So, you’ve just been booked for your first podcast.
Either a friend or close business contact puts you in touch with someone looking for more guests. They ask you to come on - you say yes. But now you need to figure out what to talk about.
Then comes a bit of panic. Am I interesting enough? Will I be the worst guest in the history of the show? What should I talk about?
Maybe you’ve listened to tons of podcasts and already know what types of guests you prefer - but now the question is how do you emulate them? How do they prep for their interviews?
Well, I don’t know how they do it, but I can speak from my personal experience of preparing for my first podcast appearance as a guest last week.
Through my prep, I identified 9 tips that will help you be a great first-time podcast guest. This list is not exhaustive but they helped me in feeling prepared for my first appearance.
But don’t take my word for it - my first podcast episode is linked at the bottom of this post if you want to listen for yourself.
If you are someone who doesn’t need to prep for presentations or interviews you likely would not have clicked on this article.
For the majority of people, especially first-time podcast guests, a little prep can go a long way. Especially if you are a business owner, your performance will reflect how people perceive your company.
Think of a job interview or sales pitch, you want to make sure your message comes off as intended. Ultimately, a little preparation will amplify your message. You don’t need to spend much time, likely an hour or two will be all you need.
As I’ll go into more detail below, you don’t need to write out word-for-word scripted answers, but having some go-to stories or practical tips will allow you to come off more naturally and not have to think as much during the actual recording.
Ideally, you’ll want to find the right balance for you between being prepared and not coming off as scripted. In general, you’ll want to prepare a few bullet points (for each known question or story you want to tell) and then fill in the gaps during the podcast.
If you haven’t already, listening to a few episodes of the podcast should be your first step. You’ll be able to discern the general format of the show, determine recurring segments or questions (see tip #2), and who the audience is (tip #3).
Imagine yourself as someone as a regular listener of the podcast. It’s woefully apparent when a guest comes on and clearly hasn’t listened to previous episodes - it’s cringy. Don’t be that guest.
Ideally, if you can discern which episodes are the most popular, you should listen to those, but be sure to listen to a few of the most recent episodes to make sure you know if the format has shifted over time.
After you’ve listened to a few previous episodes, you’ll likely be able to note which questions the host likes to ask. Generally, each podcast host has common opening/closing questions. These should not be a surprise when you are asked the same.
For example purposes, I’ve listed the recurring questions from the podcast I appeared on below:
Once you’ve identified the common questions, I recommend putting together 2-3 bullet points for your answers. Again, I don’t recommend preparing word-for-word answers, but it may be worthwhile to record yourself answering these questions and listening back/revising as needed.
Each podcast has a general persona that listens. Oftentimes, the host will either intro who the podcast is for (or its origin) in the first opening bit, or you can read the podcast description to discern who the audience is.
Presumably, you’ve been booked on the podcast because the host believes that you have something valuable to share with their audience. You want to make good on that promise.
Where possible, try to come up with an archetype of the person likely listening to the podcast. Speak to them. Tell relevant stories based on what you believe are their motivations for listening.
Now, this doesn’t mean to overhaul who you are and come off as inauthentic - but always remember who is listening.
Humans like stories. It’s what we are able to comprehend. It’s what we’re interested in listening to.
Facts and figures get lost - stories get remembered. Think about recent podcasts you’ve listened to, likely what you remember are the stories the guests told.
Where possible, you’ll want to insert relevant stories in your answers - though be brief, our human attention spans are limited.
The ideal structure you’ll want to shoot for is: situation/background -> what occurred -> results -> what you learned from the experience.
Now I am not an expert storyteller and you’ll have to find your own style, but remember that people like to hear brief stories rather than statistic heavy statements.
I recommend preparing 3-4 of your most impactful stories (be mindful of tip #3, “Know the Audience”) and potentially inserting them as reminders for known questions.
Related Further Reading: See my book notes for Matthew Dicks' Storyworthy
This is a bit of a personal preference, but I like to hear about how people (especially in a business context) help other people.
Now, this tip won’t be applicable to all answers you give, but especially when asked about your business, I recommend leading with how your product/service helps make people’s lives better.
If one of your motivations for agreeing to be on the podcast is to broaden the reach of your business and attract more customers, focusing on the results your business creates for others is a sure-fire way to be remembered.
When listening to a business-focused or self-improvement podcast, often the audience will want to take away recommendations that they can explore further.
Preparing a (brief) list of your personal favorite recommendations will allow you to insert them into the conversation at relevant times. The audience will thank you later.
Further than just being helpful for the audience, pulling from respected books/podcasts/sources will lend their credibility to you. It’s a bit of social psychology, but when someone speaks to a third-party saying something, the overall message becomes more convincing.
Personally, I keep a list of recommended books by category right on my website so I can easily direct people to my recommendations. Even if you don’t have a website, you can create a quick and dirty list of books/resources prior to the podcast.
I also like to intersperse quotes that have impacted me in a meaningful way. Akin to stories, quotes often get remembered and you’ll be able to leverage the credibility of the quote as well.
This one is a bit of personal preference, but generally, I err on the side of providing actionable advice rather than superfluous theory or philosophy.
Now again you’ll need to heed the audience here as well (see tip #3, “Know The Audience”) - if it’s a philosophy podcast, then go wild. But most business podcasts will want to drill down to takeaways for the audience (see the Tim Ferriss podcast as an example).
Normally, the host will appreciate you preemptively going practical rather than relying on theory or broad strokes.
Some hosts will bake this into the booking process, but ideally, you’d like to talk with the host prior to the podcast.
This will allow you to ask some questions (“How can I be the best guest” & “What is the Audience”) but more importantly you’ll be able to build some familiarity and connection with the host. The podcast will likely “flow” better with that shared understanding.
If you’re unable to have a prep call, read anything about the host that you can, get a feel for who they are and what they care about. Even if they can’t talk to you, at least you’ll be able to know who you are talking to.
The final tip is around tone and establishing familiarity with the host and audience. These are not podcast-specific tips and more conversational in nature, but always good to remember.
People like to listen to excited people. An easy way to exude excitement is to smile. Do it - even if it’s not a video podcast.
Be excited when talking. If you’re not a natural extrovert, you need to fake it. I say that as an introvert. The audience will feel your mood through your voice.
Use the host’s name when answering questions. Channel your inner-Dale Carnegie and understand that people like hearing their name. It also makes the conversation more familiar. Be careful though, don’t overuse their name or it’ll be weird.
I hope by reading this you have some ideas for how to prep for your first podcast and the panic has subsided a bit. Feel free to remix these tips and find ones that work for you - I am most definitely not the expert here, just someone who went through it recently and tried to put together their lessons learned.
If you have any tips/advice that would help others prepare for their first podcast, please reach out and let me know - I’m always looking to add to the list!
Finally, I’ve added a link to my first podcast below so that you can see what my prep turned into, so you can see/hear for yourself:
Good luck! You’ll be great.
After listening to my podcast (and trying not to cringe too much!), I developed some self-feedback on what I would do differently if I had another shot. In the spirit of full transparency, here’s what made me cringe:
All in all, after listening, I think the prep I conducted was helpful in helping me not seem like a complete novice, but there is definitely room for improvement. We’ll see if this is a “one-and-done” experience or if there are more podcasts in my future!