So, you’ve landed that big podcast interview you’ve always wanted. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people are going to hear your voice on that show. They’re going to listen to what you have to say. Maybe, they’re going to go and buy your book(s) afterwards.
And now you’re nervous, and stressed out, and you have no idea what you are going to do.
Maybe you’re a natural introvert. Maybe you’re shy, or you don’t like talking in front of people. You’re nervous that all your words are going to be recorded. Perhaps you have that little bit of knowledge in the back of your mind that other people are going to be listening to your conversation later on, so you’d better say all the right things now and not make a fool of yourself.
I’ve been there. And I’ve come out the other side. So today I thought I’d give you a couple of helpful tips that I’ve learned along the way. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but hopefully some of them will be useful to you.
Here we go:
1. Don’t try to wing it.
I honestly don’t remember who told me, but one of the first pieces of advice I received when I told people I was going to be on a podcast was, “You’d better not write anything down. Just wing it. It has to sound natural.”
No disrespect to whoever gave me that advice (seriously, I do not remember at all), but it really messed me up. It sounds really smart, right? You certainly don’t want to sound like you’re reading from prompt cards. But by not writing anything down at all, and trying to just wing it, I ended up in a complete emotional breakdown while I was in the recording session with the interviewer. I felt physically incapable of responding to the questions at all. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Not pleasant. Not at all. Thankfully, she was gracious enough to let me try again at a later date, but I still felt like a fool.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are certainly people out there who can wing just about anything and come away with a brilliant interview. There are people who are stifled or hampered by outlines or written out answers. This is definitely not a hard-and-fast rule of any kind. If you are comfortable with winging your interview, go ahead. But at least study the questions ahead of time, and maybe mentally work out the basics of what you are going to say. My interviewer, Pam Barnhill, sent me a list of questions way before the recording date so that I could study them and figure out just what I was going to say. As I said, the first time around I forgot everything I had so carefully worked out in my head and was unable to do the interview at all. So I went back and took my time and wrote down an answer to every question, even if it was just a few lines. We didn’t end up using all of the questions in the podcast, but at least I felt secure knowing that I had a response if one was needed. I even went ‘off script’ a couple of times.
Even if you don’t write out your full answer to every question, it’s probably best to jot down a couple of bullet points of what you’d like to touch on. A sparse outline is better than no outline at all. A quick glance at your notes should remind you of what you wanted to say if you forget in the middle of the interview.
2. Do ask for do-overs.
The nice thing about podcasts is that they are recorded and edited before anyone else gets to hear them. It isn’t like being on live radio or TV, where if you mess up you don’t get a second chance. If you get off track or flub your words, you have every right to ask the interviewer for a do-over. You can say the line again (hopefully correctly this time) and the interviewer or whoever does their editing can easily go back and edit out the mistake. You aren’t live. Everybody messes up sometimes. Even the interviewer may have to do over their lines at some point. Don’t hesitate to ask for a quick second try if you need one.
3. Do stay on topic.
Podcasts are great for getting your name and maybe your work in front of others, but they shouldn’t act as a platform for you to talk endlessly about your book or make some kind of big sales pitch. If the interviewer wants to talk about your book(s), go ahead and talk about them. But if the topic of the podcast is, I don’t know… dogs or something (stupid example, but bear with me), then trying to make a big sales pitch in the middle of your interview isn’t really going to work. If people listen to this hypothetical podcast to hear about other people’s opinions on dogs, then they aren’t going to want to hear your big speech about how amazing your book is instead.
Now, hopefully the topic of your podcast relates a bit more to your writing or your area of expertise than dogs probably does (unless you do happen to write about/be an expert on dogs), but that doesn’t mean that you can still go ahead and make a big sales pitch the focus of your interview. As I said a few minutes ago, people don’t listen to podcasts to hear authors brag about/try to sell their books. You are a guest chosen to speak about topic X, so you’d better talk about topic X, and if the interviewer also wants to talk about your book(s), that’s great. But selling something should not be your main focus. Your main focus should be to say something interesting about the topic, and to entertain people.
I hope you enjoyed this little article! I’m glad I have some advice to share in this area, and I hope you find them helpful. SHAMELESS ADVERTISEMENT: If you’re interested in my podcast interview with Pam Barnhill, you can find that right here.
Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you again soon!