Prior to the official start of the interview, it is always a good idea while you are getting the sound levels matched up that you use the time to bond with your guest. Tell a joke, ask how he or she is doing, ask what the weather is like where your guest lives, and so on. Then start the recording and let your guest know that the recording has started but that you are not yet into the interview.
Next, let him or her know what the basic format of the interview will be like. If you edit, let your guest know that. This way, if your guest messes up answering a question, he or she can always start over. Make sure to ask the guest if he or she has any questions before you start the interview.
Now that you have done all the hard work of finding a guestresearching about that guest, picking a method to record the interview, and letting the guest know the ground rules of the interviewyou are finally at the point of actually conducting the interview. If you can get the interview to flow well, it will sound more like a conversation between two old friends than it will a stiff formal interview.
We asked Wichita what he does to get his interviews to flow so well. Here is what he said:
It is important to keep the full, unedited version of the interview with the recording of you telling your guest the recording started. We would recommend you tell the guest something like this:
"I have started the recording, but we are not yet into the interview. When I say, 'John, welcome to the show,' from that point on all material is fair game for the interview. I do edit the interviews, and only about xx% of the interview will typically make it on the finished podcast. Do you have any questions before we start?"
This clearly lays out the ground rules for the interview and records you laying them out. Although it is unlikely you will ever be sued by a guest, it is better to be safe than sorry. Think of this as your audio release form.
Another way to make sure the interview flows well is to put 100% of your attention toward what the guest is saying. Listen to your interviewee. Don't look ahead to the next question. Don't look at your web browser. Pay attention to what he or she is saying. Oftentimes the best questions you will ask of your guest are not the ones you prepared before the interview started, but rather the ones that come up from something the guest said answering a previous question. There is also no faster way to put the whole interview into tilt then when a guest asks a question back of you, but you are not paying attention because you were busy reading the next question.
If you edit, you need to edit out the "ums," the "ahs," the "you knows," and the dead spots. This will make your interview seem snappier and will make both you and your guest seem more articulate. Your guests will not only appreciate the effort, they will be more likely to link to and mention the interview if they think they sounded good.
Your listeners get to hear you every show, but they will probably only get to hear your guests one time. Therefore, make sure that when you do the interview there is less of you and more of your guest. Rob tries to keep his part of the conversation to under 3 minutes total time for 15 minutes of edited interview. His first rule of editing: When in doubt, edit Rob out.
Getting More Detailed Answers
Not all guests will give detailed answers. After your guests think they have answered the question, there will be a pause as they wait for you to ask the next question. If you say nothing, it will cause a pause, and chances are they will continue talking. Most people do not like dead air. If you edit, this is a great way to get people to talk more. Also, by doing this you are making sure that you are not talking on top of your guest and that you are giving them enough time to answer the questions. Your guests might be pausing just as a way to gather their thoughts.
Conversely, some guests will go off on a self-pontificating rant. In these cases, the most polite thing to say is, "I would like to change the subject a little here and talk about...." Then go to another question that is not at all related to what the guest was talking about.
At the end of the interview, remember to ask your guests whether there is anything else they wanted to talk about that you did not cover. This gives them the chance to talk about something you might have overlooked as a possible question or simply forgot to ask once the interview was in full gear. Additionally, this shows your guests some additional respect. You want your guests to leave the interview feeling good about coming on your show and then promoting the interview with all their contacts.
Dealing with Dull Interviews
Sometimes an interview is going to go completely south even though you did nothing wrong on your end. With all the advice we have given you in this chapter, it still does not really help if your guest is just not very personable. Rob once did an interview where all the guest would give was basically yes or no answers, even for the multiple-choice questions. Normally, it takes Rob about 45 minutes to get through all his questions. On this interview, he was done in less than 8 minutes.
So what do you do when this happens to you? The first choice is to just flush the interview and move on. No reason to torture your listeners with a yes/no interview. However, if the guest is a friend or someone famous, you may feel obligated to put up the interview. In this case, it is time for some creative editing. If the person has a podcast or other audio material available, edit in some clips from him or her throughout the interview. If no audio material is available, you can edit yourself in saying, "That reminds me of something that such and such said on a previous show," and then edit in that clip. Finally, you could have someone you know comment on the answers and then edit that into the show. Yes, this takes much more work, but the alternative is to put out a sub-par show or to throw away the time you already invested in the prep work and the actual interview. When you get one of these pigs of an interview, sometimes putting a bow on it is not such a bad thing, and if done well you can turn the interview into one of your better episodes.
People love a good interview. This is evident when you look around TV and radio at all the different talk shows and late night shows that either are built around guest interviews or have a guest at some point in the show. If you respect your guests, respect your listeners, and offer interesting guests and interesting questions, you will build a good-size audience.