Hosting a podcast is not easy, but taking on a guest is even ten times harder. Your audience expects an open and honest discussion in every episode, but it takes a lot of work and trust to get to that point. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard are back to talk about pulling out and maximizing great discussions with your guest. Tom and Tracy recall their past experiences and the times they struggled most to get an authentic response. Listen in and learn more as they share how you can get your guests to open up and spark a great conversation.
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Podcast Guest: How To Actually Get Them To Easily Open Up And Start Amazing Discussion
We are going to talk about podcast guests. I get them to easily open up and start amazing discussions because we all want to have a great discussion. We want our listeners to be entertained, stick around and come back for more.
We do. Tracy, you’ve done so many interviews. I know I’ve had some experiences that could be cautionary tales or things like that. I guess I’d like to ask you without outing the person because that wouldn’t be particularly friendly. What was the worst time you had getting a podcast guest to open up and have a good discussion? Did you have to struggle to pull it out of them?
The worst guests that I’ve had are the bigger celebrities. I’m going to say that because they’re too over-prepped is what I believe. They’re over prepped for what works in TV and maybe even on the radio but it doesn’t work for podcasting, open and honest discussion, podcast listeners expect and I expect as a host. When they’re over prepped, full of their soundbites, have got it memorized and say the same thing again and again, I know it’s a sound bite because it sounds rehearsed.
It does, you know, instantly. Every time you ask a question, they’re trying to craft it into the way they want to answer it for something they’re programmed to answer. When that happens, you know something’s not right. I can only do so much to try to push them off of that and usually, you have to do something shocking. You have to ask them a totally off-the-wall question that they were unexpected.
The problem is when they’re celebrities or they think they’re a celebrity, which is more of the case and who I was interviewing in their niche. When you do that, they get offended. You deviated from the promise you made to them, which you didn’t make it. Their PR person probably did. That’s the reality of it. I didn’t make any promises. I was going to ask specific questions or they wouldn’t be invited to my show. I don’t use pre-program questions.
I dislike it when people say, “Give me the questions in advance or here are the questions I want you to ask me.” That’s not my style. I don’t think it’s yours either. Now that you mentioned that context, I remember one of your interviews with a truly worldwide famous actor. I know that interview was a disaster of sorts in that you’re trying to get him to answer some real, meaningful questions. All he was prepared to do was answer the questions he was prepped for, which was not your style again.
Even I remember after you found a way to ask a question that he lit up and was interested in because of some personal interest of his, you thought, “Finally, I got him to answer a question and we’re having a decent, meaningful conversation.” When you heard other people interviewed by him around the same period on other shows, you were disappointed to learn. It sounded like it could have been what they said on someone else’s show, he said on yours. It was not that different.
That particular question that I asked at the end was the flip. This is my main tip for getting someone out and starting to open up. When you find someone who’s uncomfortable and over-prepped in this particular case, the only thing you can do is tap into something that they’re truly passionate about. If you haven’t done your homework and research on them and don’t know enough about them, this is where you’re going to have a problem.
That’s why I’m always researching enough to find their hot points. Where is it that they will be as natural as possible? If you’ve watched them being interviewed and someone asked about their personal mission or maybe they have a good social project that they care about or a child who has health issues in a particular area. You can get them talking about what’s going on in research in that particular area, you’re going to get them into a discussion that they want to have, are more willing to have on a friendly basis. Less of a pre-program business relationship or transactional relationship is what they believe they’re here for.
When you get into that transactional mode, the only way to break it is to go personal. You have to know what that is because you can’t dive into someone’s personal life. You have to know, “This is something they’re willing to talk about. They’re extremely passionate about it.” It’s a mission for them. They will take any opportunity because it’s a platform thing for them. They’ll take any opportunity to discuss it. Usually, that’s a good social project. It usually is there. You need to be looking for that.
When I’m researching, I know I’m looking for that one thing. It doesn’t take me a ton of time to find it. I rarely get a guest on that isn’t going to be good, to begin with because I did my homework ahead of time and I check them out. If they seem like a robot, I’m not going to invite them on to begin with. It isn’t that. In this particular case sometimes the celebrities think, “They’re going to be great but then they’re not.” You don’t know what to do with that.
On your show, The Binge Factor, especially and that’s not the show, that case study that we’re talking about or anecdote, whatever you want to call it, came from. With your show, you’ve got a pretty significant application process that screens people. You’re only going to interview people on the show that are truly a good fit. You also listen to their show so you know a bit about them.
My team has a little leeway to deviate from my criteria. That’s why it’s not an AI that does it. It’s not a machine that says, “They didn’t meet the minimum requirement. They’re out.” It does check that. At the end of the day, if I don’t like how they sound on their show or the way that they approach that, I don’t think they’re going to make a good guest. I won’t invite them. It’s not going to happen because I want a meaningful discussion and openness. It’s part of what my show is about.
I know that one interview debacle, you had known that this particular person has an interest in aviation. When all else failed, you went right to ask a question related to that. I remember seeing his eyes light up and he’s like, “Yeah, I could talk about that all day.” At the same time, even when he answered it, he still somehow brought it back to the talking points the publicist wanted him to talk about.
It is a technique that the publicist teaches them how to do. When you’re prepped for media, this is something that happens. Luckily, we edit. In this particular case, I wasn’t airing the episode and the audio. I was writing an article from the audio. It happened to work out in my favor that I could work around this and keep the portion where he was natural and remove the portion where he wasn’t.
It took me a lot to get enough of a natural quote in there to be useful to us. That’s the hard part. Diving into something that they’re passionate about, an area that they care about tremendously is going to open that discussion up. What it’s going to do is it’s going to ease the communication between you because it says that you know a lot about them.
Another good example of this is I interviewed Molly Bloom. Molly Bloom, for those of you who may not know, she’s famous for being the Poker Queen, the one who created these underground poker games with celebrities and all kinds of things. She ended up in a lot of hot water for it over time. She had a movie about her and a book but I read the book. There are differences between the book and the movie that are significantly personal. It’s the way I would say it. The movie was well done. There’s no question. They created a great character but there are lots of untruths in that process.
It’s artistic license or dramatic license. That’s true but this will make a better movie. More people are going to see it. They definitely take some liberties with the facts.At the end of the day, being straightforward and honest, instead of just cringing back, is going to serve everybody well. Click To Tweet
Her coming out and being at this event that I was interviewing her at in person. We were standing next to each other before the camera went live, the mic went on, all the things. I specifically looked at her and she’s tall. I looked up at her and said, “I enjoyed your book, particularly where you did this.” I think that shows an interesting sign of innovative thinking or something like that. I don’t remember the exact words I said but it was like that.
She looked at me, smiled and said, “Thank you for reading my book.” It was a hot point that people thought that they knew her but they hadn’t read what she wrote and that made a difference to her. From that moment on, no matter what I asked her, she was much more straightforward and honest about how she answered it. I can see it. Let’s melt the walls. She trusted me and that makes a difference.
I want to share something with our readers right now because, Tracy, not everybody is a reader like you. You devour books. Every single day you’re reading and get through a crazy number of hundreds of books every year. I can’t do that. I’m not that type of person. I enjoy reading but I can’t consume books with the speed that you do. I’d like to give a tip to our readers that can help them achieve what you’re suggesting without necessarily having to put in as much time as you often do.
Everybody doesn’t have that time. I sure don’t and still want to have a meaningful interview discussion with my guest in a podcast. I’m here to share with our readers that even if you don’t have the time to read their entire book and understand everything about the book. You probably have time to read a chapter or do a little homework on them, read their website some of their bio, go do something a quick Google search on something about them. Find a point of interest that you can ask a question about that shows them you did do a little homework. You’ve not been fed a quick highlight sheet about them.
By the way, in the very first podcast, we did over 650 episodes. We had an assistant prepare a full sheet of background info, recommended questions, bio info and stuff like that, that we could look at in the fifteen minutes before an interview and what we needed to know to have a good call. That works too if you have that support, a personal assistant that can put that type of thing together but not has all of us have even a personal assistant focused on doing that.
Do a little bit of homework, 15, 20 minutes of time. It doesn’t have to be, “It’s going to take me hours and hours over a week to read your book.” I’m not suggesting you have to read the whole thing. Inform yourself with a tidbit, a little bit of information because it will go a long way to getting that guest to open up, appreciate you and have a more meaningful conversation. The more homework or research you can do, the better, no question but you can hack it.
It’s almost like reading the cliff notes but I don’t recommend you read the cliff notes, do a little homework, digging, Google, read a little chapter something to get that additional piece of information that’s going to help you respect the guest and put them at ease. As Tracy says, get them to open up and give you more.
One of my tips on my list of things that we’re going to go over, anyway is that when you Google or research them, do it with your topic in mind. You invited them on for a reason. If I’m going to invite Tom Hazzard on my show, I’m going to say, “Tom Hazzard, podcast expertise or whatever,” because that’s what we’re talking about. I know why I invited him on my show and want to see what’s going to come up when I Google that. That helps you know what he said before and what you might want to know that’s different from that. You’ll see if it’s very repetitive because it’ll show up again and again. It’ll be the same thing over and over again.
If it’s different, you’ll know what that is. One of the things that you also have to remember and this particularly relates to someone who’s a celebrity or well-known for their subject matter is an extreme subject matter expert. Pat Flynn is a perfect example of that. Pat Flynn is a great expert in the podcast industry. Lots of us call him the Godfather of podcasting. Many of us wouldn’t have shown if we hadn’t listened to him and thought, “If he can do it, I can do it.” That’s the way it goes.
Including you, at the beginning of our podcasting journey, he’s one of the people you listened to.
When I interviewed him for our show, this was the thing. He said it all before on a lot of other shows because he’s been on hundreds of other shows talking about podcast expertise before he got to my show. Because of that, there isn’t much new you can go into but here’s the thing. Most people are lazy in terms of their interviews. They’re going to ask them the same questions that everybody else asks. Being prepared for where he’s going now is extremely important.If you don't take control of what’s yours, other people will take control of it if you let them. Click To Tweet
I always have prepared. A lot of times, with those types of guests, I start there instead of end there, which is what’s the future of podcasting, cryptocurrency or blockchain. What’s the future of something or another? I might already have I already prepped that. No. For instance, he was changing his website and his entire business to be more whole digital platform focused which I already believed in. I had already done that. I knew it was a success story but he was switching it to do more email support. The whole digital marketing focus is what he was doing.
He wanted to be known for creating an online platform, not creating a podcast. I could see that in the languaging that he was shifting himself away from being so tightly associated with something. When you see that happening and go there, they know you’re going to let them talk about the new thing. Because you’re giving them that open field, free rein to talk about that new area, the thing that they’re passionate about now and you’re not going to tie them down to being the guy who talks about this or the girl who talks about that.
You’re going to give them this open world that they’re going to give you new things. That’s a technique I use when someone’s established. I’m going to, before the end of it, go, “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you to give new podcasters advice.” If I didn’t go back to this tried and true stuff, I do it towards the end. It’s an ending. He’s like, “Of course, I got to talk about all this stuff I’m passionate about.” I owe it to the community to go back and state the thing that I know they need to hear.
The other thing you probably could have done and I think maybe you did if I remember correctly. You’ll have to confirm, Tracy is, that you knew enough about his personal interests that somebody like Pat Flynn, if you know anything about those interests, you know he is a huge Back to the Future fan, a geeky fan, loves the movie Back to the Future.
You don’t have to do any research to know it because stuff is behind him on his videos. You can see it. It’s not that hard.
Anything that you might say or quote something from there, whatever is going to get his attention. You know he knows it in such detail but it builds a rapport too. The fact that you are willing to geek out a little with them on that. That’s a different thing, obviously. I’m not saying you absolutely have to do that versus the other thing you suggested. I think your tip is much more substantive for the listener to get value from your interview but for you to get that guest to open up a little sometimes if you know a little something about what their personal interests are.
Sometimes what they’re doing new is a deviation from the old and they need to break that mold. By you doing it at the beginning and helping them do that, you’re setting up a greater trust with them that then it’s going to allow them to open up and be willing to give the advice that your audience wants to hear too. That is the tried-and-true stuff too. Passion questions or social good interest questions, going there to that personal thing that they care about or going where they’re going next. Those two things to start with as questions are a great way to open them up.
Before I open them up and I get them into the first question, I do a pre-prep. Now I don’t do it in a separate phone call. I do it right there before we start the recording. This doesn’t work so well if you go straight into a live and you don’t have that prep time but I always allow that in. If you do that, try to give yourself five extra minutes before you go live. Have them join the call five minutes early. Whatever that is, have that time.
The two things I prep them with are, “You might be a pro at this but I want you to understand those podcast listeners like this.” I will explain to those podcast listeners like authenticity. They like that natural conversation flow. They don’t want short answers. They want long answers and stories. Work that in whenever you can. Are you good with that? Does that make you uncomfortable? Ask those questions and prep them up for that.
If they’ve done hundreds of interviews, you probably don’t have to worry about it. They get it by now. I go to the second part of that, which is, “I want to let you know a little bit about my listeners. My listeners care about this and are these types of people.” When they ask you, “How do you know about these listeners?” You say, “These are the binge listeners that reach out week after week and those are who we’re recording for.” That’s how we do that is by prepping them on, making sure they understand that podcasting is different from other media types if they’ve not done it a lot, they understand your listeners and why they’re there to talk to those listeners. Those things are clearly important to get at from the beginning.
The other thing is that I say is, “Know why you have someone there, why you invited them on?” If you’re like phoning it in and you’ll take anyone on your show, at some point in the process, you have to get to what’s in it for the audience. You either have to be a careful curator of what you are going to talk about for that audience or have to do it before you invite them. You always need to get at that. If you are very serious and strict about it, like, “I’m here to talk about podcast success and how that’s created through your own personal marketing, ways of doing things, not by the network that you work for,” or something like that.When you get into that transactional relationship mode, the only way to break it is to go personal. Click To Tweet
They can’t talk about that. Don’t invite them on. I turn away people from Wondery and big networks all the time because they have no idea how their show works. They show up, read a script and that’s it. I’m telling you that because it’s the truth. I’ve talked to them again and again. They have no ability to talk about their show. They barely even push it out to their own social media sometimes. Some of them are that bad at it. That’s not helpful to my listeners, who are doing it themselves or they have hired companies as well but they’re working hard to build their podcasts and their business at the same time.
These people have a job as podcast speakers. That’s it. They’re a host but they’re not hosting anything. They’re script reading. That’s not good. I’m strict about that but that’s the difference there. If you get people on who aren’t right for your audience, you need to stop that. That’s the last tip I want to leave with everybody is if it’s going all wrong, not the right type of guest, was a mistake, apologize and stop it before you waste your time in there and definitely don’t air it.
That’s a good point, Tracy is to don’t air it. I may have mentioned this in a previous episode but I think it bears repeating. I had someone as a guest and I think it was on WTFFF?! who wanted adamantly to know what questions we would discuss before he got on the call and conducted the interview. I didn’t want to do it. I don’t think you participated in that one.
I wasn’t on that one.
I was reluctant to do it. It was part of the lesson that taught me never to do this again because I didn’t want to do it. I reluctantly did because the guy was pushing and pushing. I should have known this was a red flag and said, “No, thank you. I’m going to decline.” We got on the call. Even though I had given him a few questions that I was going to ask, I changed it up because I thought the order of questions was not very well done. It was boring. I wanted to change it up.
I started asking him some of these questions in a different order. He was completely ill-prepared even for that. It threw him off his game so much that I asked the fifth question first and might not ask all the questions and mix it around. He clearly was looking through and I could hear the paper shuffle where he was looking for where his answer was to that question so that he could read it. He didn’t want to have a conversation. It was very prepared and mechanical. Fortunately for me, he also had some tech problems with his microphone.
I always thought those were like “mystery tech problems.” It was on our end.
“I’m sorry. I’m having trouble hearing you. It wasn’t quite low. I’m going into a tunnel.” It wasn’t quite like that. He had a real tech problem. I said, “Your microphone, this is going to be distracting for the listeners. It’s not going to sound good. You need some different equipment, a different microphone.” I used the, “If we’re going to have this interview and do this well.” We ended the interview on that tech reason and gave me an out where the idea was, “We could try this again sometime.” I never reached out to him to push him to do it. I was pleased that he never reached out to me to push, “I’ve got a new microphone now. I’m ready when you are.”
I was a less experienced podcaster at the time, admittedly. This was years ago. My bad, I didn’t straight out say to him, “I’m sorry, this is not how I conduct podcast interviews.” Had I been a more mature podcaster would now, I would say, “I’m sorry. This is not going to be good for me. I’m not interested in doing this.
That’s what I want to recommend here. You can take us a quick time out and try to save the interview. If it’s important to you, this guest is important and you can take us time out here instead of cutting it off and saying, “We’re ending it. Let’s start this whole interview over again. Let’s start this section over again.” This is not going to play well with the audience and here’s why. Let me explain to you a little bit more and do that, what you might have done at the beginning and didn’t do, which is, let’s talk about what podcasts listeners like to listen to, my audience in particular does. Can we do this again and try this? We’ll do a couple of questions and if it’s not working then we’re going to say this isn’t working out for both of us because I want to paint you in the best light possible.”
Podcasting is frankly a different media type. We need to make sure that we do this in the best way. That’s a great way. They’ll appreciate that. If the ego isn’t too big, they’ll take it well because they want to do a good job of making a great interview. They want it to serve whatever purpose they’re going out there and publicizing. At the end of the day, that serves everybody well for you being straightforward and honest instead of cringing back and going, “Let it go.” It doesn’t work. Remember, you can always edit out a question. Even if you don’t edit normally, this is something you can go to Fiverr and hire someone to fix in a single episode and make sure that you do it take control of your show.Most people are lazy in terms of their interviews, and they're going to ask them the same questions that everybody else asks. Click To Tweet
I like that. Take control of your show, Tracy. It’s your show at the end of the day. If you don’t take control of it, other people will take control of it if you let them. That’s not going to be good for you.
My favorite thing is when a conversation ends on the show and I have an automated email that goes out within an hour of ending an interview and it says, “Thank you for being on my show. My team’s going to reach out.” A few little things but it’s short and it’s personal. It does, you know, even though it’s automated, it still sounds very much like me and came from me. I wrote it. Often, if the guest had a good time, they reply to that directly to me. It says, “I had so much fun on our show. I haven’t had that much fun doing an interview in a while,” or, “I hope we can continue this discussion again,” or “I’ll see you at the next event and we need to get coffee or a drink.”
Those responses say to me, “They felt that amazing discussion happened. The audience is going to feel it too,” and I can walk away going, “This is going to be another great interview. It’s going to be another great episode for my audience. I gained a friend or an industry networking partner,” whatever that might be in the process. Everything went right. That’s what I want for you all at the end of it. It’s not that amazing discussion on air but it’s that feeling that it was worth it to everybody involved.
That’s a great place to stick the landing on this episode, Tracy. Was there any other thing, advice?
That was it. This is not straightforward. I can give you a formula but there are tactics you can use. I hope we’ve given you those. You’ll be able to figure out which one of those tools in the toolbox to use in a given space. It’s different every time. Having these 4 or 5 tools that you can reach into, grab and say, “I remember that. I could use this, which I know about them. I could create that opening question because it’s not going well now.” Pull them out, use them, try them and see what happens. You’d be shocked at how well it goes.
Readers, I hope you got some value out of that. There are other similar topics available. If you go to Podetize.com to the Feed Your Brand podcast page, there’s a search bar there where you can go, search on any topic and find a past episode for what you need support with on your podcast. We’ll be back with another great episode.