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Rapport, Outline, Expectations! 3 Parts to a Great Pre-Interview


Rapport, Outline, Expectations! 3 Parts to a Great Pre-Interview

So you took the plunge and decided to launch an interview-based podcast for your brand.

You chose the perfect name for the show, you had your design team create a really sexy logo, you wrote all the copy for the iTunes description…you’ve been staying super busy ramping up for the launch of the podcast.

Then in hits you….

You have to start interviewing other humans on your podcast, and you have no clue how to do that.

You’re starting to freak out a bit because you know that your podcast interviews are incredibly strategic for your brand…for a couple different reasons:

1) Because the content from the interviews is going to fuel your content waterfall.

2) Because the guests you’re interviewing are prospective clients, and the time they spend with you during the interview will likely be one their very first impressions of your brand. You want them to know that you’re sharp, organized, and that you genuinely care about creating phenomenal content that serves your audience.

But there’s a secret to hosting an incredible interview, and it’s actually pretty simple:

You’ve got to nail the pre-interview.

The pre-interview takes place from the moment your guest accepts your Skype call, until the moment you start recording the actual interview.

The pre-interview should take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, and it needs to accomplish 3 things. It needs to:

  1. Establish rapport & make your guest comfortable.
  2. Provide an outline for the interview.
  3. Tell your guest exactly what to expect when you hit record.

So let’s break down all 3 parts of a great pre-interview.

1. Rapport & Comfort

Because this interview is likely your very first interaction with this person, you need to immediately establish rapport and make them feel comfortable.

This can be done by simply asking them how their week has been going.

I’ve found that the quicker you can engage your guest in a normal conversation, the more loose and comfortable they feel when it’s time to start recording the interview.

It’s important to understand that a lot of the people you’ll be interviewing on your show will have little to no experience in being interviewed on a podcast. So it’s your job to make sure they feel comfortable and prepared.

2. Outline

This part of the pre-interview is crucial, because you’re defining what the bulk of the interview will look like.

While you were setting up the interview via email, you asked your guest to choose a topic for their episode based on their background and experience.

So when you get to this part of the pre-interview, you’ll want to drill down into the topic they chose.

How to Transition from Rapport & Comfort to Outline

A good transition from Rapport & Comfort to Outline could be this:

“So I was looking back at our email conversation, and it looks like we’re going to be talking about <topic>. Does that still sound good?”

Once they confirm the topic, this is what you could say next:

“Ok, great. I wanna make sure that we talk about everything you want to cover, so what would you say are 3-5 big ideas related to <topic> that you want our listeners to walk away with?”

When you ask this question, the guest might stumble around a bit. They might say something like “Oh man, you’re putting me on the spot”.

It’s your job to step in and make sure they understand that this is just the pre-interview. Nothing they say right now will be published, so they can take their time to collect their thoughts and think through the 3-5 talking points that they want to cover during the interview.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your guests come up with these 3-5 points once you give them a second to gather their thoughts.

Note: Keep a sheet of paper next to your laptop, and write down each of the talking points as they share them with you.


Defining the Talking Points

Your guests might have a tendency to ramble on a bit as they’re explaining their 3-5 talking points…giving you too much detail about each talking point.

You’ll want them to save the details for the actual interview, so don’t be afraid to push them along by asking for their next point.

A good way to transition them from one talking point to the next is this:

As soon as they’ve completed their thought, say, “That’s really good. What’s the next thing that you think our listeners need to understand?”

As soon as the guest has shared 3 talking points, ask them if there’s anything else that they’d like to cover during the interview.

Once you’ve written down each of their talking points, quickly repeat each point back to them. This will give the guest an opportunity to correct anything you might’ve misunderstood while you were taking notes.

Set Up for Success

You’ve now set your guest up for success by allowing them to establish a clear structure for their interview.

This structure will bring clarity to their message, and it will ultimately make them look like a rock star to your audience.

3. Expectations

Ok, you’ve made it to the final stretch of the pre-interview.

This is where you tell your guest exactly what they can expect when you hit the record button.

This last phase of the pre-interview is important, because the more your guest knows what to expect…the more comfortable they’ll be during the interview. And the more comfortable they are during the interview, the better the content will be.

How to Transition from Outline to Expectations

This is a great way to transition from Outline to Expectations:

“Ok, this is a really great outline. Before we start recording, I wanna make sure I introduce you correctly.”

At this point, you’ll want to have already written down their name and job title (from their LinkedIn profile) on your sheet of paper.


Let’s pretend that I’m interviewing Eric Williams on my podcast.

Note: If your guest’s last name isn’t Smith or Williams, make sure to ask them for the correct pronunciation.

Since I already have Eric’s name & title written down in my notes, after my transition statement I’d say:

“Is Eric Williams, CMO of MegaCorp the best way to introduce you?”

Most of the time your guest will simply say, “yep!”. But occasionally they’ll ask you to use a different job title or they’ll ask you to also mention that they’re the author of XYZ Book.

Keeping It Short

You don’t need to say this during the pre-interview, but this is what my intro for Eric will look like during the actual interview:

Welcome back to <podcast name>, we’re here today with Eric Williams, the CMO of MegaCorp. Eric, how are you doing today?”

This is a very short introduction. I keep it short because I want the guest to explain their company to our audience in their own words.

By doing this, it guarantees that I won’t botch the company’s value proposition.

Elevator Pitch

Once you’ve confirmed how you’ll be introducing them, you’ll want to tell your guest what’s going to happen after you introduce them to your listeners.

You can say something like:

“After the introduction, I’ll ask you to tell our listeners about your company. You’ll have 30-60 seconds to share your brand’s elevator pitch. Once you tell our listeners about your company, I’ll transition us into the content that we’re going to be covering in the interview.”

How Listeners Can Connect

Next, you’ll want to tell your guest that they’ll be asked at the end of the interview how listeners can stay connected with them.

I’ve found that if you don’t warn your guests about this during the pre-interview, they sometimes stumble when you ask them during the actual interview.

You can say:

“Once we get through each of your talking points, I’ll ask you how our listeners can stay connected with you. You can share your email address, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile…whatever you’re most comfortable sharing.”

Closing the Pre-Interview

At this point, it’s time to wrap up your pre-interview.

Here’s what you can say as you transition from the pre-interview into the actual interview:

“Once you’ve told our listeners how they can stay connected with you, we’ll close out the interview and I’ll stop the recording. If all that sounds good, and you’re comfortable on your end, I’ll do a brief pause, then we’ll jump right in.”

Conclusion & Full Transcript

Interviewing guests on your podcast doesn’t need to be complicated and intimidating.

When you use the 3-part pre-interview framework that I outlined above, you’ll walk into each of your interviews with clarity and focus about the content you’re about to create.

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