How to Be a Great Podcast Guest

First Published: July 02, 2021

I first started doing interviews in 2018 after I launched my ngUpgrade course. I had never been on a podcast or similar before and I was incredibly nervous. Everyone always tells you to just "act natural" in interviews, but THAT'S SO HARD. I really bombed a few of those early interviews because I was nervous and didn't know how to talk about myself on cue.

Luckily, being interviewed is a skill you can practice and get good at over time. In fact, most of the people you'd consider "naturals" have practiced a ton. Go watch a bunch of interviews of your favorite celebrity or musician from the same year. Chances are, they say almost exactly the same thing in every interview with a bit of situational variation. Their intro, how they pitch their project or product, and even many of the stories they tell have all been practiced and thought about ahead of time, even if not be scripted word for word. You've likely never noticed this because you've no one ever watches that many interviews of one person back-to-back. You can borrow this strategy and immediately boost your confidence. Here are a few ways to do it.

Most podcasts interviews follow largely the same format: they'll introduce you, then ask you some questions, then provide some time to tell the audience about something you're promoting or anything else you'd like to share. A little bit of preparation ahead of time for each of these sections can help a lot.

The Intro

For the intro, they'll say something like, "Give us a little background on yourself." This is your chance to say a 30-second bio. Write this out ahead time and practice reading it out loud until it feels natural. If you're stumped on what to write, here's a format for you to start with:

"I'm [your name]. I'm a [job title] at [company]. I'm working on [some project either at work or as a hobby]. I live in [place] with [your family/pet/plants/existential dread]. Thanks for having me!"

Keep it short, lighthearted, and memorable. Even though I've given you a format, don't hesitate to let your personality shine through. That's what makes you (yes, you!) so awesome!

The Interview

Next up is the interview section. Feel free to ask the podcast host ahead of time for the questions. Even if they don't have anything exact prepared, they can give you a rough idea of what they will ask about. This is also your chance to let them know if there's a subject you're unable or unwilling to discuss. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself. The podcast host is there to help you feel comfortable and help you. They've got a vested interest in your success as an interviewee, so ask for whatever you need.

Regardless of whether you can get questions ahead of time, it's a good idea to listen to an episode or two of the show to get a feel for the format and the interview style. This will help you not feel caught off guard when a segment comes up.

When you're on the air being interviewed, don't forget to slow down and breathe. It's okay to take a minute to think or say, "You know what, I don't know the answer to that." Most podcasts are edited, so if you mess something up because you're nervous, that's okay. Just say, "Can we start that question again and edit that out?" They'll also edit down pauses, so you don't need to be afraid of silence.

Promoting Yourself

Towards the end, the host will most likely give you an opening to promote whatever you're working on. Sometimes they'll just come right out and say something like, "You have a new course, do you want to tell the audience about it?" Other times they'll be more subtle. I missed a lot of those cues in my early interviews! They'll say something like, "You're working on something having to do with Technology X, right?"

Whatever the opening is, now is your time to shine! Self-promotion can be really awkward and uncomfortable if you're not used to it, so this is another thing to practice (out loud!) ahead of time. In the context of a podcast interview, especially when they invite you to promote, you are not bragging or being annoying by talking about what you're working on. Remember: you could have the most helpful book, course, or software project in the world, but if no one knows about it, it helps nobody.

Write out a few sentences ahead of time to talk about your project. Here's a good format for this: what, why, a big feature, and a place to go to learn more. Here's what I used to say about my ngUpgrade course in response to questions like, "So you have a new course about ngUpgrade right?"

"Yes! I built a video course called Upgrading AngularJS, which is a step-by-step guide to migrating from AngularJS to Angular. If you've ever attempted to do this migration, you know it's incredibly tedious and painful. I basically built the course I wish existed when I was trying to upgrade at my last job. It's got over 200 videos and lots of sample code. You can find a demo and a free upgrade roadmap checklist over at UpgradingAngularJS.com."

The purpose of this pitch is to get people excited to learn more about what you're doing, but that doesn't mean it has to be scammy or overly salesy. Pretend like you're talking directly to whoever would benefit most from it, like if a friend came to you with the exact problem your book, course, business, or software solves.

Promoting Others

Finally, at various parts of the podcast, you'll have opportunities to share other things you think are cool or useful. This is actually the most important part of the interview because it gives you an opportunity to promote other people, which is way easier than promoting yourself. I try to work in as many promotions of other people's work as I can, especially if they are just getting started or could use a boost for any other reason. Becoming "the person who promotes other people" is incredibly valuable for everyone. Think of a few people whose work you'd like to promote ahead of time and have links ready to go. Don't hesitate to let your authentic feelings shine through here. If someone is awesome and doing great work, tell the world about them!

Wrapping Up

That should be enough to get you started. Here are the big things to remember:

  • Write out a 30-second bio and practice it out loud a few times.
  • Write out an elevator pitch for your project and practice it out loud a few times.
  • Remember that silence is okay and it's okay to mess up. Podcasts can easily be edited.
  • Think ahead to what people and projects you'll want to promote ahead of time and find opportunities to work them in.

Finally, I asked Twitter if anyone had further advice on podcast interviews and the thread is really full of gems. Check it out! (And thanks to everyone who contributed!)

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