A lot of marketers are starting podcasts and that’s great. It creates a content marketing flywheel for your company’s brand and you get to make deeper personal connections.
But most marketers don’t focus on the conversation. Instead, the hosts of branded podcasts treat a podcast recording session as a transaction. As a result, episodes feel calculated. It’s almost as if the host turned a natural conversation into something that sounds like Siri reading a Google Doc.
If you want to become a great podcast host, have interesting conversations and create podcast episodes your customers love, it’s important to focus on the questions you ask during an interview.
In this article, we’ll cover the importance of research and how to craft better podcast interview questions for your company’s show.
3 tips that’ll lead you towards the most insightful podcast interview questions
Do your research
Research is key to crafting better podcast questions, so why aren’t more shows doing their due diligence?
If you’re looking for a dry, stale conversation, then by all means, go straight into an interview with zero research. Allow your guest to outline everything podcast audiences have heard before and let them tell their story the exact same way countless times before.
But if you’re looking for added value, unique insights, and engaging episodes, then do the work. It’s as simple as that. By learning beyond the basics about your guest, you can create podcast interview questions that delve deeper into their journey. You can avoid generic questions and capture something unique for your listeners.
Have a goal and be curious
A great conversation doesn’t stem from a list of generic questions. Instead, think long & hard about the purpose of your podcast. Is it to uncover key insights from your guests that benefit your listeners? Is it to help your audience overcome their biggest challenges?
It’s important to keep the overall goal for your podcast in mind when planning each episode. It’s equally important to have one goal per episode, too.
There’s a reason you have invited your guest to speak on your podcast. So while researching your guest, use the research to create the goal for your podcast episode.
If your guest has achieved something incredible, don’t focus on what they did, focus on what led to that achievement. Boring questions tend to capture facts without digging into the “why.” Look at the underlying factors behind their success, rather than the success itself. By doing this, you can uncover information that engages your listeners, provides value to them, and keeps them coming back for every new episode.
Outline the episode
When you record, you need to have a structure for your podcast episode. Every episode should have some idea of what you’re going to discuss — no matter how vague that plan may be.
Once your podcast topics, you need to keep your audience at the center of everything you’re trying to do. Going into a recording with an episode outline can ensure you do that. Of course, you don’t need to stick 100% to a plan, the term “outlining” is key here.
Motion’s co-founder, Justin Brown, put it perfectly in our Record Content podcast: you don’t have to stick to a script word for word. Let the conversation be organic and go where it needs to go. Meanwhile, the script will keep you focused on the overarching theme.
“With a podcast script, you give yourself more confidence heading into the recording session.”
How to craft interesting podcast interview questions
Ask the unexpected
I can’t stress how much guests are tired of being asked to “tell us a little bit about your background”.
The chances are, if you secured a guest for your interview-style podcast, they’re not a stranger to being interviewed in some form. They’ve heard every single obvious question you could ever think of. They’ve explained the same things countless times. At a certain point, the guest will simply switch on their autopilot and regurgitate the same thing they said on their last podcast — a podcast that could be one of your competitors!
A guest on autopilot does nothing for your brand and it does nothing for your audience, either. You want your listeners to tune in with some ideas of what they’ll hear, but they don’t want to know everything that’s about to happen in the episode.
Your job as a podcast host isn’t to just ask a question and let the guest go on with whatever they’re going to say. You need to push for something unique, something that wasn’t featured on the last podcast your guest was on.
Asking great podcast questions often means going against the grain. You have to stray from the path to get unheard and valuable insights from your guests. This is why it is so important to research your guest ahead of time. Listen to the past couple of podcasts they’ve done to find out common questions and you will quickly find what not to ask.
If you want to push your podcast to the top, be the opposite of every other podcast out there. Focus on getting answers to unique questions and keep the conversation engaging.
Listen and adapt
Some of the best interviews come from questions that emerge during natural, organic conversation. Sometimes this can simply mean switching up your outlined structure, other times it can mean going off-script entirely.
While this may seem counterintuitive, this is where the most insightful and valuable content gets revealed.
The more your guest gets to talk about a certain subject, the more emotion they’ll start to put into what they are saying. This emotion leads to incredible, passionate answers. Cutting off someone’s train of thought to continue with your pre-prepared podcast questions can mean you miss out on stories and insights that keep your listener engaged.
Ask follow-up questions to capture details
Human nature is a funny thing. If you’re heading into a structured interview, you’ll likely arm yourself with some prepared statements and try to avoid certain subjects. Yet, in a casual conversation, those defenses all come down.
The more comfortable a guest gets in the conversation, the more they’ll be willing to unveil. It’s important to ask the right podcast questions, but it’s even more important to make sure you build a strong personal connection with your guest.
Once you establish that connection, you’ll find the guest gives a much more interesting interview — with openings you can squeeze into for insights not found on other podcasts. This is why follow-up questions are so important.
If you hear something that stands out during your conversation, don’t be afraid to push it a little further. If what comes from that follow-up doesn’t add value, you can simply edit it out of the final episode. It’s like the old saying goes: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
“MYTH: The podcast host’s job is to ask a question and get out of the way.”
Damn Good Conversations
Types of podcast interview questions to avoid asking
Let’s cap this article off with a quick overview of what you shouldn’t ask your guest.
Yes or no questions
Yes or no questions are podcast kryptonite. They can destroy your flow and leave you with little information to work with going forward. As a podcast host, you should always be trying to get the maximum value out of your guest. Setting them up with a yes or no question allows them to dismiss the hows and whys of the question while still, respectfully, answering.
For example, asking your guest “Did you think that was successful?” offers no value to the listener, as they will simply respond with a yes or a no. Asking “How did you achieve this success?” provides the opportunity for a much more in-depth and interesting answer.
Following on from the last point, vague questioning can be just as damaging to your episode flow.
When crafting your podcast questions, make sure you phrase them in a way that leads your guest to a story. The standard “tell us about your story” opener can be a great way to fill five minutes, but how long that goes on depends on your guest. They might have a five-minute version of their journey, or they might go off into a 30-minute monologue while you desperately try to steer the podcast back on track.
Compound questions (or “double-barreled questions”)
Quite simply, a double-barreled question is when you ask two questions at once. These types of interview questions confuse your guest and increase the likelihood that their answer will be misinterpreted.
What’s an example of a double-barreled question?
What’s your favorite part about being a marketer and why did you decide to get into this field?
As you can see, this question presents quite a dilemma for the guest. There are two questions included and it’s difficult for the guest to determine how to tackle the questions.
Rather than piling on questions to get your guest to talk, have a conversation. Take your time, ask a single clear question and build your conversation from there.
Want to see how other B2B marketers craft interesting questions?
Recorded Content is a show for small, scrappy marketing teams who are looking to launch & grow a successful B2B podcast. In each episode, we provide stories on how to overcome the challenges of launching, running and growing a show. We tackle issues with technology, content marketing, distribution and more. We help you become a B2B podcasting hero with an amazing show.
Written by Tristan Pelligrino
Tristan Pelligrino is the Co-Founder of Motion. He’s a serial entrepreneur who started his career as a consultant with large IT companies such as PwC, IBM and Oracle. After getting his MBA, he started and grew one of the fastest video production companies in the country – which was listed on the Inc. 5000. Tristan now enjoys leading the content marketing strategies of some of the most innovative B2B technology companies in the country. You can find him on LinkedIn and Facebook.