How to Start an Interview Podcast

About a year ago, around the start of April, I had the crazy idea of interviewing authors about writing their first book.

Maybe it was because I was surrounded by people like Nicolas Cole, Jamie Russo, Ben Putano, Arvid Kahl and Corey McComb. These were the first five people I pitched to, and they accepted the invitation. More about that later.

With the first twelve guests, however, I didn’t record the audio in good quality to turn it into a podcast episode. Something I regret now. 

Afterwards, I did record fourteen episodes and did two more interviews that didn’t get published. One because my guest didn’t want to do a face-to-face (Zoom) talk, and the other one… because I messed up—I tried to record directly in Audacity and Anchor, but neither worked. 

Anyway, in 28 interviews with marketers, customer experts and other great podcast hosts—not claiming I’m that great myself— I’ve learned a few interesting things about conducting interview podcasts.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. Finding guests
  2. Preparing for the interview
  3. What to do during the interview
  4. What to do after the interview

Finding guests for your interview podcast

Finding guests for your podcast is easier than you might think.

Here’s how I found the first five:

I was surrounded by self-published authors on Twitter. I had interacted with all of them in one way or another, so pitching them for the podcast wasn’t that hard. 

Still, I believe that even without a previous connection, it’s easy to get guests because coming on a podcast for one or two hours isn’t such a big ask. Moreover, people love to talk about their stuff, especially if they have something to promote.

Of course, you won’t get Gary V or Seth Godin on your first episode. But sometimes, you don’t have to wait until episode hundred to get the people you’d love to have either.

After only twelve episodes, I scheduled Rob Fitzpatrick and David Kadavy, whom I consider exciting names in the self-publishing scene.

YouTube cover of the Rob Fitzpatrick episode.

In the final episodes, I had the honour to receive one hour of Steph Smith’s and Andrew Warner’s time. These people had direct connections with some of my biggest idols. 

I could definitely have leveraged that to pitch more future guests. 

And that’s what I recommend you do. Find interesting people with a relatively smaller audience who are connected to your dream guests. Use those connections to aim higher and higher. 

You don’t always need to ask for a warm introduction. I rarely did. Just showing these people were on your show is often enough to convince others. 

Preparing for the interview

Once you’ve scheduled a guest, you want to extract as much information from them as possible. 

My biggest regret with some of these interviews is that I spent too much time talking about trivial stuff.

Were the conversations fun? Yes. 

Best use of our time? Definitely not. Always keep in mind what your audience wants to get from your interviews and respect it.

With David Kadavy, I spent about 20 minutes talking about South America and coca leaves, and with Andrew Warner, we talked more about hot beverages than about writing and podcasting. 

These are things you want to avoid. And that’s why preparation matters.

Some quick tips to prepare your questions

First, listen to other interviews and read the main articles about your guests. You don’t want to ask what everyone else has already asked.

Second, if your guest has written a book, read it. I’ve found that many non-fiction authors include autobiographical information in their books. It will help you find interesting conversation topics.

Together, these two tips will help you avoid asking something your guest is tired of talking about.

A short digression: I’ve only been on five podcast episodes myself, but I’ve had to explain how I became a copywriter each time. By the fifth time, I started skipping details. It’s just not that exciting to keep telling the same story over and over again.

So what should you do instead?

Dive deeper. Can you approach this topic from a different angle? Can you ask about the feelings instead of the facts? Or about what they’d do differently now?

Finally, if your guest knows something about interviews and suggests good questions or ideas, try to implement them.

Some examples:

  • From Michele Hansen, I learned to let the questions hang. Don’t be afraid to leave an awkward silence that motivates your guest to keep talking. (You can always edit the audio later).
  • From Bob Manfreda and Adam Putterman, I learned one of my favourite questions: “What’s something I didn’t ask but should have asked.” Try it in all your interviews, even those that aren’t podcast-related.
  • From Andrew Warner, I learned not to ask any “favourite” questions. It puts people on the spot. I shot a few at him anyway and got the expected result: Andrew took a while to consider the options, and the conversation drifted off. 

For more interview tips, here’s Stanford’s one-page interview guide.

Set clear expectations before the interview

When you schedule a call for an interview, everything seems straightforward: You’ll jump on a call, ask some questions, and that’s it.

Wrong. 

There are many variables, and you want to inform your guest as best as possible.

  • Will you edit afterwards? To what extent? Editing later allows your guest to interrupt and ask for clarification.
  • What are the main topics of the conversation? Ask your guest if there’s anything they don’t want to discuss.
  • Assure your guest they’ll have time to talk about their stuff (usually something they want to promote) so that they don’t push their agenda during the entire interview—yes, this happens. 
  • Will there be a video or not? Guests want to know so they can go to a better location, dress better, etc.
  • Will there be a pre-interview? Some guests might expect this. April Dunford, for example, asked me if we were doing the actual interview or just a pre-interview. Pretty embarrassing indeed. (More about pre-interviews in Andrew Warner’s Stop Asking Questions)

A few days before the interview, I’d send a short email to clarify all of the above. I mentioned the main topics in terms of talking points but avoided sharing complete questions. I felt this would make the conversation a bit less authentic.

During the interview

The interview itself will probably not take more than an hour, maybe two. Make the most of it. I can’t stress this enough.

Avoid lengthy introductions and background stuff, especially if your guest is well-known.

For example, if you’re to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger, you’d be wasting your time talking about how he came to America and made a name for himself. That’s well-covered. 

You’ve got a minimal amount of time with someone special.

And you’ll probably feel like you want to make the most of it. But the way you do it is often misguided.

Too many podcast hosts claim centre stage. Ok, you need to add some personality, but never overshadow your guest.

By the end of the first or second podcast appearance I did, I doubted whether I was the host or the guest. If you just want to have conversations with people, don’t call it an interview podcast. 

Anyway, there’s a time and place to try to look good and share your own ideas, but it’s not while you’ve got the unique opportunity to extract knowledge from an expert on your podcast. 

Let them do the talking. 

After the interview

After each interview, I would usually try to chat with the guests for a few more minutes to get feedback. Some had to run and could only answer one quick question; with others, we chatted away for another 30 minutes (Yes, I’m looking at you, Michele).

But no matter how long this post-interview lasted, these moments were priceless. This was when I learned most of the things I’ve mentioned above. Not by spending hours reading about podcasting, not by taking expensive courses, but just by asking my guests for 2 minutes of feedback.

What’s going to follow are some tips and ideas for editing, repurposing and redistributing content. I did figure most of this out by myself. But you won’t have to if you read on a few more minutes.

Editing your podcast audio

I believe there are two levels of editing podcasts: Optimising your audio and cutting and pasting. For most indie podcasters, only the first level is a realistic option. The second one requires more time, skills and equipment.

So here, I’ll just focus on editing the conversation. These are the things I did to make the conversation shorter and more fluent:

  • Reduce the time of silence.
  • Lower volume on or cut coughs, sneezes, uhms, etc. 
  • Cut clarifications or clarifying questions.
  • Cut overpromotion by the guest.
  • Normalise the volume when it’s too loud or too silent.

My idea is that the shorter the episode, the better for my listeners.

After the audio edit, I wrote the intro and ending for the episode. This would usually be 30-60 seconds. It makes sense to record this at the end because you can include a summary of the conversation, and mention links and other relevant information discussed during the interview.

With the risk of venturing into a higher level of editing, fellow podcaster Edu Nuñez recommends adding a few highlights, some music and a short personal introduction to the start of each episode. 

I used the following tools to record, edit and publish (free unless otherwise stated):

  1. Calendly to schedule time with my guests. Ideally, they find a time on my schedule so they automatically get a link for the Zoom call that I’ll record.
  2. Zoom to have the conversations and grab the audio. I only learned in the last episode how to record two audio channels.* I got a paid plan for one month when I conducted two double interviews. 
  3. Audacity to edit the audio. You can download this tool for free, but you may need to add the free FFmpeg Library to be able to upload more file extensions like M4A or WMA.
  4. Descript to make audio clips. I only got this near the end, but I could’ve used this to edit audio. It’s easier to use because it gives you a very visual representation of the conversation, but other options are more limited. I got the pro plan for one month and might have continued using it in the future.
  5. Anchor.fm to create and upload my podcast episodes. (alternatives: Buzzsprout, Riverside.fm)

*You can record your audio and your guest’s audio separately by following these instructions:

  • Inside a meeting, click “zoom.us” in the top-left corner.
  • Click “preferences…”
  • In the menu on the left, click “recording”. It’s somewhere in the middle of the list.
  • Now select the second option: “record a separate audio file of each participant”.

This has some pros and cons.

I’ve found it’s easier to eliminate distracting noises, but it’s also more work. Whenever you cut audio from one channel, you need to cut from the other audio and make sure the conversation is still aligned. 

Repurposing your podcast content

Initially, you just have one audio file which you can edit a bit and upload to your RSS feed via your podcast platform. 

Now, unless you’re pretty famous this isn’t going to guarantee you many listeners—if any. 

That’s why you should make it available to more people in more places. 

The first thing I did to promote my podcast episodes is to write a blog summary for each episode. Admittedly, these summaries cost at least two to three hours of extra work and it might not be worth the effort. But it does give people an alternative if they don’t listen to podcasts. It’s also more shareable and you might get some new fans via search engines.

The next thing I did was select quotes from the interview or from the guests’ books. I shared these on Twitter. Initially, I also teamed up with visual creators to turn these quotes into images. I stopped doing this once it got harder to find illustrators who wanted to collaborate for free.

zero to sold quote by aurasky

Visual by Sathya for Zero to Sold (More in the Yellow Visual)

The final thing I did was create audio clips. I should have done this earlier, but again it’s a lot of work. However, it’s probably the most effective way to repurpose your content. 

Clips that are only a few minutes long are easier to consume and share on social media. Although it’s not always possible, try to aim for 60 seconds at most. 

The reason is obvious: This enables TikTok clips too, and it’ll be distributed more aggressively on YouTube. (I didn’t notice much difference in reach on Instagram between >60 seconds and <60 seconds, however. But my sample size is small and so is my follower count.)

Distribution

Once you’ve repurposed your content into several formats, it’s time to spread it across the web and reach a maximum amount of potential listeners.

Below are some tips to increase reach. These are based on my own experience but since I never made it very far, I refer to better use-cases where possible.

Podcast directories

The amount of podcast subscribers is what matters most. So first of all, make your podcast available on as many podcast directories as possible.

I used anchor.fm which made the podcast immediately available on Spotify and a few other places.

But that doesn’t include Apple Podcasts and many smaller players. To add your podcast to these other platforms, you need to find your RSS link in your host platform and add this to other platforms like Apple Connect (which also adds your podcast to Overcast). 

Sometimes, you’ll need to create an account and add some extra information but the process is usually straightforward.

Some other platforms and their signup pages:

Podcast communities and networks

There are a bunch of communities to help podcasters. Either by giving each other tips or by helping you find guests, promotions and ads.

The beauty of these networks is that many are actively recruiting podcasters to add to their database. 

Finally, Steph Smith has paid a community for content creators and podcasters. In Doing Content Right (affiliate link) you pay once for lifetime access to updates and community events.

Newsletter

One problem with a podcast is that you don’t have any idea who’s listening. The metrics are limited.

But if you start a newsletter, you can collect email addresses and get to know your audience a bit better. The beauty is that you can also more easily direct them to other products or projects.

I won’t turn this into a newsletter course as well, so if you want to learn more about newsletters, Growth Currency is a good place to start.

Social media

For my podcast, I had a Twitter, Instagram and YouTube account. I tried different methods with mixed results.

Depending on your current use of these platforms and your personal branding, take some time to consider whether you want to create a separate account or share from your personal account.

Here’s what I experienced and thought:

  • I reached more people when I was tweeting about the podcast from my personal accounts but I separated it because I didn’t want the podcast to overshadow my other content.
  • I didn’t notice much traction via Instagram from my personal account and prefered to keep things separate.
  • I didn’t have a YouTube channel but even if you do, I’d recommend you create a separate one.

Twitter

On Twitter, you can write tweets, threads, ongoing threads, links and images.

The algorithm doesn’t like links and images, so don’t do this for every tweet.

Threads worked out well, especially when I turned podcast episodes into a short story about the guest. 

Ongoing threads are threads where you add a new tweet every new episode. I had one of these with the blog links and one of these with the podcast links. The benefit of this is that every new tweet brings up the old content. However, this didn’t get much traction for me. And even for bigger podcasts, it doesn’t seem to get much attention. But it’s still a good way to make your episodes easily findable as a pinned tweet, for example. 

Of course, all of this is a lot of work without tools. I used Hypefury to schedule this content. Even though I abandoned the podcast more than a month ago, content is still being published or retweeted daily. For threads, I prefer Typefully

Instagram

On Instagram, you can use carousels, images, clips and videos.

All my posts got about the same engagement but nothing really added up to anything. Especially in the writing niche, you’ll get a bunch of “promote here” replies and that’s about it.

For a better example, check Mike Sczcesniak from the Results Engine podcast.

Youtube

On YouTube, finally, I uploaded full episodes and clips. YouTube is one of the biggest search engines, so people can find your videos even if they don’t know you. And if your clip is under 60 seconds, it might get featured as a YouTube Short.

Communities where your audience hangs out

The biggest mistake I made was not looking more actively for communities. Communities are everywhere: Slack, Facebook, Telegram and they’re even on Twitter now.

Find relevant communities, but hang around and share ideas before you start promoting your podcast. 

Ready to start your interview podcast?

That’s about all I could remember to share.
If you’re about to start your own podcast or have one already, I wish you all the best.

And if you have any doubts that weren’t covered here, feel free to reach out in the comments, on Twitter or via email.

(Photo by Cedrik Wesche on Unsplash)

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