Conducting an interview, how-to

When I launched the Plouf🏊‍♀️ podcast for Our Millennials Today ((in FR), there were many things I had to reflect on. The first was – of course – « what type of material would I use? », and the second « how can I lead an interview? ».

I managed to dodge the question at first, developing a meet up like podcast where two persons with similarities in their life and career path would talk about orientation together. In terms of relatability, discussion and topic depth, this format was amazing. However, I couldn’t say the same about the time invested-result ratio. If editing and post-production was kept at a minimum, the preparative work took me too long to be sustainable on the long run. Especially since the most important criteria for me was not to develop a time-consuming project since I worked a full time job. So the podcast evolved to become a « classic » interview show.

How to lead an interview?

choose your invitees wisely

The great thing about having your own podcast is: you make the rules. Once you’ve defined your mission, values and editorial line, all you need to do is find people that match them.

You can’t have it all right on the first try – who ever does anyways? – but having a good show-invitee fit is quite essential.

For me, this took multiple tries to define what could make a good – and a terrible – invitee. As one of my main goals is to highlight every student’s and young graduate’s story though authentic discussion, I’m very careful to find people who have no romanced storytelling. After some failed interviews, I have now established a « screening call » to see how people speak of themselves beforehand. Handy, since this allows me to check if the person is in line with some others of my guidelines such as « be serious without taking yourself too seriously ».

This brings me to the next (sub)advice: when starting out, you can be tempted to accept every proposition to ensure a regular show. BUT, if privileging quantity over quality might feel comfy to keep up with the rhythm having invitees who don’t match your spirit might seriously throw off your grove – and editorial line… which is not such a good idea on the long run. Furthermore, if you’re not at ease with him/her, your listeners will hear it. (or if they don’t as it happened to me, keeping a bad interview memory is not really worth the while)

Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating to say no to someone who might boost your stats but who’s not a match for your values but don’t worry, it’ll pay on the long run – yes this requires patience.

listen and empathise

This could have been the sole advice of this whole article. Listen. Preparing your questions in advance is great – as knowing some of your invitee’s background depending on your podcast topic and style. But sticking to it can break spontaneity. Consider them as a guide, not as an absolute. It can even prevent you to dive deep into a great topic your invitee hints at because of your interview blinders…

get comfortable with silence

When I started out, I hated pauses in a conversation. I felt like it stretched a thousand times more when listening to the podcast afterwards and made me feel awkward. But with time, I realised that silences are actually time that didn’t need to be filled. On the contrary, like pauses in life which often allow us to connect to ourselves, pauses in a conversation are a space for thoughts to form – before formulation.

Sometimes, it’s even because the person has had some time for her/himself that s·he can formulate it and dig deep into a topic.

So hush and listen.

an interview doesn’t start when you hit « record »

The best interviews happen when you’ve managed to create a safe space in which the invitee trusts you to welcome his/her speech with care. This is a bit like competing in the « Come dine with me » reality show. To go for the win, you can’t solely count on cooking a bada** course. You have to actually design a whole user experience to ravish everyone’s mind and taste buds.

Well, podcasting’s the same in my mind. Welcoming your guest, making him/her at ease before recording and letting the pressure off is essential. Same goes for the after party. You can’t hit « stop » and both go about your day without a little chitchat afterwards to get your guest’s first impressions, feedbacks etc. Think of it as the little digestive after dinner if you’re looking to extend your metaphor (or the shot at the end of the party for the most festive members of the community 👀)

There you go! I hope this gave you some keys to get going with your own projects.

👉 If you’re interested in project creation, you can always check this article to help you decide whether or not you should launch your idea.

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