10 Questions to ask during Podcast Interviews when Stumped


I interviewed Demibooks at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011

Interviewing a person for your podcast is exciting and fun. It gives your show a bit of variety because people are hearing from a different source. Some people do one-on-one interviews on-site, while others interview via Skype or by phone. You want to do it but get concerned you cannot keep up with the questions. Part is a listening game, another part is to make sure the interviewee doesn’t run away with the segment.

You need questions to keep them on track. But what if you don’t know what to ask them? What if they give you a “train wreck” answer?

Reporters have this problem all the time. Being able to turn an interview into an interesting conversation is key. Especially since they bounce from one interview to the next. In order for them to keep on track, reporters have questions they can pull out of their back pocket. This is what we are going to look at – how you can utilize these questions to make the interview exciting and informative.

10. Have the interviewee explain it in their own words.

It’s easy for you to explain who the interviewee is. It’s better if they tell you in their own words. This is a great “ice breaker” question because you can give them something they should be able to answer comfortably. They take the floor and therefore feel more confident in their interview.

9. Can You Expound on… (Listen for Keywords)

Part of the interview process means to listen as well. You should listen to the whole conversation; sometimes distractions do happen. As a one-person crew, I have to make sure the camera is still running, nobody crosses through the shot, and how the audio levels look. From time to time, I miss a bit of the interview.

Listening for keywords can help. You can have them go into more detail about that part. Example: If you are talking politics and they say, “Bipartisan support,” you can have them talk more about what that is. Depending on your audience, you might even have them explain the basis of the term.

8. Who, What, When, Where, Why, How


I interview Xi3 at CES 2012

If you ever get stumped, the 6 basic questions are great to fall back on. Who are you? What is the event we are talking about? When does it happen? Where do people go? Why did you create this opportunity, How do people do this?

These keys will keep you going and pass through to a more in-depth question.

7. Name a… (or What is your…)

This question allows for a bit of a break for you. Example: They are talking about golf and go over something that doesn’t have a follow-up question. You could then say,”Let’s switch gears. Name a favorite golfer of yours,” or, “Which hole on this golf course is your favorite.” It also gives the interviewee a bit of a break in the hard questions.

If you barrage someone with hard questions, throwing an easy one (known as a “softball question”) can relax the interviewee and also give the listener/viewer a little break.

6. I Hear People are saying… What do You Think?

Bringing in public opinion can make a viewer or listener think they are personally part of an interview. In some cases they could agree with you. Other cases they start yelling at the podcast. Either way, it invokes emotion to your audience.

It also brings information to your interview the interviewee may or may not have known before. The response could also spark emotion.

That is why investigative reporters use it. “Public opinion says that you are not doing your job. How do you respond to that?”

Remember: What ever you bring up has to be supported by fact. You cannot just say “I hear people say you eat ice cream everyday,” especially if the interviewee is lactose-intolerant. That makes you look bad and the audience may write you off as a interviewer.

5. Congratulations. How did…

If the interviewee says something like “I stopped smoking two years ago,” give them a word of encouragement and ask a question (if appropriate). A great response is, “Congratulations. How did you do it?” or “Congratulations. How have you been handling it?”

4. Injecting a similar story to re-direct a question.

This is a great way to move a conversation in a different direction. Example: They could be talking about a Ford Mustang. You might say, “I remember driving my first Mustang. It got away from me a little. I accidentally drifted the car while turning a corner. Speaking of which, how important are high performance tires on a car like that?”

3. What can people expect…

This question brings the audience in again. The interviewee is also put on a spot to speak directly to the audience. Example: If you are talking iPhones to an Apple representative, ask, “What can people expect the next iPhone to have?”

2. Two Part Questions

Don’t be hesitant to put a little more on the table. Just remember the questions you asked. For example: You might be talking about a new store opening. You can ask “How have the employees been handling the influx of new customers and do you think that influx will continue?”

There are times you can get some great answers. Other times, they may forget to answer both because the one answer takes longer. You can then re-direct to the second question, or move on if you found a good keyword to work another question.

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I get interviewed by Become a Blogger

1. Take and Keep Control. If you Cannot, then Stop and ask again.

You might not think this is a question but I assure you – it can be the best one. If you feel the interview is out of control and are not getting answers; stop and bring them in a direction of the interview. Sometimes you can stop them to interject a sponsor. If you don’t have a sponsor for your podcast, remind people of what you are talking about. Example: “That is great. Once again, this is ….. and we are talking about… Let’s get back to the point…”

You are highlighting the guest unless they are avoiding the real questions.

If it’s getting completely out of control, then just say “Look, I know you want to talk about …. The viewers (listeners) really want to know more about…. So let me re-ask this question.”

A little bit of hard reporting can really get you over on the listeners / viewers.

Some other points of Interviewing

For me, this is the biggest one I have to personally avoid. Try not to crack a joke when in-between questions (unless it’s that type of interview). It’s good to inject a little bit of humor. At the wrong time it could rub the interviewee the wrong way; the audience could also get offended. Be personable and positive when the interview is just that.

If you are there to get the “hard truth,” then it’s best to look the part. Happy and smiling is not that part. If you get offended by a question, tell them that. It may piss the interviewee off a bit. It may get your audience going.

You control the interview – it’s important to remember the interview needs to be redirected from time to time. That is why these questions are so important.

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