Six Tips to Conduct the Best Podcast Interviews

Podcast interview
Doug Downs

I have a statistic I use in my media training and presentation coaching workshops. By my calculations I’ve done ~15,000 interviews as the interviER. I was a journalist for 15 years doing about three interviews per day (at least) and now as a full time podcaster I’m doing at least one or two per week. That overall number is a guestimate but it’s probably close.

I can tell you first hand, interviewing is not a natural skill, no matter what anyone tells you. It’s a skill that’s constantly honed and refined. And it involves watching/listening back to each interview to see where you could have taken things. What you missed in the moment.


By far my favorite interview of all time was comedian John Candy. Just me and Mr Candy (“Call me John”) in a small recording studio. I was so excited and had a whole list of questions for him but didn’t ask most of them. It was because he genuinely made me feel like a friend just shooting the breeze. John Candy was magic and he somehow brought out the best in me as the interviewer.

Whether you’re a seasoned podcaster or just starting out, these six tips will help you conduct the best podcast interviews.

1. Do Your Homework

Preparation is key to conducting a great interview. Before the interview, research your guest thoroughly. Learn about their background, achievements, and areas of expertise. This will help you craft thoughtful and relevant questions. Your guests will appreciate the effort, and it will show in the quality of the conversation. Moreover, being well-prepared allows you to steer the discussion in interesting directions and avoid generic questions.

2. Create a Comfortable Environment

Making your guest feel comfortable is essential for a natural and open conversation. Start with some small talk to break the ice and create a relaxed atmosphere. Ensure your recording setup is professional but not intimidating. Let your guest know what to expect, including the interview format and any specific topics you plan to cover. A comfortable guest is more likely to share candid and compelling stories.

In conversation. One person listening closely3. Master the Art of Active Listening

Active listening is a crucial skill for any interviewer. It involves fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to your guest’s answers. Show genuine interest in what they are saying, and don’t interrupt. Instead, use non-verbal cues like nodding and maintain eye contact to show you are engaged. Active listening allows you to pick up on intriguing details and ask follow-up questions that lead to deeper insights.

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Crafting open-ended questions encourages your guest to provide more detailed and thoughtful responses. Instead of asking yes-or-no questions, frame your queries in a way that prompts your guest to share stories and experiences. For example, ask “What inspired you to pursue your career?” instead of “Did you always want to do this job?” This approach not only makes the interview more interesting but also provides richer content for your audience.

5. Be Flexible and Adapt

While it’s important to have a plan, being adaptable during the interview can lead to unexpected and valuable insights. If your guest touches on a compelling topic, don’t be afraid to deviate from your prepared questions. Some of the best moments in interviews come from spontaneous discussions. Trust your instincts and follow the conversation where it naturally leads.

6. Go Beyond the Script

If all you’re doing in the interview is asking the questions you’ve drafted in advance, the interview isn’t going very well. While prepared questions are important, relying solely on them can make the conversation feel rigid and unengaging. Use your questions as a guide, but be prepared to explore new topics that arise during the interview. Listen closely and be ready to ask follow-up questions based on your guest’s responses. This approach will create a more dynamic and engaging interview that resonates with your audience.

By incorporating these tips, you can enhance your podcast interviews and create content that captivates and engages your listeners. Happy podcasting!