How to Do a Pre-Interview for Your Podcast

James Carbary
December 1, 2016
How to Do a Pre-Interview for Your Podcast

So you took the plunge and decided to launch an interview-based podcast for your brand.

You chose the perfect name for the show, you had your design team create some sultry cover art, you wrote all the copy for the Apple Podcasts description... you've been staying super busy ramping up for the launch of the podcast.

Then it hits you.

You have to start interviewing other humans on your podcast, and you have no clue how to do it.

You're starting to freak out a little because you know your podcast interviews are incredibly strategic for your brand for two reasons.

1) Because the content from the interviews is going to fuel your content waterfall.

2) Because the guests you're interviewing are prospective clients. The time they spend with you during the interview will likely be one of their very first impressions of your brand. You want them to know that you're sharp, organized, and that you genuinely care about creating phenomenal content that serves your audience.

But there’s a secret to hosting an incredible interview and it’s actually pretty simple:

You've got to nail the pre-interview.

What's the podcast pre-interview? The podcast pre-interview takes place before the actual interview, lasting anywhere from 5-10 minutes. It needs to accomplish three things:

  1. Establish rapport & make your guest feel comfortable.
  2. Provide an outline for the interview.
  3. Tell your guest exactly what to expect when you hit Record.

Let's break down these three pre-interview priorities.

1) Rapport & Comfort

Because the pre-interview is likely your first interaction with this person, you need to immediately establish rapport and make them feel comfortable.

This can be done by simply asking them how their week has been going.

I've found that the quicker you can engage your guest in a normal conversation, the more loose and comfortable they feel when it's time to start recording the interview.

It's important to understand that a lot of the people you'll be interviewing on your show will have little to no experience in being interviewed on a podcast. So it's your job to make sure they feel comfortable and prepared.

2) Interview Outline

This part of the pre-interview is crucial because you're defining what the bulk of the interview will look like.

While you were setting up the interview via email, you asked your guest to choose a topic for their episode based on their background and experience.

So when you get to this part of the pre-interview, you'll want to drill down into the topic they chose. Put on your journalist hat and find a unique angle on your guest's topic. They definitely have an original point of view on the subject -- it's your job to uncover it.

Here's how we do it for B2B Growth:

Transitioning from Rapport & Comfort to Outline

Here's an example of a transition from building rapport to going over the episode outline:

"So I was looking back at our email conversation, and it looks like we're going to be talking about <topic>. Does that still sound good?"

Once they confirm the topic, this is what you could say next:

"Ok, great. I wanna make sure that we talk about everything you want to cover, so what would you say are 3-5 big ideas related to <topic> that you want our listeners to walk away with?"

When you ask this question, the guest might stumble around a bit. They might say something like "Oh man, you're putting me on the spot."

It's your job to step in and make sure they understand that this is just the pre-interview. Nothing they say right now will be published, so they can take their time to collect their thoughts and think through the 3-5 talking points that they want to cover during the interview.

[READ: Here's the failproof way to outline your episode in just 4 steps (w/ examples).]

You'll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your guests come up with these 3-5 points once you give them a second to gather their thoughts.

Note: Keep a sheet of paper next to your laptop, and write down each of the talking points as they share them with you.

Defining the Talking Points

Your guests might have a tendency to ramble on a bit as they’re explaining their 3-5 talking points, giving you too much detail about each talking point.

You want them to save the details for the actual interview, so don't be afraid to push them along by asking for their next point. A good way to transition them from one talking point to the next is this:

As soon as they've completed their thought, say, "That's really good. What's the next thing that you think our listeners need to understand?"

Once they've shared three talking points, ask them if there's anything else that they'd like to cover during the interview.

After you've written down each of their talking points, quickly repeat each point back to them. This will give the guest an opportunity to correct anything you might've misunderstood while you were taking notes.

Set Up for Success

You've now set your guest up for success by allowing them to establish a clear structure for their interview.

This structure will bring clarity to their message and it will ultimately make them look like an expert to your audience.

3) Interview Expectations

Ok, you've made it to the final stretch of the pre-interview.

This is where you tell your guest exactly what they can expect when you hit the Record button.

[READ/WATCH: This is the #1 podcast recording software & how to use it.]

This last phase of the pre-interview is important because the more your guest knows what to expect, the more comfortable they'll be during the interview. And the more comfortable they are during the interview, the better the content will be.

Trasitioning from Outline to Expectations

Here's an example of how to transition from the outline to interview expectations:

"Ok, this is a really great outline. Before we start recording, I wanna make sure I introduce you correctly."

At this point, you'll want to have already written down their name and job title (from their LinkedIn profile) on your sheet of paper.


Let's pretend that I'm interviewing Eric Williams on my podcast.

Note: If your guest's last name isn't Smith or Williams, make sure to ask them for the correct pronunciation.

Since I already have Eric's name and title written down in my notes, after my transition statement I'd say:

"Is Eric Williams, CMO of MegaCorp the best way to introduce you?"

Most of the time your guest will simply say, "yep!". But occasionally they'll ask you to use a different job title or they'll ask you to also mention that they're the author of XYZ Book.

Keeping It Short

You don’t need to say this during the pre-interview, but this is what my intro for Eric will look like during the actual interview:

"Welcome back to <podcast name>, we’re here today with Eric Williams, the CMO of MegaCorp. Eric, how are you doing today?”

This is a very short introduction. I keep it short because I want to get right into the meat of the interview. If the guest wants to talk more about themselves or their company, leave some time at the end for them to do so.

The quicker you get to the interview, the more engaged your audience will be. Because, when it comes to your guest's background, oftentimes...


How Listeners Can Connect

Next, you’ll want to tell your guest that they’ll be asked at the end of the interview how listeners can stay connected with them.

I’ve found that if you don’t warn your guests about this during the pre-interview, they sometimes stumble when you ask them during the actual interview.

You can say:

“Once we get through each of your talking points, I’ll ask you how our listeners can stay connected with you. You can share your email address, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile -- whatever you’re most comfortable sharing.”

Closing the Pre-Interview

At this point, it’s time to wrap up your pre-interview.

Here’s what you can say as you transition from the pre-interview into the actual interview (if you decide to do them on the same day):

“Once you’ve told our listeners how they can stay connected with you, we’ll close out the interview and I’ll stop the recording. If all that sounds good, and you’re comfortable on your end, I’ll do a brief pause, then we’ll jump right in.”

Conclusion & Full Transcript

Interviewing guests on your podcast doesn’t need to be complicated and intimidating.

When you use the three-part pre-interview framework outlined above, you’ll walk into each of your interviews with clarity and focus on the content you’re about to create.

B2B Growth Pre-Interview Transcript

If you’d like to see the full transcript of one of my pre-interviews for B2B Growth, check it out below.

Samantha: Hello, this is Samantha.

James: Hey Samantha, how are you?

Samantha: I'm well, thanks.

James: How was your Thanksgiving?

Samantha: Completely gluttonous, which is exactly how I like it.

James: Did you travel or did folks come to you?

Samantha: I host Thanksgiving, so we had 16 people over and ate and laughed and played games. It was actually really pretty wonderful, thank you for asking.

James: That's awesome. We had 16 as well, I was in San Diego with my wife's family, and it sounds like we had a similar experience. Lots of food and games and cards and all kinds of good stuff.

Samantha: Yeah, my children have laughed in more octaves than I can imagine at me trying to play Rock Band, so-

James: I love it.

Samantha: It was an ugly but amusing sight, so can't stop.

James: That is fantastic.

Samantha: Yeah.

James: Samantha, I was looking at our email conversation, and it looks like we’re going to be talking about your book, Unleash Possible. So it released last month?

Samantha: Yes, that's correct.

James: Awesome, so what I like to do in this time before we start recording, is nail down three to five big takeaways that you’d like our listeners to walk away with.

Samantha: I think it might be most interesting to sort of dive across three or four different sections. The book is really a pretty comprehensive look at marketing effectiveness for B2B organizations and working with sales, so I think there is more than enough to touch on if you want to sort of dabble in some of the key areas in the book, and we can pick out a couple that perhaps are things people don't talk as much about in the B2B space as we should.

James: Yeah, that'd be great. That'd be great, so what are those three to four things, I'll write them down and then that way whenever we start the interview I'll make sure we touch on everything.

Samantha: Yeah, great, so one of them I think we should talk about is sort of our never-ending but probably mostly falsely used time chasing the C suite, and talking about why we're obsessed with that and when we should be and when we shouldn't be, so that might be a good one to cover.

James: Definitely. All right, got that one down.

Samantha: Right. We should talk about quality versus quantity leads, and how we measure marketing to be an appropriate partner with sales, might be a good one.

James: Okay, yup, that would be perfect, quality versus quantity.

Samantha: There's a number of other ones, one of the ones that might be interesting is talking about go to market specifically, and when we're launching new products. You'll have to tell me if that's a good one for your audience or not.

James: Is there something when you're talking about go to market in the book, what are you talking about there, is it a specific kind of strategy that you've see work or something else?

Samantha: Yeah, there's two big sort of takeaways from this, and one is that we tend to try and go after everyone who might have an interest in our product or service, right, we spend a lot of time trying to raise money and convincing people this is a really big opportunity and so we have this sort of broad base approach trying to get any customers that we can, but in fact that usually backfires on us, and it makes it impossible to be successful. So instead of taking this very broad basic approach after the product's ready, I've built it, let's go out and sell it, then we'll go figure out who the customer profile is and we'll aim our marketing at that. Instead of doing that which is how most products are launched, the key takeaway is we should actually do the opposite, we should be very specific about who we want to direct it towards initially. We should then go out and build up a specific sort of ready yourselves to do that and then we can ramp up sales, and it's sometimes counter-intuitive, but that's where I've seen greater success.

James: That's really good. So we'll talk about chasing the C suite, we'll talk about quality versus quantity, talk about go to market. Is there anything else you think we should touch on from the book?

Samantha: There's a lot of other stuff but I suspect that's probably enough. If I remember correctly, the shows were sort of 12, 15 minutes, is that about right?

James: Yup, you're exactly right.

Samantha: Okay, so that's probably it. The other chapter in here that I talk about a lot of, if we are running short and you want to add another one, would be on referral marketing, because a lot of B2B marketing talks about references and case studies and things, but we don't actually talk about the act of driving actual referrals, and so that's another topic area, talk about what's the difference between a reference, an advocate and a referral program.

James: Yup, I like that. All right, so I'll play that one by ear and I'll look and see where we're at with time, and I'll bring that one up if it's something we have time to go over. So Samantha, on the front end of the interview I typically do a really brief intro. I'll say something like, "We're here today with Samantha Stone, she's the founder and CMO of the Marketing Advisory Network. She's also the author of Unleash Possible, a marketing playbook that drives sales", and then I'll have you explain to our listeners what you and your team are up to at the Marketing Advisory Network, and so that way I don't botch your value prop. So you can spend 30 seconds to a minute explaining what you do, and then from there I'll transition us into talking about your book. We'll talk about each one of the things that you just mentioned, and then at the very end, I'll ask how folks can learn more about the Marketing Advisory Network, how they can find your book, and how they can stay connected with you. So any links you want to push there, feel free to do that and then we'll close it down.

Samantha: That sounds great.

James: All right Samantha, so if you're good on your end, I'll do a brief pause and then we'll just jump right in.

Samantha: You got it.

Nail the Pre-Interview

As you can see, the podcast pre-interview is super conversational and laid-back. This is how the actual interview can be too, as long as you hit all your bases in the prior conversation.

Remember, the purpose of the pre-interview is to...

  1. Build rapport and make your guest feel comfortable.
  2. Create a simple outline that includes each main talking point.
  3. Let your guest know what to expect in the interview.

You got this!

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