How to Conduct a Podcast Interview

This essay, by Matthew Jeong, 17, from Houston, is one of the Top 11 winners of The Learning Network’s new “How To” Informational Writing Contest for Teenagers.

How to Conduct a Podcast Interview

“You’ve got to do the homework,” says Brian Sebastian, podcast host of Movie Reviews and More, which has garnered millions of views on IHeartRadio, Comcast and Apple TV. Conducting an interview for a podcast isn’t just your standard Q&A or casual chat. It requires preparation and practice. “It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do that. It’s not a recommendation, it’s a requirement.”

The interview should never be your first exposure to the subject. Your job is to broadcast your interviewee’s story, so it’s necessary to know enough about the subject to hold an informed conversation. Have a list of questions loosely based on the subjects you want to cover. This means making yourself familiar with their work. “If it’s a producer, well, you have to watch the movie. For an author, read their book. You have to stay as knowledgeable as possible, because if you haven’t seen it or read it, your audience will know,” Sebastian says.

An interview isn’t just about research; it’s a story tailored to the speaker. Your role is to pull it out of your guest one question at a time. Prepare more questions than you’ll need just in case, but be prepared to skip over them during the interview. Match the intensity and personality of your guests. “For me, it’s about the energy given and taken, cause and effect,” Sebastian says. A loud, boisterous speaker may need something a bit more calm, while someone quiet and reserved may need more spirit to pull them out of their shell.

On the other hand, over preparation can cause your interview to feel artificial and the conversations too stilted. “Be fluid, be adaptable. Most of all, ask about what you’re really interested in,” Sebastian says, warning against memorizing a script. Don’t be afraid to improvise during the interview. Keep the conversation flowing through unique and genuine questions. An interview should feel not only in depth, but interactive. “It’s like a book, really — only you get to choose what content the pages will cover.”