Create a Podcasting Workflow: Brainstorming Potential Interview QuestionsSep 14, 2021
Create a Podcasting Workflow: Brainstorming Potential Interview Questions
At Spark Media, we believe that creativity is necessary when it comes to keeping the attention of your podcast listeners. With numerous sources vying for their attention, it is our job, as hosts, to keep listener engagement high. Simply put, this means to encourage, inform, inspire, or entertain our audiences. One way to do this is to ask creative questions that catch and keep the attention of your audience. In this fourth post of our podcast workflow series, we will turn our attention to the creative process that Spark Media utilizes to create interview questions.
If you have been interviewing guests for any amount of time, it is likely that one of your greatest podcasting-related fears is that you will ask a question into thin air. That is, you pose the question, your guest has no answer, and then the audience hears crickets. Sometimes, in an interview, silence can be helpful. Other times, though, it is daunting for the host and difficult to fill. One way to fill the silence (or to prevent an awkward silence from occurring) is to ask well-articulated questions. Chances are, that the more engaging your questions are, the more the conversation will flow naturally between you and your guest. Often, a natural conversation is what your audience is looking for - so they will stick around and listen intently.
When creating interview questions, the Spark team often focuses on six types of questions that draw a story from our guests. We will break them down below.
Questions begin with who aims to get to the heart of a story by revealing the people who affected the guest's life, his or her testimony, or the events of his or her life. Examples of compelling “who” questions include:
- Who taught you how to ____?
- Who had the biggest impact on that area of your life?
- Who do you look up to?
Questions that begin with “what” often seek to have the guest describe an event, the effects of an event, or the details of an experience. When asking these questions, you will want to think about how you can shape them so that it leads your guest to open up to you and your listeners and leaves the listeners wanting to hear more. Examples of compelling “what” questions include:
- What drove you to do ____?
- What made you decide to ____?
- What skills, talents, or abilities have helped you along the journey?
Questions that begin with “why” often seek to find the deeper meaning within a story. These are the questions that allow hosts to dig into ideas and opinions, focus squarely on details that were previously revealed within the interview, and further draw out the story. Questions that ask why are clarifying. That is, they help both the host and the listener gain a better understanding of the reason behind the actions that a guest took. Examples of compelling “why” questions include:
- Why do you believe ____ about your topic?
- Why are you passionate about ____?
- Why is it necessary to ____?
Questions that ask “when” typically aim to orient the guest to a place in time. These are questions that are meant to familiarize the guest with background information and to make the guest aware of a timeline that may be present within a story. Examples of compelling “when” questions include:
- When did you start ____?
- When did you finish ____?
- When did you realize that you were interested in this topic?
Questions that ask “where” are typically related to location. These questions usually aim to describe the place in which an event occurred or the places that the guest has been or will go in relation to an event. Examples of compelling “where” questions include:
- Where were you when ____ happened?
- Where was [previously mentioned person] at the time of that event?
- Where do you see yourself in X amount of years?
Questions that ask how typically aim to tie the details together. These questions are usually focused heavily on how one event relates to another. Examples of compelling “how” questions include:
- How are ___ and ____ related?
- How did ___ lead to ____?
- How have you seen ___ change over time?
Now that we have covered the six question types, we will describe how you can utilize these questions to obtain a valuable story from your guests.
When you consider the way that you approach an interview with your guest, remember that your first goal should be to tell a story. You want to engage your audience from beginning to end and help them understand the events that are being discussed as they occurred in real-time. You also want to be sure to let the guest tell his or her story freely. Try your best not to interrupt the guest, but ask questions that redirect the conversation instead. Questions that redirect conversations often sound like these.
- Can you tell me more about that?
- Will you clarify this point for me?
- Can you give the listeners an example?
One essential piece of information that you will want to remember as you are brainstorming potential interview questions is that every interview tells a story. These questions seek to go below the surface and also to direct the guest’s attention back to the topic at hand. Think about how your own experiences with podcasting both as a host and as a listener can inform the way that you interview others. After every interview, ask yourself questions like…
- What did I like about this interview?
- How can I improve my craft?
- What could I do differently next time?
An interviewer who is always seeking to improve becomes an interviewer who is sought after, not only for the content that he or she produces but for the consistency with which he or she shows up.
Today, we encourage you to think deeply about the questions that you are posing to your guests. Think about the ways that these questions engage and inform the audience and the way that they flow together to form a cohesive narrative and story. Interviewers are storytellers. Do not be afraid to get to the bottom of your story!
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