While business professionals participate in a variety of speaking opportunities ranging from staff meetings to industry events, being interviewed for a podcast may be new to some. If so, it’s time to get comfortable with this valuable medium.
Over the past decade, the podcast format has been steadily gaining in popularity. The best part is, listeners are typically a loyal and captive audience. Experts say 42 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, with 85% listening to all or most of the podcast. And it’s not only millennials: the predominant age group for podcast listeners is now 25 to 54. For a business leader, that’s a fabulous opportunity to leverage your industry expertise, promote the benefits of your company’s products or services, and discuss the challenging problems your listeners are facing and how you can help to solve them.
If you’ve been invited to be a podcast guest for the first time, you may be wondering what to expect and how to prepare. Recently I talked with Robert Ferguson, a strategic marketing professional and host of the KEY 5 speaker podcast, where professional speakers share information and ideas with other speakers. (I was honored to appear as a guest on the KEY 5 podcast: listen here!)
Robert shared advice for podcast newbies and tips that even seasoned speakers will find useful.
Ask about the format and interview length
Podcasts can range from 10 or 15 minutes up to an hour in length, so find out in advance how long your interview will be. Also, will it be a straight Q&A format, or will you be expected to banter with multiple interviewers or other guests? Will there be questions from the audience?
Prepare for the expected and the unexpected
Typically, the interviewer will send you a list of questions or topics so you can prepare your content. You’ll want to practice your answers out loud to make sure you’re staying within the allotted time, however, don’t treat your prepared responses as a script to memorize. Doing so will make you sound stiff and inauthentic.
Also, realize that the interviewer may want to delve deeper into a particular topic and ask additional questions that weren’t on the list.
“I’m expecting my guest to tell a story or relate something that happened,” said Ferguson. “But if you’re caught without anything further to add, it’s fine to simply restate what you said earlier.”
Learn more: SpeakerTip #11: Rehearse Out Loud
Practice with technology
To participate remotely (as most podcast guests do), you’ll need a standard USB headset with a microphone that plugs into your computer. It’s important to avoid using your cell phone or a conference room phone which will produce poor sound quality. Also, make sure you have a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed.
Your host will help you get set up with their conferencing software tool. If you haven’t used the tool before (and even if you have!) be sure to practice with the technology to avoid any missteps on interview day.
Build in a buffer
Business people are often running from one meeting to the next without factoring in time to switch gears and get mentally prepared. Ferguson recommends building in a 15 minute buffer zone between your last task and the interview start time. This gives you the chance to read the questions, review your notes and collect your thoughts.
It’s also a great idea to set up a calendar alert so you’ll be sure to have that buffer zone.
Don’t be late
This may seem obvious, but being even a few minutes late shows disrespect for others’ time. According to Ferguson (and I agree wholeheartedly!), the cardinal rule for every speaker is to start on time and end on time.
Do a sound check
The interviewer will probably give you a few quick instructions before you get started. Use this as an opportunity for a sound check. Does your voice sound like it should? If something seems wrong, don’t hesitate to speak up and let the interviewer know. If there’s a technical glitch, starting again is better than completing the whole interview and finding out the recording is not usable.
Give vocal cues to the interviewer
As you finish answering a question or making a statement, it’s helpful to use vocal cues that let the interviewer know you’re done. Some people have a tendency toward “up-speak,” a vocal inflection where your pitch rises at the end of a sentence. This habit can confuse the interviewer and result in awkward pauses and cross-talk. Instead, practice using a downward pitch to signal the interviewer that you’ve completed your thought.
Learn more: Vocal Delivery: Take Command of Your Voice
Stick to the positive
“As you would for any other type of media interview, be prepared to say what’s true and what’s positive,” said Ferguson. “Denigrating any brand, person or company won’t serve you well. Like anything on the Internet, once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. If you don’t know the answer, say so rather than making something up. If you say something untrue, it can really come back to bite you.”
Make the ending memorable
A good interviewer will let you know when you’re answering the last question. That’s your opportunity to sum up and leave a lasting impression. “Be brief and have a good punch line, story or tip that’s memorable,” Ferguson recommends.
That’s good advice for any presentation. I have always stressed to my clients the importance of a strong conclusion. After all, your goal as a speaker is to make an impact, influence thinking and encourage action. A catchy sound bite helps your audience grasp your message and inspires them to share it.
Actually, all 9 tips presented here are good practices for most business presentations, so while we know they’ll elevate your podcast interview, don’t hesitate to try them out in a variety of circumstances!