Why you should have a pre-interview interview and what to ask!

Posted by Jesse Betend | Jun 14, 2024

When clients ask us about the best way to prep a guest for an episode recording, our answer is always the same: have a pre-interview call. This simple step can make a huge difference in the quality of your podcast. But why is it so important, and how should you go about it? Let's dive in.

The threefold purpose of a prep call

A pre-interview call serves three main purposes:

1. Introduce everyone: This is your chance to build rapport. By hearing each other’s voices (and maybe seeing faces if you're on a video call), you create a sense of familiarity and ease. This can make the actual recording session feel more like a conversation among friends rather than a formal interview.

2. Align on content: Use this time to ensure that both you and your guest are on the same page regarding the overall content. Giving your guest an idea of what will be discussed helps them prepare mentally, which leads to a smoother and more coherent conversation.

3. Troubleshoot technical issues: This is crucial. There's nothing worse than getting ready to record and realizing there are technical problems. Use the prep call to check your guest's audio quality and internet connectivity, addressing any issues beforehand.


Making the most of your prep call

Don't do a run-through

Avoid turning the prep call into a full rehearsal of the interview. This can lead to rehearsed answers that sound flat during the actual recording. Instead, emphasize that this call is for background and exploration. Encourage your guest to share brief stories or insights, like a funny anecdote about their first day at work, without going into full detail.

Be direct about your goals

Don’t shy away from asking direct questions to uncover the most engaging aspects of your guest's experiences. Try these:

  • "What's the most interesting thing about you?"

  • "What are you passionate or excited to talk about?"

  • "What's something you wish people asked you about your job?"

These questions often uncover unexpected and rich topics for the interview, giving you fresh angles to explore.

Ask for stories and anecdotes

A conversational interview is always more engaging. Encourage your guest to share personal stories and examples. This not only makes the content relatable but also keeps the listener hooked.

Look for a narrative

During the prep call, pay attention to patterns, connections, and contradictions in your guest’s answers. These can help you identify a compelling narrative that might not be immediately obvious to the guest but will be captivating for your audience.

Find the hook

Identify the most memorable part of your conversation. This could be a unique story, an insightful observation, or a surprising fact. This hook will be the anchor of your episode, drawing listeners in from the start.

Ask the 'dumb' questions

Never hesitate to ask for clarifications, such as how to pronounce someone's name or their correct job title. Online articles and biographies can be outdated or inaccurate, so it’s always good to double-check.

Plan your questions wisely

For a one-hour podcast, you’ll typically have room for about 8-12 questions. Prioritize questions that dive deep into the most interesting parts of the conversation and keep less critical ones for the end, in case time runs out. Aim to incorporate context or background information into your questions to keep the conversation sharp and engaging for the listener.

Iterate and improve

Remember, every episode is an opportunity to get better. You'll be amazed at the improvement from your first to your third episode. Focus on having an interesting and enjoyable conversation, and the rest will follow.

Check technical quality

Finally, take note of any technical issues with your guest’s audio. Addressing these before the actual interview will save you a lot of headaches and ensure a smoother recording session.


Preparing for the interview

Once you’ve had your prep call, you’ll be well-equipped to script your questions and prepare yourself for the interview. This groundwork will not only enhance the quality of your podcast but also make the process more enjoyable for you and your guest.

So, embrace the pre-interview interview! It’s a powerful tool that can transform a good podcast into a great one.