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Hitting The Podcast Circuit? A Radio Powerhouse’s Advice On How To Be A Great Guest

Appearing on podcasts and radio programs can be a great way to promote your business. There will be 424.2 million podcasters worldwide this year, according to the market research firm Insider Intelligence.

If you haven’t done many media interviews, appearing on these programs can be a little intimidating at first. However, it doesn’t have to be, if you know what to expect and understand how to be a great guest. 

For advice on how to make the most of podcast and radio interviews, I spoke last week with Joan Herrmann, host and producer of the Change Your Attitude…Change Your Life radio show and the podcast Conversations with Joan, which airs on New York’s AM970. Hermann also does media training, where she helps clients get up to speed for upcoming interviews and tours. 

Whether you are appearing on a podcast someone is producing in their basement or a number one market radio show, says Herrmann, “you always have to show up with your ‘A’ game.”

That starts with making sure you have a decent headset—dialing in on a speaker phone is a no-no that ruins audio quality, according to Herrmann—but it goes far beyond the equipment you use. 

Here is an excerpt from a recent conversation we had about how to be a great podcast guest. 

Elaine Pofeldt: What kind of prep work should someone do before an audio interview? 

Joan Herrmann: You need to research the show. You want to know what the format of the show is. Know what time the show airs. My show airs at 10 pm. I can’t tell you how many times I welcome a guest to the show, and they say, “Good morning, Joan.” 

You need to know what the show is all about, and about the person you’re speaking with. Learn the host’s back story. All of this is to make it a conversation between two people. 

Also, ask the producer how long the feature will be. You want to craft your message appropriately. I see a lot of people eat up their time on one answer.

Beyond that, you should come prepared with talking points. Always have 2-3 key messages you want to convey during the conversation. You want to get those upfront in your answers. Listeners tune in and out. You want to get those messages up front as best you can. 

Elaine Pofeldt: What should people keep in mind when deciding on talking points? 

Joan Herrmann: What is your branding? What is your messaging? What are you an expert in? What are your key messages, based on your branding and what you may be an expert in? 

Once an interview is booked you should send a media sheet with your suggested talking points to a host or producer. Professionals welcome that. It helps them craft an interview. And, if you’re with a host who may not be as skilled, it helps you control that conversation a little better. They may be more apt to follow your suggested talking points. 

Elaine Pofeldt: Any tips on how best to deliver the talking points?  

Joan Herrmann: Speak in a clear, concise manner. Answer questions succinctly in short chunks listeners can digest and pay attention to. Be sure to include stories. You may not remember that I said, “Don’t talk too long,” but you will remember a story I told about a woman who rambled on too long. Any time you can answer the questions and follow up with a brief story, it becomes more memorable. 

Elaine Pofeldt: How can people create a sense of banter with the host? 

Joan Herrmann: When you’re having a conversation, and the host asks the question, answer it and offer the supporting information. Then pause. You’re done. Now the host has the opportunity to follow up on something you just said. It becomes banter. You play off of one another. 

You don’t want the host to ask one question and run on for the next 10 minutes with the answer. You want to give the host the opportunity to follow up and engage in conversation.

Elaine Pofeldt: What are the number one mistakes you see guests making on podcasts?

Joan Herrmann: Reading answers, rambling, not knowing how to pronounce a host’s name. I watch a lot of shows. I see people overselling. Your audience doesn’t want to hear the title of your book in every answer. You work that into the conversation, but not in every answer. You want to allow the host to promote your book, as well. I’ve had people mention their book in every single answer. After a while it becomes really annoying. 

I always ask in my conversation ‘Can you give us a few tips that will help a person with..,” on the topic of the interview. I had a big-name person on the show who said, “Why don’t we let the people buy the book?” 

That is something you do not want to say. You’re not there to sell, sell, sell. It’s a backdoor sales approach. You’re there to shine as an expert, to get them interested in what your messaging is. 

You don’t want to be known for selling. You’re getting people interested in you and your work and your knowledge, as opposed to your salesmanship.

Elaine Pofeldt: How can guests stay focused on what the listeners will care about? 

Joan Herrmann: That comes back to knowing your show and doing your pre-show homework. You want to understand who the listeners are. Check out the demographics of the show. Who is listening to the show? If it’s a business audience, you might use different language as opposed to a health-related audience. You want to know who you are talking to—women, men, age group, profession, so you can craft your message appropriately.

Elaine Pofeldt: What do you recommend for guests who have the jitters? 

Joan Herrmann: When you do research on the show ahead of time, you’ll feel more empowered and be a lot more confident. Right before the interview, sit down, take a few deep breaths. I like to tell people to visualize the interview. Practicing relaxation techniques—visualizing the show going well—can also help. You always want to have water handy, because you can get dry mouth when you’re nervous. 

Once you get into the flow of the conversation, when you’re not so caught up on prepared answers and tap into your knowledge, you can lose yourself in that conversation and let your expertise shine. 

Elaine Pofeldt: Do you have any tips for the parts of the show where the host engages in small talk? 

Joan Herrmann: Before an interview, always prepare for the personal. Always prepare for the question “How did you get started on this journey. Why is this work important to you?” I ask that for all of my guests. I want to humanize the conversation.

I would recommend tailoring your answer, so it shares some part of you that is the driving force for the work you are doing. It makes the audience see the importance of your work, and they will want to listen to you more. 

A lot of times, someone’s story is an integral part of the work they do. I had Dr. Daniel Amen on the show. When I asked him, “Why are you doing this work?” he had a personal story as to why he started doing it. Even for a financial book, there is always a story behind why someone is doing it. I like to bring that story out. It makes a connection with the audience. 

It is important to tailor your answer to whatever audience you’re facing. If you’re talking to a business audience, for instance, speak their language. You’re creating an emotional connection.

Elaine Pofeldt: A lot of this seems to tie into social and communication skills. For the person who does not think they are strong in this area, how can they raise their game? 

Joan Herrmann: Media training can help people build confidence. But ultimately, it’s an inside job. A lot of it comes from seeing yourself for who you are, your value and what you can share. When you start to see how wise you are, you start to gain that internal self-confidence and show up differently. You’re not as timid or afraid to present yourself in the world. A lot of people think to themselves, “Why should I be a guest and why should people care about what I have to say? Owning your knowledge, and wisdom will help you show up. It starts with you and how you feel about yourself.

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