So, You Want to Be a Good Podcast Guest?
You’re an expert in your field, you have some great points to make, and you managed to get booked on a podcast. Congrats! That’s often the tricky part, but you’re only halfway there. Now you must ensure you’re doing everything you can to help your appearance go smoothly and gain traction with listeners.
Podcasts, like anything else, are often an extension of the host of the show. The recent democratization of tools has made it easy for virtually anyone to host a podcast. That’s great. It also means there are a lot of pretty bad shows out there that are aimless, poorly produced, and inconsistent. However, there are quality shows that offer a good experience and contact with the niche you’re trying to reach.
This post focuses on what to do if you are a podcast guest and tactics to put you on the “invite back” list. By following these tips, which I have honed as a veteran podcast producer, host (and guest), you’ll be a star.
Before the Show
Listen Ahead. Don’t pitch to be a guest (and don’t go into an interview) without sampling a couple of episodes. It will help you determine if you are suitable, and you’ll get a feel for the tone and rhythm of the show. Listening ahead enables you to tailor your message and speaking style to suit the audience. Besides, you’ll flatter the host if you mention her “excellent interview with X,” and that’s great for building rapport for your interview.
Introduction and Collateral. To help shows better inform the audience about who they are listening to, send a 100-word or less introduction before the recording date — even if they don’t ask for it. Sending a prepared introduction increases the odds they will introduce you the way you want.
Along with the introduction, send:
· Your website links
· Social media links
· Link to your book(s) if applicable (Also — offering to send a copy, in print or PDF, is a good idea. However, if you expect the book to be read or at least sifted through by the host or producer, send it a few weeks ahead)
· A phone number where you may be reached if they experience technical issues
· Your headshot (professional best, but a nice candid also works if it aligns with your subject matter)
· Any premium offers you want to provide listeners
· Any pre-interview questionnaires they send you — completed and sent back on time.
Prepare at Least Three Stories. Being a great podcast guest isn’t just about answering questions; it’s about telling stories. Make sure you have at least three relevant stories you can roll out during the show. This is super helpful to the show host or producer, and it makes your interview much more interesting to listeners. Focus on anecdotes or examples that listeners can “see” themselves in, as in “I once hit reply all and nearly got fired. Here’s how I talked my way out of it.”
Tell Your Network. On my shows, we view our guests as partners and want them to get the exposure their experience and expertise deserve. Therefore, we ask them to share the news that they will appear on our show on their social media channels and newsletters before and after the recording date. Guests who share help podcasts grow, and I guarantee that they will encourage the show to ask you back.
Audio Setup. Remember — the guest talks more than the host, and you should sound as good as possible! One of the main reasons people stop listening to a podcast is lousy audio. The need for good microphones is crucial, especially when it’s a multi-guest show with people calling in from different locations. If you rely on your computer’s built-in mic, it’s not going to sound very good. At best, it’s hard on the ears. At worst, it may sound like you’re shouting in a storm cellar.
Please use earbuds or headphones to make it easier to understand the hosts and prevent feedback and echo. Most shows don’t expect you to buy a fancy mic to appear — even using the mic/earbuds that come with most smartphones is a huge step up from built-in computer mics and speakers.
Record from a quiet place. My podcasting app tells me when people tune out of an episode, and most of the abandoned shows are the ones with lousy audio. Avoid open windows, sounds of pets or children, typing, fish tank filters, laundry machines, etc. Also, I cannot believe I have to say it: no eating during the interview. A sip of coffee or water? Fine. But no potato chips, sandwiches, or burritos. I mean, honestly.
I cannot begin to tell you how many good guests on our shows are tuned out by listeners because they record in places with loud ambient noise, excitable pets, or they are making annoying mouth noises.
Zoom Tip: We record most of our shows on Zoom because it’s easy for everyone to use and helps us produce episodes quickly. It also offers background noise suppression options that can help, as well as some video smoothing applications.
Video. If a show is recorded on video, make sure you (and your background) look how you want the world to see you! Also, make sure you look your best. This is a no-brainer, sure, but I’ve seen plenty of video shows with people professing to be mature, credible experts — yet they look like they just rolled out of bed or wandered in from the skate park. If that’s your image, fine by me, but if it doesn’t match up with what you are talking about, audiences may be less likely to take you seriously.
During the Show
Show up. It’s unprofessional to pitch yourself as a guest and then not show up once invited on. Did something unexpected come up? Hey, I get it. It happens. Happy to reschedule down the road. But if you “ghost” a show? That will get you on the naughty list. I’ve had a couple of these — one guest even asked to appear on my show weeks later as if her earlier rudeness had never transpired. Not good.
Relax! Many shows record “live to tape,” so they don’t usually offer “do-overs.” If you say something you did not mean to say or zone out, say so and correct the record right there on the show. We’re all human, and the audience will roll with it if you do! Asking podcast producers to go back and edit something in a recording is often doable, but it means more work for them — which may not be ideal for getting asked back.
Have fun. Remember, you’re not just sharing information; you’re entertaining listeners at the same time. Roll with it, tell relatable stories, smile, and have fun.
After the Show
Remember to share the links to your appearance on your social media channels and newsletters. A thank-you email to the producers or host of the podcast is a nice touch, especially if you tell them you shared the links and offer to come back with new info.
Being prepared, thoughtful, and easy to work with is most of what it takes to be a good podcast guest. That, and of course, bring value to the show with your expertise and storytelling.
Check out my new eBook “The Podcast Option” for stories, practical tips, and advice from my hundreds of hours as a podcast host, producer, and guest. The Podcast Option is mandatory reading for those new to podcasting, and welcome addition to the veteran podcaster’s library.
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