By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of what makes a good podcast guest, how to find the right person for your interview, and tips on increasing the chances of the potential guest saying yes.
Time is one of our most precious resources. If I message you on LinkedIn asking for an hour to chat, you’ll most likely say no.
However, if I message you about a specific thing related to your career and offer you an opportunity to discuss it on my podcast, my chances of you saying yes dramatically increase.
Interviewing the right guest can help grow your own authority, help you build relationships with new people, and most importantly, increase the quality of your content for your listeners.
Unfortunately, most podcasters are unintentional at best and lazy at worst when it comes to booking guests.
Why so many podcasters are terrible at booking the right guests.
Booking the right guest for your show isn’t difficult in theory but most podcast hosts fail at it because they don’t know what to do or where to put their effort.
Podcast hosts lack a plan.
Podcast hosts should have an understanding of what they are creating on a macro (across a podcast season/multiple episodes) and a micro (individual episodes) level. Most modern interview show hosts don’t think more than 1 to 3 episodes ahead.
(P.S. Interviewing “successful” entrepreneurs about their businesses is not a plan.)
There is no shortage of podcast guests.
The number of people who want to be on a podcast far outweighs the number of podcast hosts actively searching for guests. This has resulted in too many poorly targeted podcast pitches and most podcast guest matching websites flooded with attention hogs.
The worst part is many podcasters blindly accept these requests resulting in subpar, sales-pitchy interviews.
Podcasters don’t know where to find the right guests.
Even when podcasters take the time to plan who they want to talk with, it’s difficult to source the right guest.
Making blanket requests on social media aren’t effective and run dry quickly.
Podcasters don’t know how to get the right guest to say yes.
Let’s say you took the time to plan your episodes and you found someone you want to invite on your show. Even with your research in place, it can be difficult to know how to contact specific people or what to say when you do (especially if they are high-profile).
Before you hang up the headphones and call it quits, I have good news. This is one part of what we do for our clients every day.
We’ve helped identify, book, and interview hundreds of guests for our clients and our own shows.
Here’s how, step by step:
Step 1: Have a plan.
If you don’t have a plan, no amount of research will help you find the right guest.
The easiest place to start is understanding what your end goal is.
- Why are you creating the podcast?
- Who is the target audience?
- What are they going to get out of listening to your show? After listening to a single episode? After listening to multiple episodes?
When you know where you’re going, it will be easier to understand the steps necessary to get you there.
For example, let’s say you are producing the show Twenty Thousand Hertz: A podcast on stories behind the world’s most recognizable sounds. This is a super interesting podcast from Dallas Taylor and the team at Defacto Sound.
One goal behind the show is probably to teach the listener about the hows and whys behind well known sounds like the emergency alert system and 8-bit video game music. Another goal is likely to raise the profile and awareness of their sound studio.
Thus, they can’t just choose people at random or take any guest request that lands in their inbox. They have to choose the right people, which leads to my next point.
Step 2: Choose the right person to tell the story.
Podcasters mess this step up because they don’t understand what they are looking for and too often, they schedule the first option available.
Basically, you have two types of people you can book on your show:
- An individual
- A category
Let me explain.
You might need to book an individual, i.e. a specific person. If Twenty Thousand Hertz was creating a show about being in the band Radiohead, they would need to interview a specific member of Radiohead. The story won’t work as well being told by other bands, fans, or roadies.
Other times, you might need to interview one person out of a group. If Twenty Thousand Hertz was creating an episode about the culture of Radiohead concerts, they could interview any band member or anyone who frequented shows.
When you understand if you need an individual or a category, knowing where to look becomes much easier.
Bonus tip: Someone with direct experience is always better than someone with second hand experience.
Step 3: Know where to find your interview guest and how to reach out.
Most podcasters limit themselves to their immediate network. That is only one third of your possibilities. Consider the following:
- The people you know.
- Your network, friends, friend of friends, recommendations, etc.
- The people you haven’t met but who you can contact.
- People who probably don’t know you but you can contact.
- The people you need to research and find.
- People you don’t know and don’t have their contact information.
Your job is easy if the right person for your interview is someone you know.
Option 01: Steps for reaching out to someone you know:
- Contact them whatever way is easiest
- Tell them what your podcast is about
- Explain why you’d like to have them on
- Ask if they would like to be a guest
If they say yes, send them the details they need to schedule and be ready for the interview.
Things get slightly more difficult if the potential guest doesn’t know you but you can contact them.
Option 02: Steps for reaching out to a stranger when you have their contact:
If this is a 2nd degree connection, meaning someone you know could introduce you, try a two-step introduction, i.e. get permission to contact them.
- Don’t reach out to the potential guest directly. Give your connection basic info about your podcast and ask them to contact the person for you to see if they are interested.
- If they are interested, have your connection make an introduction or reach out directly. This way is more respectful to the guest’s time and guarantees a response.
- If the guest says no, move on to someone new.
If you are reaching out to someone cold, try to find ways to warm them up first.
- Follow them on social media and meaningfully engage with their content.
- Read up on their background or career.
- Join their newsletter (if they have one).
- Get on the radar of people in their circle who might be more accessible (again, only if relevant).
Option 03: Steps to research and find the right guest:
If you need to research to find the perfect guest, consider the following mediums.
- People already creating (Bloggers and YouTubers)
- Google search the “news” results for a niche topic or industry
- Advanced search features on social media
- Groups on social media
- YouTube topics and industries
- Recent news and magazine articles
- Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
- Networking and speakers at conferences
- Recommendations from other experts in similar fields
- Guests from other, similar podcasts
- Guest booking services (use with caution)
Remember, choose the best person for the interview. Not the one who is easiest to contact.
Step 4: What to say when reaching out.
I call this part of the process “easing into the ask.” It’s easy to jump straight into ALL of the details of how and why to be on your show. Don’t. Especially if this is a cold outreach to someone who doesn’t know you.
Instead, break it into two emails.
- Gauge their interest
- Provide the details
In your first email, try to include the following:
- A specific trait, skill, or accomplishment that you know about the person, related to why you want them on your podcast.
- Brief context of who you are and what your podcast is about.
- The reason you would like to have them on as a guest.
- Ask if they are interested in being a guest.
If they say yes, send a follow up email detailing the following:
- Thank the person
- Describe the show, audience, and goal/intent
- Interview details and how to schedule a time
- Any prep they should do (keep limited)
- A way to preview the show in advance
- An offer to answer their questions
If they don’t respond, it’s okay to briefly follow-up a few times over a bit of time. People are busy and don’t always respond right away.
If they say no, respect it and move on to the next best guest.
There is no shortage of people who want to be interviewed and it’s tempting to accept whoever just to get the interview scheduled. However, if you want an excellent interview, choosing the right guest is a huge part of the process.
Have a plan. Decide on the best people to interview. Know how to find them. Know how to reach out.
Follow these steps for quality guests and ultimately, a better podcast.