10 Steps to Make Your Podcast Guests Feel Comfortable

14 September 2023

Appearing as a guest on a podcast, regardless of its reach, can stir up a whirlwind of nerves in someone unaccustomed to the experience. Your heart races, oxygen seems scarce, and your words suddenly decide to play a game of hide-and-seek. In that moment, it feels like it’s just you and the host, navigating the podcasting landscape together.
Surprisingly, this anxiety is quite common and relatable. Personally, I found solace in the unassuming embrace of boxed pinot grigio during my initial forays into podcast interviews. However, it’s crucial to recognize that not everyone finds this particular remedy effective.
So, how can you ease the apprehension of a podcast guest? If you’re looking to soothe the jitters of your podcasting counterparts, consider these ten strategies designed to cultivate a more relaxed atmosphere.

1. Establish Clear Expectations

Establishing clear expectations is the foundational step in ensuring your podcast guests feel comfortable throughout the recording process. It’s about setting the stage for a successful and stress-free conversation. When you’re transparent about what your guest can expect, you’re not only alleviating their uncertainties but also demonstrating professionalism and respect for their time and contribution.
Begin by clearly communicating the format of the podcast episode, whether it’s an interview, a panel discussion, or a solo episode where they’ll be featured. Provide details on the expected duration of the recording, so they can plan their schedule accordingly. If there are specific topics or themes to be discussed, make sure to share these in advance to allow your guest to prepare and feel more at ease.
Let your guest know about any technical aspects they should be aware of, such as the recording platform, microphone setup, or any special instructions. This ensures that they come prepared and can focus on the conversation rather than being caught off guard by unexpected elements.

2. Pre-Interview Communication

Pre-interview communication is the art of making podcast guests feel comfortable. It serves as a bridge between the initial invitation and the actual recording, offering several key benefits. First and foremost, it helps establish a personal connection between you and your guest. Initiating a friendly conversation via email, messaging apps, or even a brief phone call can go a long way in breaking the ice and building rapport.
Beyond the personal connection, pre-interview communication allows you to outline the podcast’s objectives and theme in more detail. You can discuss the specific topics you intend to cover and any questions or concerns your guest might have. This not only clarifies expectations but also gives your guest the opportunity to provide input or suggest areas they’re particularly passionate about.
Pre-interview communication provides a platform for logistical coordination. You can confirm the date and time of the recording, provide information about the recording platform or location, and ensure that both you and your guest are on the same page regarding technical requirements. This level of transparency eliminates potential surprises and technical hiccups during the recording.

3. Research Your Guests

Thoroughly researching your podcast guests is an essential step to not only enhance the quality of your content but also to make your guests feel valued and respected. When you take the time to dig into their background, accomplishments, and areas of expertise, it demonstrates a genuine interest in their perspective, fostering a sense of appreciation and comfort.
To begin, start by scouring their online presence, including their professional website, social media profiles, and any articles or publications they may have authored. This will provide you with valuable insights into their work, interests, and the topics they are passionate about. It can also help you uncover potential discussion points or angles that align with their expertise.
Beyond the digital realm, consider reading any books, research papers, or articles authored by your guest. Familiarizing yourself with their written work not only deepens your understanding of their ideas but also allows you to ask more informed and insightful questions during the podcast.

4. Create a Comfortable Environment

Creating a comfortable environment for podcast recording is a fundamental aspect of ensuring your guests feel at ease. A welcoming and stress-free setting not only enhances their performance but also fosters a positive impression of your podcast.
Begin by addressing the physical aspects of your recording space. Ensure that the lighting is pleasant and not overly harsh, as this can affect the overall mood and appearance. Pay attention to the acoustics, using soundproofing or acoustic treatments if necessary to reduce background noise and echoes. Comfortable seating and proper ergonomics are also essential to keep your guest relaxed and focused throughout the recording.
Provide essential amenities such as water, snacks, or tissues to cater to your guest’s needs during the session. Small gestures like these can help them feel cared for and valued.

5. Develop a Warm and Welcoming Intro

Crafting a warm and welcoming introduction sets the tone for a positive and comfortable podcast experience for both your guests and your audience. Your podcast’s introduction is like the proverbial handshake that initiates the conversation, and it plays a pivotal role in putting your guests at ease.
First impressions matter, so start by addressing your guest with enthusiasm and respect. Express your genuine appreciation for their presence on your podcast and highlight their expertise or achievements to underscore their value to your listeners. This not only boosts their confidence but also demonstrates your admiration for their contributions.
Personalizing the introduction by sharing a bit about your guest’s background, experiences, or interests can make them feel more relatable to your audience. It humanizes them and allows listeners to connect on a deeper level. However, always ensure that your guest is comfortable with the level of personal information you share.

6. Active Listening and Empathy

Active listening and empathy are not only cornerstones of effective communication but also invaluable tools for making podcast guests feel comfortable and valued. When you actively listen and demonstrate empathy during a podcast recording, you create an environment where your guest feels heard, understood, and appreciated.
Active listening involves more than just hearing words; it requires fully engaging with the speaker. Maintain eye contact if you’re recording in person or through video conferencing, and respond with nods, verbal affirmations, or thoughtful interjections to show you’re tuned in. Avoid interrupting and allow your guest to express their thoughts fully. Reflect back on what they’ve said, paraphrasing or summarizing to confirm your understanding and signal that their words matter.
Empathy goes hand in hand with active listening. Try to see the conversation from your guest’s perspective and acknowledge their emotions. If they share personal anecdotes or experiences, express understanding and compassion. You might say something like, ‘I can imagine how challenging that must have been.’ Empathetic responses foster a deeper connection and trust between you and your guest.

7. Mindful Questioning

Mindful questioning is a critical aspect of hosting a podcast that not only engages your audience but also contributes significantly to your guest’s comfort and the overall success of the episode. The art of crafting thoughtful and purposeful questions can elevate the depth and authenticity of the conversation.
To begin with, mindful questioning involves a deliberate consideration of the topics you want to explore during the podcast. Prior to the recording, take time to plan your questions and structure the conversation logically. Start with broad, open-ended questions that encourage your guest to share their insights and experiences freely. As the conversation progresses, use follow-up questions to delve deeper into specific areas or stories that pique your interest.
Frame your questions in a way that highlights your guest’s expertise and perspective. By doing so, you not only demonstrate your respect for their knowledge but also make them feel valued and appreciated. Encourage them to share their unique insights or offer advice on subjects they are passionate about.

8. Encourage Authenticity

Encouraging authenticity in your podcast guests is a powerful strategy to foster a comfortable and genuine atmosphere during the recording. Authenticity is the key to creating compelling and relatable content that resonates with both your guests and your audience.
To encourage authenticity, start by emphasizing the importance of honest and unfiltered responses. Let your guests know that your podcast values their genuine thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Assure them that it’s okay to be themselves and that there’s no need to put on a façade or perform. This reassurance can help alleviate any pressure or anxiety they may feel.
Consider sharing your own vulnerabilities or personal anecdotes during the podcast. When you open up about your own experiences, it often inspires your guests to do the same. This creates a sense of mutual trust and shared vulnerability that can lead to deeper and more authentic conversations.

9. Breaks and Check-Ins

Integrating breaks and check-ins into your podcast recording process is a thoughtful way to prioritize the comfort and well-being of your guests. Podcast sessions can be mentally and emotionally demanding, especially if they extend over a long period. By scheduling regular breaks, you allow your guests time to rest, refocus, and recharge, reducing the potential for burnout and ensuring they remain engaged throughout the recording.
During these breaks, consider offering refreshments or snacks to keep energy levels up. It’s also an ideal opportunity to address any concerns or questions your guests may have or simply to chat informally. These moments can help build rapport and alleviate any tension that may have built up during the recording.
In addition to breaks, incorporating check-ins is essential. Ask your guests how they’re feeling, both physically and emotionally, and if there’s anything they need to make the experience more comfortable. This demonstrates your commitment to their well-being and reinforces the idea that their comfort is a top priority.

10. Post-Interview Follow-Up

Post-interview follow-up is a thoughtful practice that extends the courtesy and respect you’ve shown your podcast guests during the recording. It’s an opportunity to express gratitude for their time and insights, fostering a positive and lasting impression.
After the recording concludes, take a moment to thank your guest genuinely. This could be done through a personal email, a handwritten note, or a brief message on social media. Express appreciation not only for their contribution but also for their authenticity and willingness to share their knowledge and experiences with your audience.
Share the episode with your guest once it’s published, along with any promotional materials. This allows them to share the content with their own network, amplifying its reach and benefiting both parties. Be sure to include any relevant links or tags that make it easy for your guest to promote the episode.

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