4 Key Tips to Crafting a Better Podcast By Nailing Your Interviews

Elle Martinez has some tips on improving your podcasting! Thanks, Elle!

Elle has been a personal finance writer for over 7 years and decided to start Couple Money to help couples learn how to build their finances together.

Through her podcast, site, and now book, Elle shares tips, advice, and stories from her own journey and others about dumping debt, taking care of family, and dealing with sticky situations that many marriages encounter.

I’ve been a podcast listener and family years before I create the Couple Money Podcast.

I remember listening to shows 99% Invisible, Planet Money, and Reply all and was just blown away by the stories.

I would be amazed at how they packed so much into 10 or 20-minute show. They always seemed to find the perfect guest or story.

Now as a creator, I have a much clearer idea of what it takes to put a show on.

Great interviews don’t always come from perfect guests.

Sometimes it takes finesse to get a fantastic interview, especially with personal finance.

Some guests I talk to have no experience with podcasts ( or being interviewed!) So they may have a hard time relaxing and opening up.

I may have an incredible expert, top of their field, but they have a hard time leaving the jargon alone for a little while and really break down how and why something matters.

Those have been learning experiences for me.

If you’re a podcaster or thinking of becoming one, I have some tips to help you improve your skills with getting the most out of your guests and serving your audience.

Master the Art of Prep

When you don’t have the budget, time, or team of an NPR show, you have to be clever with how you run your show.

If your podcast has interviews, you have to bring guests who can help your audience get a better understanding of the how and feel a connection behind the why.

Some big podcasts have an intern do the pre-interview, where they can gauge whether a ‘perfect’ guest on paper is actually good for the podcast.

I’m guessing you don’t have that option. If so, there are a few things you can do to be better prepared.

  • Read their book, articles, and/or site. It’s more work upfront, but you can get a fair sense of someone by reviewing their work. They may be a wonderful financial planner, but you may discover that they’re not a match for your show.
  • Listen to other interviews they’ve done. This can be a huge help with not only getting a sense of how comfortable they will be on the mic, but you can also bypass canned and rehearsed responses (more on that later).

Special note – before you start recording your interview, you have to have a game plan. Know beforehand where you want to go with the conversation.

Of course, every so often, you two will hit it off and may veer into a completely new and fantastic direction. Wonderful, but that’s usually once in a blue moon.

Having a game plan will keep you on track and make sure you hit the points you need to.

Hone Your Questions

You have a fantastic idea for the show and found an expert or person to speak with. However, not every guest is a natural.

To help you, your guest, and your audience, have questions ready to help move things along. One of the best ways I’ve found is telling stories.

If I can get a financial planner to stop with the lecture and instead give me some examples, my audience would get more out of the show.

We connect with stories and so that is my favorite mode to get guests into.

My favorite advice is from a CreativeLive course Alex Blumberg ran. He’s the creator of Planet Money and founder of Gimlet Media, home of many fantastic podcasts.

He has some go to questions that allow an interviewee to reflect and in some cases reliving an event.

As a personal finance podcaster, these can be especially invaluable. Here are a few of my favorites, tweaked to fit a paying off debt story.

  • Tell me when you realized that this credit card debt was too much. Where were you when it clicked for you?
  • So once you decided that you were serious and ready to knock it out, what were those first few steps that you took?
  • What was the hardest change you had to make with your money? What made it so difficult?

If I was interviewing a financial planner I would have to tweak the questions some.

  • After all these years, are there any clues that can tell you if someone is ready to follow through on getting out of debt versus someone dragging their feet?
  • Have you ever had a client refuse to cut something out of their budget? Why do you think they were so adamant about keeping that in?
  • What’s been the most satisfying part of working with your clients with paying off debt?

Notice that all of these questions are drawing out a story and some reflection. I do want to get tips on making the process of paying off debt easier, but that context can help make the interview connect.

Interview Jujitsu

Okay, so you’re there in your studio recording and you get the feeling the interview is a bit off. Maybe your guest is nervous and playing it safe or you have an expert who can’t give a concise answer to your softball question.

What do you do?

Here are some ways I steer the interview back.

  • Model: Make it easier for your guests to open up by sharing a bit about yourself as an example.
  • Interrupt: This was tough for me at first, but I’ve found that interrupting is the quickest way to get things back on track.
  • Nudge: For many of our listeners, finances can feel intimidating. If you feel confused, chances your audience will as well, so be ready to ask for clarification. I’ll ask guests to explain things in layman terms and get them to give examples.
  • Leapfrog over canned answers: Sometimes a guest is a little too prepared and will have rehearsed answers for everything. A trick I picked up from Dinner Party Download is that you can mention a previous interview you heard (see how helpful prep work can be?), bypass that to get to the story/question you really want to discuss.

By the way, if you feel like a guest is offering inappropriate advice or is trying to spam your audience, PUSH BACK.

You are your audience’s advocate. My show is about helping my listeners. So if a guest is there just to promote and offer no real value, then that guest will have to pivot.

Polish Your Gem

Before you hit publish, you want to clean up any loose ends you have.

Hopefully, with you doing the work upfront, this part is much easier.

I work hard to accurately convey my guest’ intention so if needed I will shoot an email to make sure I got things done correctly. I also ask guests for their feedback.

There you have it – a show that focused on providing value to your listeners with a more engaging interview.

Your Take

I hope these tips help you create a better podcast and enjoy the process. I’d love to hear from you.

What are some of your favorite tricks and tools for interviews?


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