No. 060 How to Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews

This is the third lesson in our three-part mini-course about how to book, plan, and execute engaging podcast interviews.

In this lesson, we tie the entire interview process together. Sometimes the booking and planning stages can seem unnecessary or overly-complicated, but as you’ll learn in this lesson, it is worth the effort.

Along with this dive into interviews, Jonny and Jerod provide two more podcast recommendations for your listening enjoyment:

Listen, learn, enjoy …

The Show Notes

No. 060 How to Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews

Jerod Morris: 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

Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?

Welcome back to The Showrunner. This is episode No. 60 of The Showrunner. I’m your host Jerod Morris, VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I am joined, as always, by my co-host, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur, the bestselling author of Hack the Entrepreneur, and so many other things as well. Jonny, it is a pleasure to talk to you today.

Jonny Nastor: The pleasure is all mine, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: It’s always fun talking to you on these episodes.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it’s great.

Jerod Morris: Today is another special episode. We are continuing our series in which we are, right here, live on these Showrunner episodes, recording the audio that will be used inside of a mini course that we’re eventually going to be using and promoting and using as an opt-in and a reason for people to subscribe to The Showrunner.

Just for anybody that may just be coming to us here and your first episode is episode 60, what we’re going to be doing today is recording the audio for part three of a mini course that Jonny has been working on called How to Book, Plan, and Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews.

If you go back two episodes ago and four episodes ago, you’ll get to hear the audio for How to Book an Engaging Podcast Interview and How to Plan an Engaging Podcast Interview. Today, we’re going to talk about how to execute an engaging podcast interview. Then, in the future, we will then be putting these, the actual audio that you’re hearing on these episodes, we’ll be putting that into a mini course built on the Rainmaker Platform using the Learning Management System of the Rainmaker Platform. We’ll be putting that into a mini course.

We want you to be able to see this entire process, just kind of out in front, see it from the beginning all the way to what the final result is. We’re just showing you our work as we go. That’s the big idea here. So what do you say?

Jonny Nastor: Very cool.

Jerod Morris: Are you ready to record part three?

Jonny Nastor: I think I’m ready to record part three.

Jerod Morris: Are you?

Jonny Nastor: I are.

Jerod Morris: All right. Let’s dive into it right now. Here’s part three of the mini course How to Book, Plan, and Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews.

Lesson 3 of How to Book, Plan, and Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews: Execution

Jonny Nastor: Welcome to part three of the mini course How to Book, Plan, and Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews. In the first two parts, we went through how to book engaging interviews, how to schedule them, how to get your guests, how to find them, and then how to plan, how to really get ready for what is now the lesson of the execution, all the steps leading up to this.

Obviously, when we think of hosting our own interview-based podcast, it’s all about the interviews. There is, obviously, the big steps leading up to it, but it’s game time, as they say.

In how to Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews, we’re going to go over three main parts. The first part is the foundation of the execution. The second part is going to be focus on a better conversation, not on being better. Then, in the third part, we’re going to make sure to keep our eye on the ball.

Part 1 of Execution: The Foundation

Jonny Nastor: Let’s start with the foundation.

Use the Info You Gathered in the Planning Phase

Jonny Nastor: The first step to the foundation is to remember back to the planning phase, which is where we did our research. We want to do our research so that we can go deeper with our guests. If our guest is promoting a new book, a new course, or whatever it happens to be that she is wanting to promote, we, obviously, need to have done the research. We need to have read the book or at least know what it is in some way.

When we want to go deeper with our guest, this is only able to happen if we have taken the time to learn about our guests, learn the basics, so that we’re not asking questions that anybody who knows that would just be like, “Woah, what are you asking that question for?” We need to really make sure we’ve done that. It’s completely useless to have if we don’t have it with us at this point.

Make sure you have all those interesting facts, resources, names, their website, everything written down, so you’re not asking it on the show as if you don’t know–because you don’t know. The absolute key is to come in as a professional and come in backed with research like any good reporter, good journalist, or good interviewer on television or radio would do.

Stay Focused on the Interview

Jonny Nastor: The second part is … and this almost seems like it doesn’t need to be mentioned, I wouldn’t have thought. But having interviewed over 200 people, I’ve been told on numerous occasions about nightmare scenarios of people being interviewed on other shows, and a common occurrence, apparently, is people multitasking while hosting an interview, meaning they can hear clicking and typing going on and things happening in the background–phones beeping, all these kinds of things.

You need to absolutely stay focused. If you were having a conversation with this person across a desk or across a table in a coffee shop and you were constantly checking your phone, sending out a Tweet, or typing on your computer, the person would be not engaged. They would not enjoy the conversation, and they wouldn’t share with you like they would share. Plus, they’d be really, really off-put because that would be a very, very rude thing to do.

As much as this probably isn’t you that does this, just know going into it that you need to do this. You need to do this, and you need to make sure that your guest does the same thing. Please turn off all notifications. Make sure your phone is face down, so you don’t see it. Make sure your Skype is turned to
‘do not disturb,’ all those basic things. Close your email, all that stuff. Be willing to focus 100 percent on the conversation. It’s absolutely necessary.

Use and Take Notes

Jonny Nastor: Then, the third part of this foundation is to use and take notes. This correlates really well with the research. I will share a link to this where you can a get the PDF that I use to take notes, but it’s really, really important to have a way to take notes in a fairly standardized way, which will evolve over time for you.

The way mine works is, it’s got the person’s name at the top. It’s got a brief bio where I can write what they’re the founder of, what companies they’ve run, their history timeline of what jobs they came through or school they went through. I can know, and when things come up in conversation, I can look and be like, “Oh, wow, they’re talking about university. Okay, now I can say, ‘When you went to Stanford,'” and people are just like, “Wow, how does Jon know that I went …” It’s really helpful.

You’re doing that research, so have this in front of you. Then, obviously, have the resources–make sure to have links to their book–all of those things written so that you can come up with them during the conversation. It’s really, really a useful thing. I don’t think that we can engage in the way that we want to if we’re not willing to put in that work and do that upfront.

Create some sort of way to take notes that are standardized, and it’s easy. Don’t type them because you’ll hear it, but use a pen and a paper beside you. Use it to not distract you at all. But just use it so you can constantly stay engaged and take the conversation deeper.

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Add a Video Element to Interviews

Jerod Morris: You mentioned these horror stories about people multitasking and doing all of these other things while they’re conducting an interview, which I guess we will do sometimes. When we’re in the privacy of our own office, there’s no one watching us. We’re not on video, so the other person can’t see us.

We think they won’t be able to notice us being rude if there’s not something audible they can hear even though sometimes the typing on the keyboard, a pen click, those things are heard even if we don’t think that they are. What do you think about adding a video element to the interview even if you’re not going to record the interview?

I’ve had people that have interviewed me that have done this, and I’ve done it on some as well. Using Google Hangouts or having Skype video open so that you can see the person, interact with them, and make it more of a real-life conversation, almost like they are across the table. Do you recommend that people do that?

Jonny Nastor: If you are comfortable with it and if your guest is comfortable with it. I’m not really comfortable with it. I think because I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of them like this, like we’re doing just with audio only, so I find that, like right now, I’m looking out through my office window, staring out at the lake. I’m not accustomed to speaking into the webcam on my computer. It looks like I’m distracted, perhaps, is what I’ve actually been told.

I’ve noticed by watching videos back, because I don’t do it very often, that I don’t pay attention in that way, so I’m not looking at my guest because I’m basically on the phone. I can do anything. My head can be anywhere, but I’m really engaged. I’m not seeing really anything around me. It doesn’t help me. It adds a level of, I don’t want to say anxiety, but I’m focusing on that now. I’m not focusing on the conversation.

Some people are really, really comfortable with that. I’ve had a few guests that absolutely just ask, “Can we just do it on video? I way prefer it.” I’m like, “Yeah, of course. Let’s do it.” It works out well because it makes them more comfortable, so by all means. But I find that lots of guests will ask me, “Is this going to be video or just audio?” I’m like, “Just audio.” And like, “Oh, good because I didn’t prepare to look good,” or, “I’m in an office that’s cluttered,” or all these different things.

It’s really, like all aspects of this, about making your guest comfortable, so they can do their best performance. I know myself, as a guest, I prefer to do just audio because I’m so comfortable with it, and I can give a better performance with just audio.

Jerod Morris: Would a general rule of thumb be to have a default for your show? Like your default is that you just do audio interviews but to be flexible if someone requests an alternative, or would you suggest that folks request that to the people that they’re going to interview, like make it their choice if they want to do audio and video? Or does that just complicate the booking process and scheduling process?

Why Having a Default Approach to Audio vs. Video Is Best

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, absolutely complicates the booking process. People want you to know what’s best, what will get the best performance. If you put it to the person and sell the idea like that, like, “This is how we do it. You have headphones and a microphone, and we do audio only because it actually provides better audio quality than streaming video–all these things which make it better for the end listener. When it’s better for the end listener, more people will listen, enjoy it, learn from you, and want to know more about you.”

Jerod Morris: Perfect.

Jonny Nastor: People very rarely argue with that. I’ve actually found that it’s typically people who are significantly older that want video. The two people that I can think of that I needed to do it with were like 75 plus. They just really needed to be able to see me to make it work. I was like, “Totally, yes. I want you on my show, and I’ll do anything it takes to make you have a good performance.”

The quality of audio at the end is detracted from it, so it’s not the best. But it’s worth it. Like Brian Tracy, I had to do video. I still have videos of it. I’m thinking of doing something with it, but I look like heck because I’m just in my office, unshaven, thinking I’m doing audio all day. He’s in this crazy office. He has his books all stacked. That’s how he does it. He was like, “It was too hard for me to do just audio,” so I focused.

Part 2 of Execution: Focus on a Better Conversation, Not on Being Better

Jonny Nastor: All right. Part number two is to focus on a better conversation, not on being better.


Jonny Nastor: The first step to this is to listen. As much as I want to call it a ‘conversation’ that I’m having with my guests, it really shouldn’t be so much a conversation. I’ve learned to not be so selfish or just self-indulged that I think that I can come up with that many unique stories and things to say over 200 interviews. This is completely a mistake I made for the first 50, where I would interject my stories and things, and I just thought it was cool. Then I realized that I’m saying these same stories over and over again.

To the person I’m having the conversation with, it’s possibly kind of interesting, but anybody listening is just going to be rolling their eyes like, “Oh, wow, Jon, I’ve heard this story about your daughter 14 times in the last month.” I don’t want to do that–especially because I’m batch recording interviews, so things that are happening right then end up in seven different interviews which might take a couple weeks to get put out. It was something I couldn’t do.

That was me trying to be better and not focusing on the better conversation. When you’re listening, which is the most fundamental concept of all good conversations, it’s the hardest part of us to do. It’s what shows professionalism in interviewing. I think it’s the reason why I get complaints about the multitasking.

Anybody can become an interviewer now. That’s both an amazingly good thing and an amazingly powerful thing, but obviously, it can be really terrible because you don’t have to work your way up. There’s no gatekeeper that’s going to be like, “Actually, you’re not a good interviewer yet. You don’t know how to deal with your guests yet, and you don’t know what your audience wants yet.”

It’s just us with microphones. We need to learn to take ourselves out of it and just to listen. When I’m talking, I’m in control of the conversation, and I don’t have to hear anything because I’m not interested. It makes us the center of attention, which makes us feel better. It’s my show. I should be the center of attention, and we get this obsession with talking instead of listening. This is really part of having that certain amount of bad radio in us, as we say.

That really stems from, with myself, where I really wanted to be at the forefront. Therefore, I put myself into it too much. I didn’t listen enough, and I didn’t allow, as we went over in the previous lesson, which was allowing my guest to be awesome. That really should be our focus. As much as I’m going to tell you right now to do that, I also am aware that it’s a lot easier said than done. I really do think it takes 20, 30, 40, 50 interviews to really start to even grasp that and to be comfortable with allowing your guest to just share and to you to not be a part of it.

You need to know and you need to be confident that you’re the medium. You’re the reason why these guests are sharing in the way that they are. That’s more than valuable enough. You’re not going to get overlooked. You’re not going to get forgotten about by your listener. Trust me. You’re absolutely not.

It’s a weird thing because, the more we pull ourselves out of it, just listen, and allow our guests to open up, the more, obviously, our listener enjoys that conversation, enjoys what’s happening, gets more out of it, and then values you even more–even though it seems like you’ve done less. It’s a weird thing, and I know that we have to work through it. Just try and really stay focused on that conversation by really, really listening, which obviously goes back to don’t multitask. Don’t do anything else. Just really try and be present and listen in the conversation.

Use Open-Ended Questions

Jonny Nastor: The second part is to use open-ended questions. When we ask questions in a certain way, that allows our guest to share stories. We all know that stories help people learn. They engage us more than anything, but if we ask questions in the wrong way where they’re too closed, it doesn’t allow our guest to share in that way. It allows them maybe just say yes or no kind of thing. We don’t want that. We want people to be able to share that. We want to allow our guest to … huh, how am I saying this? I don’t know how to explain open-ended questions. I ask them, and I know the importance of them.

Jerod Morris: I think you’re doing a good job of explaining it, though. What you said right there because, if I ask you a question, like, “Hey, what did you have for breakfast today?” you’re going to tell me eggs and toast. But if I ask you, “Hey, how was breakfast today?” now you might tell me about the conversation that you had with your daughter. You might tell me what it was like cooking the eggs, and how the toast got a little bit burnt, but you kind of like burnt toast because back in the day your grandma used to burn your toast. It’s that difference.

When you ask that closed question, it’s like you’re suggesting that there’s going to be a specific answer to it. When you ask the open-ended question, like, “How did that feel? What was that like?” people are naturally going to think story and detail and be more expansive and expressive with their answer. That’s what you want because that’s what gets you to the good stuff for your audience.

Jonny Nastor: Beautifully said. This really, again, correlates to us wanting to be part of the conversation too much. Often times, I’ll hear people ask questions that involve them. Like, “Oh, yeah, well, I did this, I did this, and I did this, and have you done that, too?” It’s like, well, you didn’t really need to make sure to fit in all that about yourself first. I really believe that this is a part of being comfortable with not being the center of the conversation and allowing your guest to explore the concept.

Just trying simple things like, “What was that like? What did that feel like? Do you remember your last day at work? Can you tell me the feelings as you walked out of the office?” I remember that was one of the first questions that I had written before I even started Hack the Entrepreneur, but it was like, “When you walked out of the office, that very last time, can you just tell me how that felt?” I’ve used it like five or six times, and it was horrible. It just didn’t work. It was too like, “Oh man, that was like 12 years. I remember it feeling good, I guess.” It didn’t work.

It was the concept of having these open-ended questions that allowed people to dive into the story, which makes for the exploration of those deep moments within your guest–especially if it’s something that maybe they haven’t had to explore recently. Then they get engaged by that, and they want to go deeper into it. Then they’re enjoying it, and obviously, when they’re enjoying it and when you’re making your guest awesome, they get a great feeling from it.

They feel like they’ve done well for your audience, for themselves. They’re proud of it, and when they’re proud of it, then, luckily, they typically want to share it and send that out to more people once it’s done. They feel like they’ve provided value.

Why Awkward Moments Can Sometimes Build Audience Engagement

Jerod Morris: Can I interject something here real quick?

Jonny Nastor: Of course.

Jerod Morris: Just because I think it’s important. Obviously, at the beginning of that discussion of open-ended questions, you lost your train of thought there a little bit. There was that awkward moment with a little bit of silence.

Something I learned from you is about giving your guest or the person you’re talking with space. Not always jumping in right away with something to try and cover up some sort of silence or some sort of even awkward moment. There’s a reason why we’re not going to delete that or edit any of that. Probably what will happen when people are listening, they’ll start leaning in a little bit and listening. Sometimes awkward moments of audio can actually increase your engagement.

You don’t want to do it too far. There’s a point where you don’t want it to go on. But I’m wondering, in that moment, is that an example of a place where, if this was an interview–and it’s not an interview, so it’s a little bit different–you would have jumped in sooner to ‘save yourself’? Would you have let that go on a little bit? How would you handle that, and how is that a part of executing an interview?

Jonny Nastor: That’s a great point. Because it’s not an interview, I would have dealt with it differently. But it was the very reason why we ask these sorts of questions. I know now, absolutely, that open-ended questions are essential. I know that open-ended questions are a reason why people listen to my show.

I was reading an email from a listener yesterday, and she went through my questions and how they helped her. She literally said, “I love that you use open-ended questions,” which is weird for a listener to actually be aware of what those things are.

I know how essential it is to the good conversation. It’s one of those things that I do all the time. I know the value of them, but to try and put it into words took me some time because I was literally just staring straight ahead trying to synthesize the idea to myself and then to be able to put it out. Those are the moments, to me, when I ask a question and I can hear somebody, like I was, going through that, I know that they’re not just giving an answer they’ve given 1,000 times.

It’s not about asking necessarily a ‘better question.’ It’s not about outshining somebody because you dug so deep into this classroom they had in grade three, you found their teacher’s name, and you’re going to ask them a question where they literally just aren’t going to know the answer to. You’re going to make them look like a fool, and it’s not going to help.

We all want those answers that show we are a great interviewer and that our guest has gone somewhere that they don’t always go. Especially if you have a guest that goes on a lot of shows, sometimes when you start asking questions, they’re already answering you before you’ve even asked it because they’ve been asked it so many times. We don’t want that.

It’s funny that you can go so simple, like, “Well, how did that feel?” It seems like too simple of a question that you would never want to answer that. Most people don’t. Most people want to have some convoluted, really brilliant question, and I don’t even think that we always want those questions so that we get a good answer. We want it because we want somebody to come back to us and be like, “Man, you asked really good questions.”

The point to it isn’t about you being the better part of the conversation. Remember, we’re focusing on a better conversation, not on being better. We don’t want to out-ask questions. We don’t want to be the person known as asking those really deep, convoluted questions. Just ask questions that allow your guest to be awesome. That’s really it. Those open-ended questions are simple. They’re short. They allow your guest to explore an idea or a concept. That’s it.

Go with the Flow

Jonny Nastor: All right. The third part is to go with the flow. This is something that I have absolutely been guilty with. This whole lesson is just a confession of the mistakes I’ve horribly made over 200 interviews. I’m now realizing that as I’m reading this. It’s to go with the flow.

I still have a lot of pre-formatted questions. First question is always the same. Last question is always the same on Hack the Entrepreneur. I do have questions in between that I like to get to. When you fail to go with the flow, your guest will be talking to you, and you’ll come up with this great idea or this great story to interject–or else I’ll be focusing on that next question that I just want to get to.

I’m trying to take my listeners on this journey, which is what I need to do, but it will be me literally just sitting there waiting, impatiently probably, as my guest is telling me a deeply heartfelt story and exploring some idea in some very unique way that she hasn’t done in a long time. And I’m kind of ignoring it because I’m just waiting until I can cut in and be like, “Yeah, great answer. Now my next question is about something completely different. But it’s already on my list, and this is what we have to do.” It doesn’t work.

Before I started my show … and this goes back to Tropical Think Tank years ago with Chris Ducker. We were talking about podcasting, and he gave this example about how he said one of the worst experiences he ever had on a show was being interviewed by somebody. He’s like, “We were talking business … yes, we were talking about it, and the way this question was positioned, it allowed me and I opened up about something about an experience with my son when I was out with him, something we did together …”

I can’t remember the specifics. He was like, “I’ve never shared this before. I felt vulnerable, and there it goes. Literally, as soon as that was done, the person was just like, ‘Okay, so when you’re hiring virtual assistants … .'”

He was just like, “The rest of the conversation I didn’t even want to talk. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you even listening to what I’m saying? You’ve been calling this a conversation until now. It’s so obviously not a conversation. You have things that you think are going to make you look good and smart and you just want to get to those. You don’t care what I’m saying. It’s like I’m not even a human being. You just want me to say certain sound bites about things.”

He’s like, “When you’re doing podcasts and when you’re doing interviews, please don’t do that.” That’s going with the flow. Interjection is fine if it reinforces the point, but keep it short. Don’t let it derail the thought process of your speaker. When they’re giving that answer to your open-ended question, if you want to put something in there that pushes it in the right direction, you can, but don’t do it so that it knocks it completely off.

Don’t let somebody answer you something that really, truly means something to them and is allowing them to be vulnerable and share with you in that deep way that you are truly looking for if it doesn’t jive with what you’re trying to do. Ignore what you’re trying to do at that point, and really, truly go with the flow.

It doesn’t matter … some of the conversations I’ve had that have got the most response from, we ended up talking … I’m going to say briefly because it’ll be five minutes or something only because I know we can’t go too far into some tragedy in someone’s life because, one thing, I’m not equipped to do that emotionally with someone. but I can’t ignore it. It’s foolish to ignore it. It’s disrespectful to your audience and disrespectful to your guest.

So keep your flow, but make sure that you know where you need to end up with that transformation, but at the same time, always go with the flow of the conversation. This is really going back to that listening. Make sure that you’re aware and you’re present always. Don’t ignore things when they come up. Allow it to progress or evolve naturally, the conversation and where it’s going to go.

How Jerod Uses Notes to Stay Focused

Jerod Morris: I tell you, this last one here, go with the flow, I know this is the one that I, as an interviewer, struggle with the most simply because my mind will sometimes start to wander. I’ll also be struck with this feeling of anxiety about like, “Okay, at some point, the other person is going to stop talking, and I have to have something to say.” This is where it comes back to your foundation, Jonny, and number one, using and taking notes.

For me, being able to take notes and write something down when they say something and it sparks a potential question, I can write it down. Now, I don’t have to worry about remembering it. I’ve got it written down, and I can go back to listening. Also, just removing other distractions so that you really can sit there and listen and engage.

Then, almost to a certain point, it’s like meditating in a sense where your mind may start to wander and something that they say or some other thought comes into your head. Just see it, push it out, and go right back to the conversation.

I’ll sometimes fight with myself and kind of wonder, “Okay, keep your mind on this. Why is your mind drifting? Why are you thinking about this?” That doesn’t do any good. Just see the thought come in, push it out, get right back to listening. You can really actually train yourself to do it, which is very helpful.

Why Listening and Patience Are the Hallmarks of a Good Interviewer (and Other Ways to Use Off-Topic Interview Sections

Jerod Morris: I wanted to go back to something, Jonny, that you mentioned in listen. I think it’s really important because you talk about how an interview should be a conversation, but a conversation where the other person is really sharing and you’re really doing a lot of the listening.

It’s important for anybody who’s going to be hosting an interview-type show–and you mentioned, Jonny, you don’t want to be telling the same story 14 times, that same story about your daughter–well, let’s remember you could always put a bonus episode out if you wanted to. If there’s this particular story that continues to come up in your mind and you really want to get it out there, you could put a bonus episode out if you really think it’s worthwhile and you really feel like you want to get it in there.

Just because you’re having this feeling in the moment, right now, that a story is relevant, it doesn’t mean that you should derail the conversation or even interject it. If it is important enough, there are other ways to get this story to your audience if it’s not perfect for the moment of that interview that you’re doing right now.

Same thing with your guests. Sometimes you do want to relate with your guest, and maybe for reasons outside of the purpose of the interview, you want to share a story with them because you’re trying to build a connection with that person.

Well, remember that you have some post-show chatter with that person as well, so you don’t have to get it in right now during the recording if it’s not especially relevant for the experience you’re creating for the audience, too. Jot down a note. Remind yourself to mention it to the person at the end of the interview.

Sometimes we get so impatient with this spark of inspiration or this moment where we’re in this conversation, and we think, “This would be great.” Take a step back. Really try and figure out if it’s part of the transformation that you’re trying to have with your audience. If it’s not, in that moment, talk with the person you’re interviewing about it after you’re done with the conversation and you’re done recording, or consider maybe this as a blog post for your audience, an email for your audience, or even a bonus episode.

There are other ways to get it in there. It doesn’t have to be done right now. I think that listening and that patience, I know for me, those are the two biggest things I’m trying to cultivate as an interviewer. As you said, Jonny, they are really the signs of professional-quality interviews, which is what everybody should be striving for.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, or you could cheat and put a ‘hack’ at the end of your episode where you get to rant about some story. It’s literally a reason why that’s there.

Jerod Morris: There you go. Build it into your show.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. It allows me, every single episode, to relate any sort of story or anything I’m thinking about that conversation and was thinking in that conversation is now in my notes, so when I get to do it, but I don’t put it in the conversation because I think it loses our guest’s flow, and it takes the spotlight off them, which I don’t think is the right way to go about it.

Jerod Morris: If you just interjected right when you said something important, and you’re like, “That’s the hack right there! That’s it!”

Jonny Nastor: I used to do that. It’s embarrassing to say, but my show was nowhere near as popular at that point. This is the reason. This really is. It’s because I’ve become aware of these things. If you start sharing a story in your conversation, don’t just stop. Just do it, but then, afterwards, be aware of it and be like, “Oh yeah. I remember when Jon and Jerod were talking about that. Next time I’m going to try and not do that.” That’s it. Just try and be better the next time, a little bit better–one percent better, one percent better, one percent better.

There’s no leap that you can just take and all of a sudden be good except to do 100, 200, 300, 400 interviews. If this is something you really, truly enjoy, just know that it’s progression, but these are things to be aware of.

Part 3 of Execution: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Jonny Nastor: All right, the final part of the final lesson of the course. Part three, keep your eye on the ball. There’s the foundation, and then there’s focusing on the conversation. This is really sort of an encompassment of them all, but it’s keeping your eye on the ball.

Think Transformation

Jonny Nastor: The first part of this is to think transformation. You’ve heard me go on and on and on about this, but you need to know the transformation your listeners need to make. Hack the Entrepreneur is 100 percent for a listener to listen from beginning to end and through the hack to gain insight into just the humanness of every entrepreneur that I speak to.

They’re not usually smarter, faster, better in every way than every other person. They have the same struggles. They’re terrible at most things, and they’re aware of it. All these things to just show people that you can do this. This is the thing. By the end of this episode, you should be able to be like, “Wow, I’m actually way better a lot of things than she is. She can do it really successfully, so I can, too.” That’s 100 percent it. That transformation right there–that I can do this, too.

If I lose focus of that and if I do not bring the conversation, as I can, around to that, then I’ve failed. I’ve failed as an interviewer. I’ve failed as a showrunner, and I’ve allowed my guest to fail as providing value to my audience. That’s absolutely my fault and not my guest’s fault. You need to know what it is that your audience needs to get from you.

I don’t care if you have a 15-minute episode, if you have a 30-minute episode, or a one-hour episode that you’re running your format under, but you need to know this transformation. People are not going to continue to show up if they’re not getting something out of it. It’s that whole educate, entertain, inspire. One of those things has to come out of it.

Again, your guest isn’t going to necessarily know what this transformation is. It’s you, the showrunner, that needs to know what it is that will make your guest getting some sort of internal or personal satisfaction out of this. Even if they’re not aware of what it is, by the end of the episode, they’re like, “Yeah, that was cool. That was fun. I feel like I didn’t waste the past 30 minutes of my time. Therefore, when the next episode shows up on my phone, I’m definitely going to listen.”

You need to, obviously, go with the flow, but you need to direct the conversation. You need to stay in control. Your guest will never know your audience as well as you, so you need to do that. This is where you can think of, with Hack the Entrepreneur, I have a definite first question. Every single person gets it. I have a definite last question. Every single person gets it. I have questions that, depending on where the conversation ends up, that I like to bring people to, if I can, to anchor the conversation around.

That allows me to bring my audience on that journey and make that transformation for them. It’s absolutely essential. Before you start these conversations, you need to really focus on what that is. This transformation and how you envision it can change over time. It can evolve over time. It should change and evolve, but from right now and from your next interviewer, you need to really have a transformation in mind and try and make that journey happen.

Stay in Control

Jonny Nastor: The next part is to stay in control. The only way, obviously, we can make that transformation happen is to stay in control. Yes, you want your guests to go deep. We all do. We all want to get places that people haven’t gotten before us. We do that with open-ended questions. We do that with listening.

But we want to make sure that we don’t head out into the weeds. We’re literally talking about breakfast. We’re literally talking about what you did at the park on the weekend with your kid. As much as this might be okay banter over a cup of coffee and it’s personal, it’s not part of the transformation. It’s not of interest to anyone.

Not only that, but your guest, sometimes when you let it go too far like that, all of a sudden they feel sort of lost. They don’t even remember what the original question was. They feel awkward, and they don’t know how to bring it back. Now, you’re not allowing them to be awesome and to feel awesome.

It’s really your job, as the interviewer, to bring her back when she veers too far from the path. Go with the flow, yes. This is something that really, again, takes practice. It takes just doing it over and over again, but when you’re aware of it and when you’re aware of bringing them where that last question is, where that transformation is that you need to get to, you’ll allow her, as the guest, to veer but not go too far, and you can bring her back. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely essential.

It’s not up to your guest to stay in control, and this is something I tell my guests pre-call. “I want you to share as deep and as far as you want to go, and please do not worry. I’ve done this a lot of times. I will keep control of this conversation, and I’ll reel you back every time I need to.” They’re just like, “Oh, awesome.” You can just feel the weight off their chest because they don’t have to think like, “Okay, I need to do three and a half minute answers to every single question.”

It’s hard. It’s difficult. They’re trying to be concise in the right ways. That’s not their job. Their job is to share. It’s your job to keep control and bring it where it needs to go.

Have Fun

Jonny Nastor: The final part of this whole journey–and it can be a battle sometimes–of interviewing people is to just have fun. Seriously, it’s literally nothing that we’ve gone over and nothing that I’ve mentioned above in this lesson itself or in any of the other three lessons matters if you’re not enjoying yourself. You won’t be able to listen. You won’t be able to be engaged. You won’t be able to have the conversations you need to have, and you won’t be able to take your listener on that journey of transformation if you are not having fun.

It’s why we all get into this. Yeah, sure, we want fame and glory and all those things–you know all that money that comes with podcasting. Ultimately, it’s because we enjoy it. It’s ultimately because we want to have these conversations about whatever subject.

There’s nothing I love more than sitting down over coffee and talking to people about creating something out of nothing and just building things. There’s honestly nothing that makes me happier, that I get more engaged in. That’s why I do an interview show with entrepreneurs. It’s because I love it and because I really, truly have fun. It’s not fake, and people can tell when it’s not. It has to be fun.

It has to be truly just be fun, and also, if you go over all the nine lessons previously, all of those to me are really leading up to making it more fun for you and for your guest. You’ll be more confident in the conversations. You’ll be ready. You’ll be prepared. You’ll have found the proper guests to have on your show that allow it to be really, truly fun for you and for your audience.

To me, it’s ultimately what it’s all about. It can’t be faked. As much as lots of this sounds really hard and grueling, it is, but it’s a journey that doesn’t have an end. There’s no end point of this marathon as an interviewer where it’s like you cross the line and that’s it, you’re an interviewer.

You just get better a little bit each time by having fun, staying focused on maybe one of these aspects at a time, growing with it, and seeing where it takes you. The better you get at it, the more confident you get in it, the more fun you will have doing it. In turn, that will make you better.

Should You Reveal Your Ultimate Goal to Guests?

Jerod Morris: A couple quick follow-up questions for you on this section, which I love. When it comes to the transformation, you talked about how that element of entertainment, education, or inspiration where you’re kind of trying to drive the person toward, should you let your guest know what that element is beforehand?

Not every guest is going to be intimately aware of your show. Do you let them know if the ultimate goal is to educate the audience if this is a show where people come for entertainment? Or if they want to be inspired, so the person can tailor their message and their tone in a particular way? Or is that something that will just come out naturally through the conversation?

Jonny Nastor: I don’t do that at all, and I don’t think I ever will. For the same reason that I don’t want to share stories about my daughter in each conversation because it’ll become repetitive, meaning that, if I tell every guest that I want them to inspire or that I want them to do this or that this is what we should do, then if I record six episodes today and I’ve told them all the same thing, the excitement, the interest, and the reason why people keep coming back to listen is … even if questions are the same, they’re so undirected as to where they should go.

The only thing I tell my guest at the beginning is, “When I ask you how you deal with a project or how you choose a new project or when I as you any question, don’t tell me, ‘As entrepreneurs, we should do this.’ Absolutely my audience does not want to be lectured by you. They don’t want to be lectured by me. When I ask you what you do and how you choose a project, tell me how you do it. I don’t care if it’s right. I don’t care if it’s wrong. There is no right. There’s no wrong. It’s how you do it. We’re hacking you, the entrepreneur, and my guest wants to know how you do it. We all know what we ‘should’ do in life. I want to know how you do it. The only variable in all of these conversations is you, the guest.”

I’m the same person. Lots of the questions are the same. The transformation is the same. How we get there is up to them, and I think if I went and explained all of that extra stuff to them … all I tell them is just, “When you answer it, say how you do it, not how it should be done because that’s just grating to me, and my audience hates it.”

If I put too much pressure on our guests, now we’re not preparing them to be awesome. Now, they’re like, “Oh my God. I wasn’t prepared for this, and now I have to take them on a transformation.” You know what I mean? For most guests, they wouldn’t get it. That’s our job as the showrunner. As the showrunner of anybody who writes a TV show and stuff, it’s not their job that their audience understands that there’s this giant story arc and there’s a story arc going across each episode and one going across the season and one going across the whole show.

That’s not our job as an audience to know. It’s really only the showrunner’s job. When you do it really well, it really doesn’t even become obvious to anyone that that’s happening, but it is happening. That’s what’s making you successful as the showrunner. You need to weigh your guest and know what’s going to freak them out and what’s going to make them perform awesome. That’s all that our job is, to make them do that.

“If there’s something key, you should make sure you answer it as you, not as what we should do because we’re not teaching. People are learning and being educated but not because we are ‘teaching.’ This is not a teaching podcast. We don’t go into tactics and stuff. That’s just not what we talk about.” Beyond that, it’s open ended. You have to leave it that way. Otherwise, they’ll all end up the exact same.

How Much Leeway Should You Give Guests Before Interjecting to Pull the Conversation Back?

Jerod Morris: Regarding staying in control, something that anybody will find who starts an interview show is that every guest is a little bit different. Some guests are very talkative, very gregarious, will go on and on. Some guests are a little bit more closed and may have shorter responses, and it just may be a little bit harder to pull stuff out of them.

Let’s say that you’re dealing with someone who is among that first group. You can ask them a question, and they will just take it and run with it. I’ve dealt with this on some other shows that I’ve done where I’ve asked just a question at the beginning that I meant as just a simple icebreaker question, kind of a quick answer, and then we get into the next thing, and the guest will go on for five or six minutes. It’s good stuff but it’s really off the path for where the conversation itself is supposed to go. I asked the question, and they’re just going without any real spot for me to jump in at all to redirect the conversation.

When it comes to staying in control, how much leeway do you give a guest? How far will you allow them to go on a tangent telling a story before you will actually interject to pull things back? Or do you just have to let the guest go and finish so as not to be rude? Is there any rule of thumb there?

Jonny Nastor: This happens 10 percent of the time or 20 percent of the time on my show. I ask that first question, “What is the one thing … ,” then a person will go off, and as they’re answering it, it will be like, “When I started with entrepreneurship … ,” which is my next question usually. Then they kind of roll it into another thing, but they don’t really go deep into these things because you kind of feel that they’re either completely professional or else they’re lost, they’re kind of nervous, and they’re not quite sure.

All I do then is, I will interject right after, and I’ll be like, “Yeah, that was cool what you said there, there, and there, but let’s go back to what you said a few minutes ago about your starting point in business.” As most people, with entrepreneurs, they have this point where it doesn’t make sense going through but going back.

All I do is like, “We didn’t get deep enough in that. That’s not the logic of the starting point to the transformation. We missed a really key element right there because you kind of muddled three questions into one for some reason.” I’ll just bring them back and like, “Let’s just take that deeper if we can, and can you tell me how you felt during that?”

Now, it’s one specific point during that whole thing. Honestly, I think that, when my listener is listening to that, they’re feeling the exact same way because I’m listening to this person answer a very simple question, and they’ve went into four answers of different questions that weren’t asked. It’s kind of like, “Oh, I would love if you’d go back and would go deeper on that. You just glossed over it”–which is my job.

My audience doesn’t get a chance to speak during my interview. I get the chance to speak and to help them along this journey. I just take them back to where I need them to go. That’s me being in control. I know that we have to cross this point or else the transformation will never happen if we do not cross this point. We can’t gloss over it. It’s just the way that it is.

That’s my only rule, and I wasn’t able to do that in my first 100 episodes even. It’s something that I’ve really become comfortable with. That’s literally the verbatim thing, “Let’s go back. Let’s go back to what you said here.” It really plays a good point where someone is like, “Wow, he totally heard. He repeated what I just said.” That’s cool because I was taking notes. And then, “Let’s just go back and dive.” That allows you to use that open-ended question. Now they can go into it.

When I do that, because that’s the first question, the first response, and I now bring it back and take control, I feel like it gives my guest confidence that I know what the heck I am doing as an interviewer like I said I did before, so don’t worry about it. I’ll bring you back, and I’ll take you on track. I’ll make you look good to my audience. Then, from there, it seems like they specifically answer my questions, and they don’t continue to go off. If you don’t nip it in the bud, as they say, early on, it can become a total train wreck and end up off in the weeds.

Jerod Morris: That makes total sense. What about the situation where you ask that first question, “What’s the one thing?” and they tell you, well, it is their empathy, which they got from their grandmother. Then that leads into a story about their grandmother and the cinnamon bread she used to make. They’re on this five-minute story about their grandma’s cinnamon bread recipe, which is all great and compelling, but has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re trying to get to.

How long will you let the story of the cinnamon bread recipe go before you will try and interject and bring things back on course?

Jonny Nastor: I’ve never had it go that far off, if that makes sense.

Jerod Morris: Okay, good.

Jonny Nastor: This honestly goes back to the first lesson in all of this mini course, which was planning. I choose my guests because they’re smart, because they’re doing cool things, and because they’re aware. They want to talk about this. They want to explore these ideas with me. They don’t want to talk about their grandma’s cinnamon buns, whatever it was. Do you know what I mean? I honestly think that this whole thing is tied … these lessons are separate, but they’re one in the same.

If you screw up at the first point and I booked the completely wrong person–if I booked the person who’s delivering papers to my house to be on my show–I’ve screwed up at the planning phase. Now, the whole rest is just going to be a train wreck because they’re absolutely not the right person for my show.

As I’m doing my research, I need to validate that and make my decision of choosing this person and know that this person is going to be right. Yes, it needs to vary. They need to go different places. They need to explore with stories, but they’re professional enough and I’m professional enough. I’ve done my research, and they’re smart enough. That’s why they’re on my show. The whole thing doesn’t allow for it to be a complete mess.

If it happened to be a complete mess with maybe I’m glossing over and don’t even remember that happening, but there have been numerous, numerous, numerous episodes I’ve recorded that just never got released. I guess typically it is because the person goes off in just ways that don’t make sense or else they just want to teach and say, “This is what entrepreneurs should do.” It’s like, “Dude, we’ve talked about this. This is not how we do this show.” They don’t want to listen, and they don’t want to be part of it. They just want to tell you what they’ve told everybody else. It just doesn’t work.

I would say, if that’s the case, then really go back to the first lesson in this course and really work out and really sort out who it is you need to be on your show to allow, at this point, two lessons later how to make this conversation so that it can take your audience on that transformation. If you’re constantly getting people veering way off, then you need to go back and figure out who the right guest is to allow that transformation to happen, and start only booking those people.

Jerod Morris: Remind me some day to do a bonus episode about my grandma’s cinnamon bread because it was delicious.

Jonny Nastor: See, I feel like I didn’t go with the flow and just, “Well, could you just tell me about your grandma’s cinnamon bread?” I almost felt like I should do that, but I didn’t.

A Quick Review of Lesson 3

Jerod Morris: All right. Jonny, this has been great. A quick summary of this episode, How to Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews. Again, the first step is the foundation. You’ve got to remember to do your research. Then don’t multitask. Close different windows. Stay really focused. Make sure that you’re able to engage in this conversation. Treat it like a real conversation–as if the person is there sitting across from you–and then use and take notes.

Right here, just while we’ve been recording this, every question that I’ve asked or every little moment that I’ve interjected something, it corresponds to a note that I’ve made while Jonny’s been talking. So I can make my note, go back to listening, and then, when the opportunity is there, I can make my points. It has allowed me to really stay focused instead of trying to remember these points that I want to make. That’s the foundation.

Number two is focus on a better conversation, not on being better. The most important element here, of course, is to listen. It is the most fundamental concept of all good conversations. It’s the hardest thing to do, but it’s the most important thing to do. If you take one thing out of this entire course about planning, booking, and executing engaging interviews, it’s about the importance of listening–even all the way back in the beginning in the planning stage. You’ve got to listen the whole way through. That will help make you the best conduit for a great conversation and a transformation for your audience.

In addition to listening, you have to use open-ended questions, which allows people to describe and to tell stories as opposed to just give answers.

Then, of course, you’ve got to go with the flow. Allow moments to develop within an interview. Instead of just waiting impatiently to ask your next question, listen patiently, and allow the conversation to go where it should go–not just based on your preconceived notions of where it will go.

Then, finally, keep your eye on the ball. Think transformation. You have to know the transformation your listeners need to make, and then make sure that you direct the conversation to get there. One of the ways you do that is to stay in control. You want your guest to go deep but not to head into the weeds, and you’ve got to make sure that you’re bringing that conversation back so that it can lead to the transformation.

Then, of course, have fun. At the end of the day, if you’re not having fun, your guest isn’t going to have fun. Your audience isn’t going to have fun. It’s going to be very hard for you to build long-term engagement with your audience if there isn’t an element of fun that underlies everything that you are doing.

Jonny Nastor: I just want to re-emphasize this point that you made that, if there is one thing about this whole three part lesson, it is to listen. That’s so true. You have to listen to your audience. Make sure that you are taking them where they need to go. You need to listen when they Tweet you, when they hit you on Facebook, when they email you. You need to listen to know that you’re doing it right and how you can improve incrementally.

You need to listen to your guest, which is what we talked about today. Otherwise, you probably cannot take your audience where they need to go, and then beyond that, you just need to listen to Jerod and I. We’ll help you as much as we can be a better showrunner. But it’s true. It really is listening to the different aspects of it, which is your audience and your guest.

Jerod Morris: Excellent.

Jonny Nastor: It’s been fun. This has been fun.

Jerod Morris: This has been fun.

Jonny Nastor: How to Book, Plan, and Execute Engaging Podcast Interviews is complete.

Jerod Morris: That’s right, and we just went over the hour mark for this episode.

Jonny Nastor: Oh wow.

Jerod Morris: Hey, there’s a lot of good stuff to get to, though. I didn’t even realize that. It went by fast. I’m thinking, since we’ve already gone so long, maybe we forego the podcast recommendations today. People have been listening to this podcast long enough. They probably don’t want to think about what podcasts they’re going to listen to next. They want to rest their ears a little bit.

How to Take Your Showrunning to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: Maybe we’ll give the podcast recommendations a break and, instead, just remind people to go to Showrunner.FM because we just finished this mini course and, again, recording the audio for this mini course. So the mini course itself isn’t done. What we’re going to be doing next, after we finish our other mini course, the one that I’ve been doing about creating your unique snowflake in a blizzard of podcasts, How to Differentiate Your Show, the third episode of that will be episode 61.

Once we’re done with these, then, we’re going to take the audio, and we’re going to turn them into mini courses using the Learning Management System of the Rainmaker Platform. Once those are ready, we’ll, of course, give you access to them so that you can see them, review them, see how we turn audio recorded for a podcast into audio for a mini course.

The whole idea here is to repurpose, to be efficient, and to allow you to really leverage your efforts to create more and better content for your audience and more and better content for your funnels so that you can drive people from listener to subscriber, subscriber to customer. That’s the big idea here.

So you want to make sure that you’re on the email list, that you join us at Showrunner.FM, because you will get alerted when all of that stuff is ready–in addition to the fact that you’ll get our weekly newsletter. You’ll get our content series, the Four Essential Elements of a Remarkable Podcast. It will make you a more complete, more well-rounded showrunner.

That is the big idea, so make sure that you go to Showrunner.FM. Add your email address. Join The Showrunner. Get on the email list, and you will have access to all of that and more.

Jonny Nastor: Yes, it’s going to be good. I look forward to it.

Jerod Morris: It is going to be good. All right, man.

Jonny Nastor: It’s been fun.

Jerod Morris: This has been fun.

Jonny Nastor: Next week, we wrap up yours.

Jerod Morris: Yes, we do. It’ll be fun. We’re going to talk about how to display your differentiation and then double-down on it. For those of you who have been wanting to talk about show art, how do you create good show art, we’ll talk about that, plus much more.

Jonny Nastor: I look forward to it.

Jerod Morris: Come, be here. We will talk to you on the next brand-new episode of The Showrunner.

Jonny Nastor: Take care.

Jerod Morris: See you, everybody.