top of page

On Interviewing a Guest

There are many podcasters both amateur and professional who do not know how to conduct an interview. If you listen and watch samples of all sorts of interviews, you'll come across moments like Anne Hathaway getting the bad end of the stick with Ricky Lo, someone who the community assumes knows how to talk to people. It's been parodied a few times to the comedic relief of netizens and was eventually overrun by a much more pleasant interview with Manny the Movie Guy.


You can say what you will about Taylor Swift but it can get awkward if the interviewer makes it a point to say she may be going home with lots of men after the 2015 Grammys. And it's not cool to mistake Samuel L. Jackson for Lawrence Fishburne, no matter how similar you think they are. These interviews were disastrous and embarrassing because the people asking the questions made one assumption too many about who they were talking to and perhaps didn't care enough to make their subject feel comfortable.

To save you and your guests the horror these people experienced, here are some tips to remember when conducting an interview:

1. It's not a job application - People don't need to know about a guest's most recent achievements unless the interview is a press tour. There is enough information online about almost every human being with a social media profile that questions about birth, family, home, and business becomes perfunctory. Instead, you can ask them to talk about themselves or describe who they are and allow them to provide the information they feel good about sharing.

The danger of asking such trite and hackneyed questions is that they've already been asked by other people. It wastes time and can probably be included as a link to their online profile. You must treat your guest as someone important, not as someone hustling for some uptown company looking for interns. Mike Acuna, in his episode on hosting, discusses the importance of finding your muse as well as spontaneity in your chosen craft. While he focuses on hosting as his topic, one can take note of his stressing on the value of observation and openness in each moment.

#WhoTheHeckIsMike Source:

2. Do your research - How exactly do you ask the right questions, then? In the YouTube series, First We Feast, Sean Evans talks to many personalities about their life, their ideals, and their personal experiences while eating chicken wings of increasing heat profiles. The wings themselves add a great touch of hilarity and even good-natured mortification to some guests but the true format of the show is an interviewer who knows the right questions to ask because they read into their guest's profile and found what was interesting and worth mentioning.

Sean Evans has the advantage of being a journalist and an interviewer at Complex Magazine but you don't necessarily need to be a professional to look back into a person's life and talk about what they find important.


3. Play with or in their comfort zones - A guest will partake in an interview for one of two reasons: they're in a press junket and are contractually obliged OR they're interested in your platform and cause.

Press release interviews are tiring and extensive, primarily because the people want to spread awareness of a film, show, or event and they have dozens of people lining up from different media outlets to answer the same questions repeatedly. Yes, it can be quite a drag but once in a while, you can find great moments where the actors are just hanging loose and probably doing a lot more good than just answering , "What's this film about?" for the umpteenth time.

When a guest agrees to go to your podcast or show, they come in with a few ideas on what you might ask of them. They can also safely assume that you will allow them some time to talk about their passions and their goals. This gives you the opportunity to lead them on and keep the conversation straightforward and delightful or have them go off on their own mad tangent and be free. In one interview, Graham Norton talks about how much work it takes before they even start filming just to make every person on the couch feel welcome. It can surprise you just how much fun three people can be under the right circumstances and topics.


Interviews can be lighthearted or serious. short or extensive, spontaneous or planned out. With practice, experience, and that bit of luck and happiness shared between two or more people in a room, you can make every single conversation insightful and memorable. In fact, if you want to see some interesting podcast interviews with someone who is passionate about the role of interviewer, you won't have to look far in the local sphere. Check out Jerald Dorado's The Powerful Komiksman Podcast on Facebook and YouTube for full episodes and clips that give you great moments in local storytelling and human interaction.

414 views0 comments


bottom of page