When new customers come to us for help with launching a podcast, we hear about the struggles.
We learn about how their team produced 15 versions of cover art. We uncover how the company’s leadership team took 4 weeks to review the first podcast script. And we hear about all the different names the team created before choosing one.
But one of the biggest hurdles we hear companies struggle with is getting the host to hit record for the first time.
The thing is, no one likes to sound inexperienced on a podcast (or anywhere, for that matter).
So, it’s not surprising that people, especially new podcast hosts, get cold feet when it comes to recording for the first time.
The key to getting over that initial hurdle is preparation.
In this article, I cover the top 10 things a new podcast host should go through before interviewing their first guest. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Research your guest
- Develop an objective for your podcast episode
- Identify what you personally want to learn from your guest
- Create a structure for your conversation
- Draft a list of interview questions
- Share your approach with your guest
- Gameplan the start of the recording session
- Test equipment & podcast recording software
- Practice certain areas of your script (intro, lead-in, lead-out, etc.)
- Determine how to wrap up your conversation
Research your first podcast guest in detail
With a business-related podcast, your guests are likely experts in their field. Doing your homework is critical to developing a purpose for your conversation and putting together a great interview.
Not only do you want to be able to ask your guest thoughtful questions, but you also want to be able to reference their work in a way that adds value to the conversation.
Here are the major steps I take before researching each podcast guest on Recorded Content:
- Check out the guest’s LinkedIn profile
- Review tweets or posts/comments on LinkedIn
- Listen to other podcast episodes or interviews
- Google them and see where else they’re published or quoted (if they wrote a book…you absolutely should read it)
When you conduct detailed research, it unlocks a lot of possibilities for a valuable conversation. And this detailed background on your guest will give you confidence heading into the interview.
Develop an objective for your podcast episode
The best way to develop an objective is to think like a journalist and ask yourself, “What is the story I want to tell with this podcast episode?”Your objective should also be something you can reasonably achieve in a single recording session. One of the best ways to craft an objective for your first podcast episode is by creating a title. If you create the title of your episode before you record, it’ll help you stay on track while you’re having a conversation. Some examples of objectives (or titles) from previous episodes of Recorded Content are:
Want to see how other B2B marketers get the most from their podcasts?
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.
Identify what you personally want to learn from your guest
It’s also important to consider what you want to learn from your guest. When you’re focused on your very first episode, simplify things and aim to satisfy your own curiosity.
Remember that you’re not just interviewing your podcast guest for the sake of interviewing them. You want to come away from the conversation with new information or a different perspective.
For example, when I interviewed Andrew Warner (podcast host for Mixergy) on Recorded Content, I wanted to get a better understanding of how he manages so many guests (over the course of fifteen years, Andrew conducted over 2,500 interviews).
Since guest management is a consistent obstacle for podcast producers, I was super curious about he was able to crack the code. This curiosity gave me a lot of confidence heading into the conversation because I was naturally exploring how someone else solved a problem.
Create a structure for your conversation
When it comes to a branded podcast, your target audience wants solutions. So the structure of your conversation should be based on the objective you want to achieve. Aim to help your ideal listener in a specific way.
Ok. But how do you structure the conversation so it helps your audience?
Tristan Pelligrino, co-founder of Motion and co-host of Recorded Content, says. “As a listener, if you don’t know where the conversation is going, then you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you’re going to get from that particular episode. And that’s why it doesn’t appear interesting to you.”
Having a story structure for your podcast episode doesn’t mean you invite your guest to come on the show and “tell stories.” After all, not every guest has good stories to tell or is a good storyteller.
Instead, look for the best part of a story: the conflict. You’re not looking for conflict in the sense of good overcoming evil, but in the more simple sense of the problems your customers face.
With your first episode, build your entire conversation around a core conflict. Uncover the struggles your guest faced. Identify what steps they took to overcome the challenge. And then capture the lessons learned along the way.
Draft a list of interview questions
I personally think that interview questions are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to nailing your first podcast episode.
To find the right interview questions, start by aligning each question with the star (or hero) of your story structure (your guest).
If you’re shooting for a 10–15 minute podcast episode, you’ll likely only ask between 7–10 questions. If you’re going more in-depth with a 45-minute episode, then it helps to craft anywhere from 15-20 questions.
But what types of questions do you create?
Rather than getting your guest to rattle off their resume, ask them about significant moments.
- When did you decide cybersecurity was the industry for you?
- What made you get into AI?
- I see you were an English major in college, why did you decide to build an app after graduation?
- What was the spark that caused you to switch from being a journalist at a national publication to being a content marketer at a startup?
It’s human nature to have different experiences.
When drafting interview questions, try to get unique details from your guest’s experiences and relate this back to your audience.
Share your approach with your podcast guest
Once you’ve done your research and have a list of questions in hand, share your approach (and the “big idea” you want to explore) with your guest before you head into the recording session.
This allows you to get their buy-in on your vision and questions. And it gives them an opportunity to share ideas, stories, or experiences they want to talk about.
In addition to the content of the episode, it’s helpful to share information on the technical side of things. If you’re recording a podcast remotely, provide some guidance for your guest.
- Should they wear headphones?
- Do they need a microphone?
- Are you capturing audio AND video?
By sharing the approach and technical details, you can avoid wasting time during the actual recording session. And it allows you to focus on the conversation.
Gameplan the start of the recording session
On the morning of your first podcast episode, spend a few minutes thinking about three things:
- Your mindset when you record
- The vibe you want to establish with your guest
- What you want to discuss at the beginning of the recording
Personally, I’ve found that if I’m able to get started off in a positive way, I build momentum for the entire conversation.
Before I recorded my very first podcast episode, I game-planned how I’d start the session. I imagined what I’d say when the person joined Zoom (at that time, I wasn’t using Riverside or Squadcast to record podcasts remotely). And I thought about how we’d flow into the beginning of the episode.
If you get off to a good start, the rest of your conversation will flow naturally.
“The guest experience impacts the perception of your show and your company.”
Test equipment & podcast recording software
When recording a podcast, quality is key.
But you can’t have a quality recording if your equipment doesn’t work. And when recording your first podcast episode as a host, you don’t want to spend time troubleshooting equipment right before the guest joins your session.
When you’re recording your first episode, take some time to test your equipment. This means testing your audio recording software, your microphone, and doing a thorough test recording on your own (ideally about 10 minutes).
Start by testing the recording software. If you’re using Riverside to record your podcast remotely, you can record a short clip and play it back. This ensures that your computer and internet connection are configured properly.
Confirming your equipment is good to go will give you the extra confidence you need to hit that record button when it’s time.
Practice certain areas of your script (intro, lead-in, lead-out, etc.)
I mentioned it earlier, but a script can be incredibly helpful for your first podcast episode because it gives you a launching point for the conversation.
But if you’re still worried that you might stumble over some things during the recording session, then it helps to practice.
For key moments when you want a smooth delivery, practice your approach in front of a mirror. Let the words flow naturally and get a comfortable energy level.
Before you jump on your first podcast recording, practice your intro, the guest’s name & title and your wrap up message.
Determine how to wrap up your conversation
The end of a podcast episode is an important moment. It’s your chance to thank your guest (along with re-stating their name and title) and summarize what was discussed.
So don’t “wing it” with the end of your conversation.
If you want to end on a professional and positive note, plan out the wrap up to your podcast episode. Confirm the final question with your guest. And identify how they’ll close up things on their side with the audience.
The end of your episode is also when you want to leave your audience with a call to action and entice them to take the next step.
As a new podcast host, preparation is the key to a successful first episode
Your first podcast episode won’t be your best.
But if you take the time to prepare, you’ll give yourself the confidence you need to have a great conversation.
For more tips and lessons from other B2B podcasters, check out episodes of Recorded Content. Each week, we release an episode designed to help companies get the most from their podcasts.
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.