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Step 5: Research and prepare for on-air interviews
Step 5: Research and prepare for on-air interviews

Episode Planning Guide

Amy Domestico avatar
Written by Amy Domestico
Updated over a week ago

It’s hard to find an example of a successful podcast or radio show that doesn’t include interviews. There are a variety of ways to include interview content. Some hosts pre-record and edit interviews into their shows. Others allow callers to speak live. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to invite multiple guests to speak in a panel or debate format. Experiment with different interview formats as you hone your craft and grow your audience.

There are many benefits to interviews. Not only are conversational interviews a source of content for your show, they draw listeners, help you build a community around your podcast, and allow you to market your podcast in new circles. The people you interview can promote your podcast in their communities. As you grow your audience, you can attract high-profile guests. Guests with large networks and audiences will expand the reach of your show.

The most important thing to remember is that your audience should feel like they’re eavesdropping on two people have a fun, spirited, educational, entertaining conversation at the bar.


An interview opportunity might fall into your lap or you might plan a topic and search for a relevant guest. Either way, it’s important to maximize the benefit of having this person on your show. Will your guest add an emotional element to the show? Provide practical information? Tell great stories? Thinking about the strengths of your guest before the show can help you craft the best questions and discussion topics.

For Ellen’s first episode of The Sports Mom Podcast, she decided to ask her son’s football coach to talk about safety, health, and development in pee wee football. She knows that this interview will provide practical advice for parents and wants to connect with them on an emotional level as well.


You should research your guest and the topic the person will speak about. Your research will help you introduce the guest and seem familiar on-air. Guests need to feel like you care about them and are interested in what they have to say. They will gauge your energy in absence of a response from listeners. Listeners love it when guests sound like old friends. Before the show, ask the guest how to pronounce their name.

Ellen took a bit of time to learn about her son’s coach. It turns out that he was a college football star and is a part-time football correspondent for the local newspaper. She decides to weave this information into the segment - it’ll be interesting to get his take on current sports news at the start of the interview.


Perfect preparation leads to an entertaining conversation.  Lead your guest to talk about the things you want them to talk about.  The best interviewers are OUTSTANDING listeners and react off of what their guest just said.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that the guest should have the floor. Although you plan a few questions, if the interview is going well, it’ll turn into an open-ended conversation and have rich storytelling. The point of your first few questions is to make your guest feel calm, confident, and open.

Not only do you need to plan but you need to give your guest a few action items as well. Email your guests a brief synopsis of what you’d like to discuss. After you’ve done a few podcasts, you can give them tips on how to connect with your audience. Help them use their network to promote the show. You can ask them to post on social media accounts, write a blog post, and email their friends about their appearance. After the show, send them the links to their interview. Ellen called her son’s coach a week before the podcast to finalize the recording time, ask him to pronounce his name, discuss interview themes, and come up with a social media plan.

Selecting questions

The goal of an interview is to help your listeners get the benefit of the guest’s knowledge. Your guest should have the floor. You are there to keep the conversation entertaining and on track. Depending on the style of your show, you might help your guest engage in long-form storytelling or have a “ping pong” back and forth conversation.

Keep your on-air questions short (longer prompts can be delivered via email or during a phone conversation). Make sure you shy away from “yes or no” questions.

“Yes or no” question: “Did you enjoy working with the head coach of the Seahawks?”

Answer: “Yes.”

Better question: “What did you enjoy most about working with the Seahawks’ coaching staff? What did you learn from them?”

Develop your voice

You’ll develop a unique style over time. Will you be off the cuff and casual like Adam Carolla or more formal and intellectual like James Lipton? Listen to a variety of podcasts and experiment!

Find your first guest

Tap into your network! Neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family can lend their expertise to your show. Since you know them, you’ll also be able to build rapport on the air. After your first few shows, step a little outside of your network. Post requests for guests on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Find experts on LinkedIn and email them asking for an interview. If you come across a passionate and intelligent caller, invite them back for an interview. As you grow your audience and get used to making connections, you’ll start to book popular guests.

Action items

  1. Read this article about Jimmy Fallon’s unique approach. Make a list of interviewers you’d like to draw inspiration from.

  2. Select at least one guest for your next 3 shows. Email them and have them to commit to the show at least 1-2 weeks from the recording or broadcast date.

  3. Research, outline questions, and come up with a promotion plan for your guest.

  4. Communicate with your guest before and after the appearance.

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