How to Conduct Podcast Interviews Like a Pro

This week I invited expert podcaster Jon Nastor to the Hit Publish house where he shares his top tips for growing an engaged audience through podcast interviews.

Get ready to access the cheats, tips and hacks that will give you some serious interviewer skills (and boost your business credibility) …

Jon Nastor hosts Hack the Entrepreneur where he’s managed to get more than 100 entrepreneurs to reveal the habits, philosophies and actions that have helped in their success. By publishing show after show, Jon combatted nerves and honed his interview skills but more importantly, saw how podcast interviews could build a seriously engaged audience.

His podcasting expertise is in high-demand and he now hosts a show with Jerod Morris called The Showrunner, (also on Rainmaker.FM) which is a podcast about podcasting. What’s more, Jerod and Jon have developed a system you can use to create a highly-engaged podcast for your own business (more exciting details about that at the end of the episode).

Tune in to this episode to find out:

  • How interviews can help increase your content output (and lighten your content creation load)
  • Who will make the perfect guest for your audience — it might not be who you think
  • 3 rules for getting sought-after experts to say ‘yes’ to your interview
  • What you need to do before any interview to get the best performance from your guest

The Show Notes

How to Conduct Podcast Interviews Like a Pro

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Amy Harrison Hello. This is Amy Harrison, and you’re listening to Hit Publish, where I cover simple ways to get better results with your online business.

Hm. Who’s that at the door? Oh, yes. This week, we have a special guest. Come on in. I’ve invited expert podcaster Jon Nastor to come around to the Hit Publish house and share his top tips for conducting interviews, because interviews can help you grow a really engaged audience for your business. That’s what we’re going to look at today.

I want to thank you for downloading this podcast, and I want to thank Rainmaker.FM for hosting it. Are you ready to access the cheats, the tips, the hacks that will give you some serious interview skills and boost your business credibility? Let’s Hit Publish.

Now, while Jon fills the kettle, brews up the tea … No, not in there, Jon. The teaspoons are in the top drawer.

While Jon navigates the kitchen, I want to give a quick shout-out to a comment on a previous Hit Publish show. A couple of weeks back, we looked at how storytelling techniques from Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney could help build anticipation for your product or service. Now Francisco, who I think is a designer, wrote in to say how these techniques really made him think about Apple’s marketing: how they manage to build a story about the problem, the results people want, and then tell the story that builds great suspense for the release of their latest development.

I thought this was great. Apple is a cracking example for marketing done well and stories told really well. If you haven’t heard that episode of Hit Publish, you can go to HitPublish.FM. It’s called The Overlooked ‘Details’ That Can Get Your Business Noticed. Don’t forget to leave your own comments or questions.

I received one last week from Tony about getting people engaged with your digital marketing, and that is going to form the basis of next week’s show. Thank you to Francisco for sending in your comment, and thanks to everyone else who has been commenting on the Hit Publish shows. I would love to hear from you.

Now, it’s time for the word of the week. This week’s word, which I will hide somewhere in the podcast, is ‘larrikin,’ which means disorderly or rowdy. Keep your ears open for this one, because you won’t find it in the transcript. It’s hidden only for you, my keen listener.

How Interviews Can Help Increase Your Content Output (and Lighten Your Content Creation Load)

Amy Harrison Today’s episode’s all about conducting interviews — no, conducting great interviews — to build an engaged audience. It comes from a Dear Amy submission by Hit Publish listener Julie.

“Dear Amy,

After listening to the Hit Publish episode about getting the best audio for podcasts, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a podcast for my design business. I love talking to people. I’m quite chatty, and I’d love to interview design experts, but don’t know where to start. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself. Do you have any tips for getting started?

Yours talkatively, Julie.”

Well Julie, I haven’t done a huge amount of interviews in my life, but I know a man who has. Here he is, with the tea, and look at that. We’ve even got some digestive biscuits on a plate. Looks like we are ready to begin. Let’s have some exciting interview music.

Jon Nastor hosts Hack the Entrepreneur. He’s interviewed over 100 entrepreneurs and gets them to share their biggest hacks and tips that have helped them in their success. Jon also hosts a podcast about podcasting with the lovely Jerod Morris called The Showrunner. I’ll link to all of these in the show notes.

What’s more, Jon and Jerod have developed a system for creating your own podcast for your business. If this idea of podcasting is whetting your appetite, Jon has some more details about it at the end of this episode. The first thing I wanted to know is, why on earth would a business want to use interviews as part of their content marketing mix?

Jon Nastor: Using interviews is great, because one main reason is that you get other people or experts, if you can get ahold of them, to create the content for you. You don’t have to worry about creating a full piece.

Amy Harrison It seems that, in addition to putting out valuable content and choosing great experts to interview, it can also ease the burden for creating content. As someone who has struggled with consistent publishing in the past, I am all for this. Now I want to know, with billions of people in the world, how do you know who to choose to interview?

Who Will Make the Perfect Guest for Your Audience — It Might Not Be Who You Think

Jon Nastor: This is all about knowing your audience now, where you really, really have to. I’m going to go back to the podcasting version of it. For podcasting, you should be always speaking to one person, not to a massive audience, because one person has headphones on or is in their car or on the train, on their way to work, listening to you. You have to know that person.

You have to know what that person needs, and then you have to produce a piece of content that either is going to entertain, educate, or inspire them in some way. If you can somehow create a mix of those, then you’re totally golden. A mistake that lots of people make — I made this mistake myself — was trying to get the most popular people in your market first. I mean, “They’ve got a Twitter following of 500,000 people. My podcast will go through the roof as soon as they come on.” It doesn’t happen. That’s not the way it works.

Amy Harrison What?!

Jon Nastor: They might come on your show, but it doesn’t change it. I’ve interviewed some amazing people. All of them are amazing, but I mean amazing in the platform or the audience they have. And then I’ve interviewed some people that I thought were really, really brilliant people, but they have like 300 Twitter followers. Those shows are so much more popular, it seems, within iTunes, within my audience. It’s really interesting. That allows you then to understand your audience more and then to be able to provide that value.

I think that the key is to really know your audience and then provide that value to them in a way that is going to take them on this transformation and either inspire them, educate them, or just entertain them. You need to know that. If you don’t know that, then it’s going to be really hard to find the right person. But there is no correct, like, “You need this person with this amount of audience” or “has written three books” or “has a …” You know what I mean? There’s no metric, otherwise, except for your audience and what will take them through that transformation you’re trying to help take them through.

Amy Harrison Jon says that there is no definitive metric for choosing a guest, so don’t be swayed by the number of social media followers they have, for example. The key is choosing someone who’s going to have information that your audience loves. What’s more, sometimes it’s the little-known guests that get the biggest audience engagement, so head out there online. Find some people that will excite you, your listeners, or your readers.

Okay? You found someone? You think they’ll be perfect? What can you now do to encourage people to say yes to your interview?

3 Rules for Getting Sought-After Experts to Say ‘Yes’ to Your Interview

Jon Nastor: The biggest tip for trying to get people to say yes is that you have to get over yourself and the fact that people are going to say ‘no’ to you. It’s basics of life, right? People will say no to you when you ask them things. That’s it. You have to know that, “If I don’t ask them, and then they have automatically basically said no, because they’re not coming on, so I might as well ask.”

There’s ways to ask so that you can increase the likelihood of that. Keep your emails short. Keep your emails specific. Tell specifically why, in one sentence or two sentences, what they produce would be beneficial to your audience. And quickly, in one sentence, explain your audience to them so that they can tell, “Wow, this person actually has researched me. This person doesn’t just want me for my audience. They actually know that I will fit the show.”

‘Keep it short’ is just such a big thing. Typically, even people who don’t have massive audiences are still busy. We still get lots of emails, and it’s way easier for somebody to ignore your request if it’s too darn long.

Just keep it to the point, and keep it all based on the value they can provide. Then also, what can you provide for them? Who is your audience? How big is your audience? Even if your audience is 200 people, most people, if you could offer them a room with 200 of your audience, 200 people in there, and you ask them, and it was easy for them to digitally speak to you via Skype, speak to your audience, they totally would. Don’t underestimate the power of your audience, even if your audience isn’t massive at this point.

Really show that to your guest. Show that you understand them. Show that you know who they are, and you’ve done some research, and then show what value you can provide back to that guest for being on your show. That’s just what people need, and then they will be like, “Oh, wow, this will help my business in this way. Plus it will help them as well,” but it can’t be all about you. You have to switch that, but you have to do this in a quick, effective way.

There’s endless blog posts out there or YouTube videos where you can just type into Google, ‘how to reach out to people,’ basically, and ‘how to reach out to people above you.’ It’ll give you great tips, and really, the best one is to show that value and then keep it very short if you can.

There’s nothing worse than this email I get that’s three pages long. It’s like, “Sorry, this could be the coolest show ever to be on, but I’m too busy to read all of this.” It’s the elevator pitch, I guess. If you can’t quickly tell me about your show and about what value I can provide and what value you can provide, then it’s probably not going to be a good fit for me.

Amy Harrison While it would be lovely to have a guarantee that everyone will say ‘yes,’ unfortunately that won’t happen. But there are things that you can do to minimize rejection.

One, respect the time of your guest. Make your requests short and to the point, particularly if you’re emailing them.

Two, show that you’ve researched them. Show that you know something about them, their business, or their industry.

Three, explain why there would be value for them to appear in front of your audience. Let them know what they’ll get out of it.

Phew. Look at you now. You’ve found someone. You’ve got them on board. Now it’s time to ask the questions. How does Jon, after doing hundreds of shows, know what to ask his guests?

Jon Nastor: I definitely outline my questions. I have a sheet in front of me that has five times as many questions as I need, and then they follow themes of what I might want to cover. Again, you have to know your audience completely and what it is they’re looking for and what can help them. Then, you have to be controlling, somewhat, of the conversation, but you also have to let the conversation flow where it’s going to naturally flow.

I found the best way was, when I was starting, especially, because I was nervous interviewing people — I had never done this before — I kept themes on this sheet in front of me on my desktop. If all of a sudden they started talking about habits, then it’s like, “Okay, now I got five questions on habits.” The way I’ve now naturally learned to do it is, I have that question. All of a sudden, it goes to habits. I ask them a question about habits. They give me a great answer, and as they’re giving me the answer, I’m jotting down stuff they’re saying so that I can repeat it back if I need to.

Then I do one follow-up question on every response that they give. Some people go further. If you’re like Tim Ferriss, and you have a four-hour podcast, you can take it down that wormhole.

That’s just not my style. My shows are all 30 minutes or less. I’m trying to keep it concise for my audience, because I know that’s what they want. They’re on their commute to work, and they only have so much time. I like to follow up, because without a follow-up, it’s hard to really get the guest engaged. I do that one follow-up, but then after that, I decide where I want to take it.

Having the themes, it’s like, “Okay, now I want to talk ‘work’ or ‘projects.’” Then I can just move to the projects section and know how the conversation has gone, and then I can pick one of those questions and go from it. Each guest will be different.

This is something that, if you’re sitting down for your first interview, it sounds like I’m doing a whole ton of stuff — I am, sort of, but I’ve also interviewed 125 people in the last eight months at this point. I’ve done it a few times now, but a year ago, I had never interviewed anybody in my life. It’s one of those things that does take practice, but there are ways and there are things you can do to help yourself to set yourself up to make it easier and make it flow.

Again, just think about your audience. If your audience has an hour to listen, and they love to listen to you for an hour, then by all means, you can take that conversation that far. Maybe you can do two or three follow-up questions, but you have to know your audience.

This isn’t for you. This isn’t for your guest. This is strictly being creative. This conversation is for your audience.

Amy Harrison Jon recommends that you have a structure, but keep it flexible so that you don’t stifle the conversation with a rigid format. Respect your audience preferences, so that the content matches the time they have to listen to the podcast and reflects the depth of knowledge that they want to gain.

Developing a structure helps make sure your interview doesn’t become off track. Jon also shared with me a cheat of his for keeping things flowing and making sure people stay engaged. I love cheats.

Jon Nastor: I have now created a PDF that I have printed out each time. It’s got different sections where I can write things down as the conversation’s going. I fully cheat. I completely cheat.

I have the person’s name in bold, so that I can say their first name back to them as we’re talking, because I also know on Skype, because we can’t see each other, we’re not in the same room, it’s hard to stay engaged, sometimes. I want my guest engaged. If my guest is engaged, I’m engaged. If we’re both engaged in the conversation, then my audience will probably be engaged in it as well.

I ensure I tie them back, because sometimes people are on a cell phone, on their Skype, and they’re in a busy office. These are busy people. I have to work around them to a certain degree. It’s kind of like, “Look, but Bill, when you said this,” and then I’d go back five minutes in the conversation I’ve written down, all of a sudden, they’re like, “Whoa, this guy just said …” It’s one of those innate psychology things, where they’re like, “Oh, my first name, I love hearing my name. I’m back in the conversation.”

You have to do that, and I think that — when I said you have to either entertain, inspire, or educate — it also has to be doing that to me, the person involved in the conversation. If I’m not engaged in that in any of those levels, then I don’t think anybody else listening could also be engaged. It’s key.

I guess that would be probably even a better answer to your question about picking guests. Don’t just pick them because you think they have massive audiences. Pick them because you’re truly interested in them and what they could bring and what you guys are going to talk about on your show, because without that level of engagement of your own, there’s no way it’s going to be interesting to listen to listen to for others.

Trust me, in my 120 shows, there’s been over 20 of them now that actually have not gotten published, and they won’t, because something was just off, and we couldn’t get engaged. If I find myself, my mind, wandering during a conversation, then it’s kind of like, “Well, if my mind’s wandering, I bet you my audience is also going to be like, ‘Well, I’ll just go to the next podcast.'” There’s quite a few podcasts out there right now to choose from.

Amy Harrison Remember, you also have to be engaged with your guest. If you’re not, or if you’re getting bored, your audience will know. Combat this by making sure you pick people who genuinely excite you.

Now, it’s the moment of truth. Your guest is on the line. How can you get the best from them?

What You Need to Do before Any Interview to Get the Best Performance from Your Guest

Jon Nastor: Very highly value their time. When somebody books it with my booking link, and they schedule 10:30 a.m. to 11, I don’t come on Skype at 10:38 and then talk to them for 20 minutes, and then be like, “Now our appointment’s almost over.” I’m like, “Now we’re going to probably get started.” You can’t. If I schedule a half hour for you, with all my jibber-jabber before and after, I have half an hour with you. Anything else is me not valuing your time. Then they’re going to be kind of resentful already from the beginning. That’s not cool.

So right on time. And then it’s instantly like, “Okay, I’m going to do the intro after. Don’t worry about that. I’ll just say hi to you. My audience is this.” I specifically say who my audience is in one sentence. Then I say, “We’re trying not to teach from a third person. When I give you the question, don’t tell me what entrepreneurs are supposed to do. Tell me what you do as an entrepreneur. That’s all the game we have to play. There’s nothing I’m going to ask you that’s going to be like, ‘I need five reasons for this.’ Just tell me your specific answer to it. Now, let’s roll.”

Everyone’s kind of, “Yeah, cool, this is great.” They know who they’re talking to. They know what they’re supposed to do, so they feel like they’re providing value. They feel better about themselves now. That’s it. Then, if it’s coming up on 26 minutes, it’s kind of like, “Okay, I’ve got to wrap up.” I’ll even say, “I’ve got to wrap up because we’re at …” Then, that’s it. We do the final.

And make sure to always give your guest at the end — either you do it for them, or else allow them to promote themselves. That’s why they’re on there. They’re on there to provide your audience with information and useful content, but then they also want to promote something. That’s why they’re there — probably themselves, probably their business, probably their Twitter or their Facebook, something.

Allow them that. Don’t them cut that off for them and not let them do that, because at the end, they’re like, “Whoa, what the heck? I gave and gave and gave, and then it was just like ‘bye, see you.’”

That’s it. Value their time. Tell them exactly what you want, who they’re speaking to, and then allow them to promote what it is they want to promote.

Amy Harrison Again, Jon recommends that you value your guest’s time. Show up on time, and keep within the set time that you have outlined for the interview. Also, let them know who they’re going to be addressing so that they’ve got a feel of your audience. Importantly, let them promote their business, product, or service. Oh, and if you really want to get good results from your guest, don’t be afraid to give them a little confidence boost before they go on.

Also, it sounds like you give them almost a bit of a boost by encouraging them that anything that they say is going to be okay, so you’re not going to spring on them, “Okay, and give us your top five tips,” for then a very specific problem that they may not have in their head at that particular time. You’re saying, “Anything that you say is great, because we’re interested in you.” I would feel like that would give them a bit of confidence and also make them relax a little bit.

Jon Nastor: Exactly. Yeah, no, it does. It makes me relax, because I’ve been interviewed on a show and then three-quarters of the way through, it’s like, “Can you give me seven reasons why ‘this’?” It’s like, “Are you kidding?” I’m sitting there like, “What?” You’re trying to figure this out in your head. It’s like, “What are you doing? If you need seven steps to something, you should at least tell me beforehand.”

Amy Harrison I’ve had exactly the same experience. You get to step five and you think, “Did I say that one? Was that step two? I don’t know.”

Jon Nastor: Exactly.

Amy Harrison Yeah, and you just feel like, “Do I not know my stuff? Should I just have … ?” You don’t walk around with these lists in your head, so I usually like a bit of prep, a little bit, unless it’s conversational content: “How do you particularly do this?” I can answer those questions most of the time.

Jon Nastor: Exactly. Yeah. To even have that thought in the back of my head sometimes, going into being interviewed myself, you’re always thinking ahead, like, “Are they going to ask me some crazy question that I don’t know the answer to?” I want to just put my guest at ease, because that allows for a more natural, good conversation. That’s key. That’s key for my audience.

Amy Harrison Wow. Do you think you’re ready to do your own yet? Here’s what Jon has to say if you’re thinking about testing the waters with podcast interviews.

Why There’s No ‘Testing the Waters’ When You Start Interviewing Guests (but You Should Still Go for It)

Jon Nastor: There’s no testing waters. You’ve got to just do this. It’s a lot of work. It really is. Even if you want to do one interview a week and produce it out into valuable content, through audio, through a podcast, and then transcribing it, it’s a lot of work. But it’s super valuable. It works really well. It can build an audience for you or your business really quite quickly, if it’s done right.

As I said, a year ago, I had never interviewed anybody at this point, and now I’ve interviewed over 120 people. I have two podcasts on the Rainmaker.FM network, which is, to me, pretty impressive. It’s all based on the fact that I had never interviewed anybody. I just — literally, one weekend — was like, “I’m going to start interviewing people. I’m going to be terrible, but by the time I interview 100 people, people will think I’m an expert, and also, I’ll be really good at it.”

It was funny, like episode 98 or something, I ended up on XFM Radio, being an expert on interviewing business people. I’m like, “Wow. It actually happened a couple of episodes before 100.” It was just numbers I had made up. It was hard. I sweated before my first 20 interviews. Then I figured out this system of how to do it. I’ve got these PDFs made. I’ve got these sheets on my computer that help me through the process now. This is possible.

Then, obviously now we’ve gone further, and we’ve now created a podcasting course for Copyblogger and for Rainmaker, which is The Showrunner Podcasting Course. Within this, we’ve backtracked through everything that I had done over the past year, and then also, with Jerod Morris from The Lede, we’ve taken what he’s done over the years in podcasting, and we’ve created a system out of it. So other people can follow it and literally use every email template I used to get guests since the very beginning, the PDF that I print out when I’m doing interviews. All of that stuff is there.

Because there is a system to it. After you’ve done 120 interviews, there is a system that you can work out to really make this a lot easier on yourself, but it’s still not going to be easy. It’s still a ton of work, and it’s not an easy path to riches or anything, by any means. I work my butt off, and I have for the past nine or 10 months at this point. It can be done. I strongly suggest people to do it. Now’s the time.

You can interview people in any market that you’re in. If you interview the people that are considered experts or the people that are experts in there, eventually, through osmosis, not only do you learn so much from these conversations yourself, but you get put beside them as also an expert. It’s by far the quickest way I can figure out to become an expert in a market is to interview other experts within your market. That, to me, is awesome. That’s a great, great thing. I love helping other people do it at this point.

Amy Harrison When you sign up, what can you expect?

Jon Nastor: It’s a course, and it’s completely self-paced. There’s 12 modules at this point. You can go through it depending on where you are. We had people that have been podcasting for two years already, and we’ve had people who want to podcast in the next year join.

We’re launching August 3rd for two weeks, or almost two weeks, but we have done two previous small pilot launches only to our email lists that we built solely from The Showrunner podcast. We have just over 200 people that joined us so that we could work out the kinks of the course and then see how people wanted to go through it. It’s completely self-paced in that way.

Jerod and I have, every two weeks, we do a live Q&A session with the members. We answer everyone’s questions live, and then those all get posted to the bonus module at the end, so those are always there if you can’t make it.

The one thing that has shocked both Jerod and I, though, is we created a Facebook group, a private Facebook group, with only people in The Showrunner course, where you can get real-time feedback on, “Oh, I just got some artwork made by my designer. Here are four different designs.” Rather than you — just at home — being like, “Oh, I wonder, what will my audience like?” now you just go in there, drop the four pictures, and say, “My audience is this.” Then, instantly, you have 50 people telling you all these things, like, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

We did it as an afterthought, the Facebook group. I don’t even think it was on the original sales page for the original pilot launch. We were just like, “Let’s put this in there.” It’s been amazing. People have been freaking out about the community you get and the support you get as you are creating this show in your own little abyss. You’re by yourself usually, doing these things. You don’t have a big network around you of people you can bounce all these ideas off of.

That’s been really valuable, and also, it’s been a great place where people are like, “Well, in module 3, this video was a little bit confusing.” We’d be like, “Okay, now we go back, and let’s clarify that,” or else we can ask, “Are other people having issues?” “Yeah, no, I had trouble too.” We fixed it all and made everything better.

So there are 10 modules at this point. They’re all video-based, and then they all also have a text component to them, like a text version of each in case you prefer to read on your iPad if you wish. Then you can also just download an audio version of each of the videos, which lots of people have been enjoying for their commutes to work and stuff. If you can’t watch a video, you can at least listen to the audio versions of each.

Then, literally, every template, every PDF, every email I’ve ever written and used to create Hack the Entrepreneur, we’ve thrown in there for people. Rather than starting with a blank slate, like, “Oh, I’ve got to write this email to find guests,” it’s like, “Well, here’s one. Use this as close as you want. It’s worked really well for me since the very beginning.” Then I explain it in the video how and why it works, and then people can run with it.

You’re just not stuck. It’s not a blank page for everything anymore. It’s literally, “Here’s a system. This works. It’s still a ton of hard work, but if you follow this system, it will at least allow you to hopefully get traction quicker.”

Amy Harrison Here’s my question to you. Even if you’re not going to do a podcast, how could you interview an expert to build the credibility of your business, deliver great content, and engage your audience? Perhaps you do an audio interview, and you simply transcribe it and use it as a blog post. I’d love you to write down five people you would like to interview, and then commit to contacting at least one of them this week.

Head over to HitPublish.FM, and let me know. If you could interview anyone for your business, who would it be and why? I love getting to know more about your business, so share what you do, who your audience is, and who you think they’d love to hear from. I’ll put more details about The Showrunner Podcasting Course in the show notes, so sign up, and you’ll be the first to know when doors open to new members.

Thank you for being a fabulous Hit Publish listener. If you found this useful today, I’d love it if you popped over to iTunes and left a rating or a review. It takes a couple of minutes, but I’ve heard that, when you do leave a rating for Hit Publish, karma stores up an extra few points just for you.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to be featured in the Dear Amy column, simply leave a comment on the show page with your question or problem, or email me using That’s all for this week. Until next time, remember to take action and Hit Publish.