zestful Aging Podcast, a weekly interview show heard in 103 countries. Nicole’s guests are change-makers from a wide variety of disciplines; filmmakers, writers, advocates, poets, musicians, scientists, athletes, and entrepreneurs, many of whom are top experts in their fields. The show examines issues of aging, including health, empty nest, caregiving, grief and loss, and longevity. Nicole is also the author of “Not Just Chatting: How to Become a Master Podcast Interviewer.” Nicole’s goal in life is to become the “Terry Gross of Aging Well.”
- Visit Nicole Christina’s Website
- Listen to Nicole’s Podcast, Zestful Aging
- Get Nicole’s book, Not Just Chatting: How to Become a Master Podcast Interviewer
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