Livestreaming and podcasting certainly is a great way to get expert opinions and content but how do we ask good podcast questions to make the episode a success and get the content we need? I’m using a very journalistic style in my podcast interviews, something I’ve learned in journalism school and later as a reporter. Then I moved it into blog writing and now it easily works in coming up with good podcast questions.
This article shares tips on how to ask the questions that get you the answers to tell a good story.
Where do podcast questions come from?
Be strategic and determine what you need to get out of the interview and how it fits into your overall show makeup. For example, on “The Business Storytelling Show,” I’ve covered why storytelling matters more than enough so we don’t need to ask about that anymore or at least not very often.
Frame your questions around the topic the guest knows something about!
Given that my show is 27-minutes, since it runs on the DB&A Television Network, I really only have time for four to five questions. Tops. So I keep that in mind and prioritize.
Also, I look at what people are searching for on Google to see what questions should be prioritized. If I’m doing a show on link building and many are asking about why link building still matters, I ask about that on the show.
Don’t overcomplicate the start
One of the easiest ways to start any interview is to simply ask:
- Tell me about <topic>?
- What’s new about <topic>?
- Are there specific things people need to know?
- What are people currently asking?
I’ve done some interviews with just asking “tell me about this.” Then they talk, I listen and ask follow-up questions. There’s been times even where the entire story was covered just by asking that question.
While the guest is talking, actively listen to what they are saying. Don’t wait for your turn to ask a question or to share a tidbit.
These steps help getting people to open up:
Give podcast guests space to answer. Don’t verbally acknowledge as that can be interrupting. Maybe nod your head if you are on-screen at the same time.
Create audio white space
In design, we have white space. You know, not every inch of a graphic needs to be filled with something. The same exists in audio. Don’t fill every second. It’s okay when there’s a short break. It allows people to think.
[Tweet “Audio white space: When nobody is talking in an interview.”]
One question at a time
I know, I know. We just wrote down three questions and we want to ask them all at once, but that makes it hard on everyone involved.
Which question should the person being interviewed answer? All of them? They may not even remember them all. They likely will just pick one. So before asking anything, prioritize, ask the most important question and then follow up after that – as necessary.
[Tweet “Asking one question at a time makes the interview easier for all involved.”]
Ask for definitions
Having definitions in your show can help with SEO. That’s why you see articles with a paragraph like this up high:
The definition of good storytelling is….
They are trying to rank for “what’s the definition of good storytelling” – as an example here.
Sometimes asking for definitions might seem like the interviewer doesn’t know the area, and some will interpret it like that. When that happens explain the thinking: I would like to see what your definition is as the expert.
Ask good follow-up questions. Don’t just go into interview mode and ask the questions on your list. Ask questions that you’d ask if this was a conversation – which good interviews are. When somebody says – for example – that they traveled to 23 countries before age 15, ask how that happened and what the countries were – if that’s of importance to the show.
Tell me more” is also a good follow-up statement that elicits more information.
More tips for the interviewer
Of course, there are ways to make this process more comfortable for the person being interviewed and the subject of a publicized story:
- Listen closely
- Open body language. Show that you care and are interested in the story
- Show genuine interest
Read next: How to improve your body language on video
Watch the (subtle) body language
Body language can easily be misinterpreted. So, be careful here. You don’t want to over-analyze it, but it’s good to keep an eye out for clues to what a person is thinking or perhaps not telling us. Bottom line: Don’t guess what a particular body movement means and share it in a write-up of a story, but the observation certainly can be used in your own mind to think about what else to ask next during the interview.
For a couple of decades in the field, I’ve seen it to be fairly common that people want to share their stories. People talk to talk, connect and share experiences. It’s what we do. Many business people have also seen the value in getting their messages out there and being on podcasts.
But it can feel harder to be on a podcast. Why? There are several reasons. People want to:
- look good.
- sound smart.
That’s why it’s important to build a relationship with your podcast guests and re-assure them:
- This is a conversation
- I don’t really ask hard questions
- It’s okay if we disagree – sometimes that makes the show better
- No worries if you say something wrong. Just correct yourself.
Listening closely and building a meaningful connection with the subject of a story can help us build stronger and more authentic connections and in turn help us share better, more accurate and meaningful stories.
Interviewing and corporate storytelling is certainly a skill. One that is more and more important as companies are trying to find ways to differentiate in verticals that are increasingly crowded.