Stop Talking Over Your Guests: A Guide to Better Podcast Interviews

Let's get one thing straight: nobody tunes into your podcast to hear you monologue about how great you are. If they come for the guests, the stories, the nuggets of wisdom that only good, respectful listening can extract. Yet, here we are, bombarded with hosts who can't seem to shut up and let their guests speak. If you think this might be you, read on. It's time for some tough love, actionable advice, and (hopefully) a few laughs along the way.

The Art of Listening

First, let's talk about listening. Real listening. Not the kind where you’re just waiting for your turn to speak, but active, engaged listening that helps you understand and respond to your guest’s insights. A good rule of thumb is 1/3. If you are an interviewer you should be talking 1 third of the time, those should mostly be questions, clarifying questions, digging questions, pauses, and insight.

It's important. Very Important: Listening shows respect for your guest, helps build rapport, and allows you to ask deeper, more meaningful questions. It’s the difference between a conversation and a lecture. If you want to make them feel like they are having a great experience, give them one and don't talk over them.

  • Practice Mindfulness: Be present in the conversation. This means no distractions. Put your phone away, close unnecessary tabs, and focus on your guest.
  • Summarize and Reflect: Occasionally summarize what your guest has said and reflect it back to them. This shows you’re paying attention and helps clarify any points.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: These questions encourage guests to share more and dive deeper into topics. Instead of asking, "Did you enjoy that experience?" try "What was your experience like?"

Check out *The Tim Ferriss Show*. Tim is a master at asking insightful questions and then stepping back to let his guests shine.

Mining for Gold: Extracting Valuable Information

A good interviewer knows how to mine for the gold hidden in a guest's experiences. This isn’t about drilling them with questions but guiding the conversation in a way that brings out the best stories and insights.

  • Do Your Homework: Research your guest thoroughly. Know their background, recent work, and any notable experiences. This allows you to ask informed questions.
  • Follow the Breadcrumbs: Pay attention to the details your guest shares and follow up on them. If they mention a pivotal moment in their career, dig deeper. If you are worried about digging too deep, give them a heads up at the beginning of the show you intend to push them a bit. Respectfully of course.
  • Create a Comfortable Atmosphere: The more comfortable your guest feels, the more likely they are to open up. Start with some light, casual questions to ease into the conversation.

The Pitfall of Monologuing

Monologuing during an interview is a cardinal sin. If you’re talking more than your guest, something has gone terribly wrong. Remember, the spotlight should be on them, not you. Monologuing not only bores your audience but also makes your guest feel undervalued. It’s your job to facilitate the conversation, not dominate it.

  • Keep It Short: If you need to add your thoughts, keep them brief. The focus should always shift back to your guest.
  • Use the Right Prompts: Instead of launching into a long-winded story, use prompts that steer the conversation back to your guest. For example, "That reminds me of an experience I had, but I’m curious—how did you handle that situation?"
  • Practice Restraint: Sometimes, less is more. Silence can be powerful, giving your guest space to think and respond more thoughtfully.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Terry’s interviews are excellent examples of letting the guest take center stage while still guiding the conversation with her expert prompts. [Listen here]().

Talking Over Guests: A Podcast Faux Pas

Talking over your guests is not only rude but also disruptive. It breaks the flow of conversation and makes for a terrible listening experience. Interrupting guests can cause them to lose their train of thought and diminishes the quality of the content you’re trying to create.

  • Practice Active Listening: Truly focus on what your guest is saying without planning your next interjection.
  • Pause Before Responding: After your guest finishes speaking, pause for a second before you respond. This ensures they’ve completed their thought and shows you’re listening. Sometimes you may have to pause a bit more than may be comfortable. But guess what, you get to cut that in post. So breathe, smile, and LISTEN.
  • Use Non-Verbal Cues: Nod, smile, and use other non-verbal cues to show engagement without interrupting.

The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes. Lewis is great at letting his guests speak without interruption, making for a smooth and engaging listening experience. [Listen here]().

Real-World Tips for Better Interviews

Here are some additional tips to help you conduct stellar interviews:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Let your guests know the format of the interview and any specific topics you’d like to cover. This helps them prepare and feel more comfortable.
  • Stay Flexible: Be ready to deviate from your planned questions if the conversation takes an interesting turn. Sometimes the best moments are unplanned.
  • Use Technology Wisely: Ensure your recording equipment is working flawlessly. Technical difficulties can disrupt the flow and make it hard to stay in the moment.
  • Edit Thoughtfully: In post-production, cut out any unnecessary monologues, interruptions, or awkward pauses. Your goal is a smooth, engaging final product.

Great podcast interviews are an art form that requires practice, patience, and a lot of listening. By focusing on your guests, mining for valuable insights, avoiding monologues, and never talking over your guests, you can create compelling content that resonates with your audience. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about the stories you’re helping to tell. About the audience and the guest.