Podcasting is one of the strongest ways to build your brand. While marketing and promoting your show is important, the most critical part of the podcast process comes during recording. That means perfecting your podcast recording techniques and asking the right podcast questions.
Whether you’ve recorded hundreds of episodes already or are just getting started, we’ve got you covered. Check out these podcast tips to try during your next recording session. And later, we’ll cover some of our favorite podcast questions to ensure your interviews are can’t miss events.
Podcast Tips: Perfect Your Mic Position
Chances are, you’re going to record your podcast episodes in the same place. But even if you take your show on the road, it’s good to find the right mic position for you. This varies from person to person, but essentially, you want to make like Goldilocks and get it just right — not too close (which can result in clipping), and not too far (which makes you sound distant and hollow).
A good starting point is to take your thumb and place it by your lips, then extend your hand as far as it will go. The spot where your pinkie ends is where your microphone should be. Have your guests do this, too. It helps provide an intuitive, easy-to-follow method while recording. If they start getting their mouth too close to the mic or moving too far away, you can quickly make the thumb and pinkie symbol to get them back in the correct position.
Don’t Respond Immediately
There are some occasions where silence is totally acceptable and even encouraged. In the library, on a crowded elevator, during a wedding ceremony — these are all situations where you don’t need to talk. You can stay quiet and things will be just fine.
Let’s add podcasting to that list.
Wait, what? Why is it a good idea to keep quiet during an audio conversation? Whether your podcast interview is in person or remote via phone or video chat, it’s tempting to do whatever you can to fill any silence. Now, we’re not saying to just sit quietly with your guest for an hour, endlessly nodding and waiting for each other to speak. Rather, simply hold your tongue until it’s awkward.
Even though it’s human nature to want to get rid of that dead air, there’s actually science behind why awkward silence is effective. In the U.S., people feel awkward after only four seconds of silence. That social anxiety might be uncomfortable at first, but the more you get used to it, the better your interviews will be.
That’s because during a podcast interview — or any interview — that silence is giving the interviewee time to reflect more deeply. When you don’t respond right away, your guest might think the answer isn’t “complete” and will add more insight. That usually leads to better stories, and a stronger podcast episode.
Get Your Body Ready to Record
I took a public speaking class in college, and my professor taught us to literally “shake out” the bad vibes before any presentation. This involved wiggling your arms and kicking your legs — imagine you walked into a full body-sized spider web and were trying to get it off of you — and exclaiming “ewwww!” as you did so.
Does it sound like the most ridiculous thing imaginable? Sure. Is it effective? Absolutely. And it works for podcasting, too. If you’re feeling nervous about interviewing a big guest, or worried that you don’t have enough strong questions, or are merely feeling off that day, let your body know who’s in charge with a good shake.
Prep Your Voice
Of course, your voice is your strongest asset during a podcast. It’s how your audience “views” you, even if they have no idea what you look like. You want to make sure you’re keeping it strong. While consistently drinking water and tea can help, there’s one method that’s even better, not to mention more fun.
Nothing warms up your voice quite like singing. Even if you can’t carry a tune, you surely know the words to a song or two. Sing along on your drive in to record the podcast, or just take a minute before hitting record to belt out a few bars.
Can’t think of a song to croon? You can go more modern with “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers or “Sweet But Psycho” by Ava Max, or you can take a more classic rock approach. The high notes of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” will prep you for any podcast interview situation you might come across.
Find Your Hook
Your podcast may have some loyal listeners, but you’re probably looking to grow your audience. Unfortunately, if someone is listening to your podcast for the first time, they won’t know how charming you are and how great your content is right away. You’ll have to draw them in with some kind of hook.
There are a number of ways you can approach this. Some podcasts have catchy music, excessive sound effects, or a familiar catchphrase. Some give a quick rundown of what the episode is about. Still others use a sound clip from the episode. All of these can be effective methods of catching your listeners’ attention.
You can even ask your current listeners why they were drawn into your podcast in the first place with an email or social post. That can help you see which content is most appealing to your audience and put a little more focus on it.
Be sure to have a memorable “outro,” as well. This can be more music, a call-to-action, or a helpful quote or bit of advice. It’s the last thing your audience will hear, so you want to have it stick in their head.
These podcast tips will all make your next episode even better. However, there’s one other area that needs to be strong: the actual questions you ask during a podcast interview.
Our Favorite Podcast Questions to Ask Guests
You can quickly stop an interview in its tracks by asking dull, yes or no questions. That might work if you only have a minute to chat, but podcasts are unique in that you can really dive into an area for an extended period of time.
These questions will typically lead to some terrific answers, but don’t be afraid to follow a path if the conversation heads that way. For example, if your guest says doing something led to the best moment of their life, your next question should be about that moment. It would be jarring if they were about to open up and you quickly changed the subject because you wanted to check off the next question on your list.
Here are a few great questions to ask your guests, whether this is episode one or 1000.
What’s piquing your curiosity at the moment?
Everyone has something they’re passionate about; more often than not, it’s something they recently discovered. Rather than the more general “what drives you,” you can dig further into your guest’s current psyche by asking what’s making them curious. You’ll likely notice an uptick in energy when your guest starts talking, since they’re speaking about something they’re truly interested in.
What’s a tool or resource you can’t live without?
Though you may have a smart aleck answer “hammer” on this one, chances are your guest will be more thoughtful and share something that’s helped them along their journey. People love to learn about ways to be more efficient, and this is an easy method for offering that to your listeners. Plus, you may discover something that will help you in your career, too.
What should I have asked?
As important as it is to prepare before a podcast, you’ll never know everything about your guest. Maybe they just experienced a major life event or hit a milestone that hasn’t yet reached the internet. You might even uncover something that happened on their way to doing the podcast. Before you stop recording, give them a chance to tie up any loose ends you may have missed.
Other Great Podcast Questions
The art of asking smart podcast questions takes time to master. To give you a head start, we reached out to established podcasters to learn their favorite question to ask — and how it resonates with their audience.
What’s the most painful, or memorable, failure you’ve had in your career?
“Almost everyone pauses for a few moments of reflection, and their answers usually cut straight to the core of what I’m hoping to highlight for my audience… the #1 lesson some of the world’s best bloggers, entrepreneurs and marketers have learned the hard way. We then dig into the contrast of how they approach that same kind of challenge today, and draw insights for my listeners to also avoid making that same painful mistake.”– Ryan Robinson, The Side Hustle Project
How did that make you feel?
“Very often my guests have an agenda to push (a book, podcast, film, etc.) and/or they’re used to telling the same story over and over. This question seems to take them off guard a little and break down that invisible ‘routine answer’ barrier. Most of the comments I get back from my audience is that they listen because they can hear the intimacy. Our fans love the moment when I can get a guest to stop ‘pitching me’ and give me some actual realness; that’s why I always ask that question.”– Laura Cathcart Robbins, The Only One Podcast
What would you tell your 10-year-old self if you could?
“Though we tell our guests we will ask this at the end of the show, this question often catches them off guard, causing them to gasp, pause, and sometimes cry. It has been a profoundly simple and moving question, and we love it because it causes our guests (and listeners) to remember they are still that little boy or girl they once were. For some of our guests, 10 was a traumatic time in their lives; for others, it was liberating. We never know what we’ll get as a response, but we always know it will be genuine.”– Carrie Rosebrock and Taryn Small, Audacity Rising Podcast
Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
“It’s a softball question but sometimes leads to fun stories or funny answers. It also sets the right tone for the interview because it gets them thinking about a positive memory from their childhood. Especially for guests who aren’t as comfortable talking about themselves, this one sets us up for a good interview. I’m hoping it also gets our listeners thinking about how they would answer the same question.”– Josh Levine, Rebel Radio
How did you get started? Tell us how you got into this hobby.
“My co-host Katie Robbert and I love this question because it’s open ended enough to really uncover the psychology behind the hobby (or collection or other pursuit) and the person almost always has a really interesting backstory. Sometimes we learn how they accidentally fell into a new hobby, which is always fun to hear.
“The added benefit of this question is that it gives listeners a roadmap for picking up that hobby if they’re interested. For example, Chris Brogan talked about how to succeed playing Fortnite, and Laura Petrolino described how she got started in competitive bodybuilding. The stories are interesting and the information is valuable, so we consider this question a must-ask!”– Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, Punch Out Podcast with Katie and Kerry
How do you leverage collaboration in your business or life?
“I ask this because the main purpose of my podcast is to show people what successful collaboration actually looks like across various industries, company types, and communities. I find in my collaboration consulting practice and workshops that most people are still very confused about how to actually incorporate a collaboration strategy to achieve their business goals. By asking this question of my guests, I’m able to give real world examples to my listeners of how to do just that.”– Baily Hancock, Stop, Collaborate & Listen
Describe a day in your life.
“It can be a ‘typical’ day, though I often prefer to hear how the person spent yesterday. We can all learn so much from how successful people manage the logistics of their lives. Our listeners love hearing how people deal with day-to-day challenges and make time for everything that is important to them.”– Laura Vanderkam, Best of Both Worlds Podcast
What’s a [YOUR NAME] nugget you share that really seems to resonate when you share it?
“As in, they quote it back to you often or retweet it. I like it because it often sparks a quotable gem that can go into graphics, the title, or teaser.”– Pete Mockaitis, How to Be Awesome at Your Job
What books do you enjoy?
“I like this one because I get to share the great work other authors are doing.”– Molly Beck, Messy.fm
Keep these podcast tips in mind the next time you’re recording. You’ll help make your show more educational and entertaining, and the strong content will appeal to a wider audience.
Now get out there and make your best podcast episode yet!
Image credit: PlayTheTunes