How to Be a Good Podcast Guest
I’ve seen many articles and blog posts on how to start a podcast, how to run a podcast, and how to host (there’s even a podcast ABOUT starting a podcast), but I rarely see advice on how to be a good podcast GUEST.
Here are some tips on making the most of the experience.
So, you’ve been asked to be on a podcast! Woo hoo! Now what?
First off: you do not have to say yes. Podcasts take time and energy, and you presumably are not being paid. On the other hand, they can be a lot of fun, and also a great way to expose more people to what you work on. So first, decide: do I WANT to do this? You can certainly ask the host more questions in order to help you decide. Questions might include:
- What topics do you plan to cover?
- Who is your audience?
- How many listeners does an episode typically draw?
- What’s unique/interesting about your particular show/style?
You can also listen to previous episodes to get a feel for the host’s style and what type of guests they have on.
Let’s say you’ve decided, yes! I want to do this! Terrific. Now it’s time to find out more information. Things you will want to know:
- What are the planned questions? This doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily stick to each one, but it’s good to have some ideas of the direction they plan to go in. You can also suggest topics/questions of your own. Most hosts would rather have you speaking about something you’re informed and passionate on than answering stock questions.
- How long will the recording session take? Typically it’s no more than an hour. Be sure and give yourself extra time before and after, so you’re not rushing around.
- How will it be recorded? Some are done over the phone; some over Skype or Google Hangouts or Zoom. You may be asked to record your part on your computer as well, for better sound, using software like Audacity, and then sending them the file.
- When (approximately) will it be released?
Once you have a list of questions, it can be helpful to jot down possible talking points, and even practice them out loud. One thing I find particularly useful is to have a list of real-life examples at hand, which may be harder to call up on the fly.
What about equipment? Ideally, you’ll have the following:
- A reliable internet connection
- A decent external microphone (not required, but can make it sound a lot better)
Try recording yourself in the room you’ll be using, on your equipment, and play it back. It’s better to spend time figuring out volume and controls when you’ve got time, and not five minutes before the recording starts!
Right Before You Go Live
Ok, it’s almost go time! Some final preparations:
- Find a quiet space, whether it’s a conference room, or a room in your home. No barking dogs. Keep your cat out (found this out the hard way). I’ve done things like ask my husband to move his car before I record, since my office is right on top of the garage, or made my son brush his teeth downstairs (he has a habit of leaping around the bathroom in the morning). Mute your phone(s)! And if you’re talking about voice user interfaces — mute your devices! Nothing like your voice assistant speaking in the background while you’re in the middle of a brilliant point.
- Put a towel on your desk to dampen sound.
- Go to the bathroom before.
- Have some water on hand.
During the Podcast
You’re all set up. What about during the recording itself?
- Avoid tapping the desk/table. It may not make much sound to you, but it will often show up in the recording itself as very L O U D.
- Mute the microphone when you’re not actively speaking / reacting
- You can make mistakes! The podcast will be edited. If you stumble over your answer, you can always say “let me try that again,” pause, and give it another go. You can even finish answering a question and then say “Actually, I don’t want to use that.” Do not feel embarrassed about having to re-do any of your responses. It’s just a part of the process.
- If there is a question you’re not comfortable answering, ask to skip it.
- Give the host a chance to speak. Yes, you’re the guest, but the host may have followup questions, or comments based on what you just said. And if you’re sharing the podcast with other guests, please, let everyone have their turn. (A good host will ensure that no one person dominates the conversation.)
- Tell your story. Illustrating your points through storytelling makes them more meaningful to your listeners.
Congrats! Now you get to sit back, and…wait. Depending on the podcast, it may take weeks or even months before it goes live. Be patient. Many podcasts are done as hobbies or second jobs. It can take time.
Once it’s out, be sure and mention it on social media. Tweet about it, put it on LinkedIn, or whatever relevant social media channels you use. Hosts will appreciate you spreading the word.
Above all: enjoy it. The host wants to have the best podcast possible. They want to help you get your message across in a way that’s accessible for others. Don’t worry about being the perfect guest: no one else has the exact same perspective and experience as you do, and that’s valuable.
Did I miss any tips? Is there anything special you do to get ready to be a great guest? Hit me up on Twitter: cpearl42.
Cathy Pearl has been a guest on a variety of podcasts, including O’Reilly Bots, Voicebot.AI, the Webby Awards, and Google Cloud. She is head of conversation design outreach at Google, and wrote the O’Reilly book Designing Voice User Interfaces. One of her favorite podcast experiences was 2343 Conversations, on which host Simone Salis asked her some deeper questions about family and how she finds spirituality in the universe.