We all have pet peeves. Sometimes these are just minor annoyances, other times they are painful podcast mistakes others make that could really improve what they are doing. Today I’m going to tell you one of mine, because it can really ruin an otherwise great podcast.

The biggest podcast mistake I see hosts make during an interview is also the opposite of what makes a great podcaster.

One of my favorite podcasts is The Tim Ferriss show. I’ve followed Tim since I picked up his first book the Four Hour Work Week. If it weren’t for that book I probably wouldn’t be here today. Despite that love of his work, I wasn’t sure about his podcast going in.

Now I think his is one of the best out there because of one simple practice in his interviews.

This one thing is also the opposite of the podcast mistake I hear on other podcasts that drives me crazy.

Tim listens to his guest when they are answering a question.

The biggest podcast mistake new interviewers make is they don’t listen.

3 Things Listening Lets You Do

Firstly you can clarify their answer.

If you are listening you hear when the person you are interviewing says something that is incomplete. Often experts answer questions assuming you understand something. A good interviewer understands how their audience thinks, and what they know about the subject. Because of this knowledge they can ask followup questions to explain jargon, or ask for more details about something. A good interviewer doesn’t let an answer go over the listener’s head.

We’ll send you a free Anti-Distraction Countdown you can go through before each show to get focused on your interview.

Secondly you can ask the follow-up question your listener would.

That’s where just listening turns into brilliance. If you as an interviewer are listening closely you’ll hear unsaid things and get clarity, but you’ll also get an insight that leads to another query for your audience.

Thirdly you can follow rabbit trails to the best stuff.

This may be the most important possibility. Discovering subjects, insights, and stories you could never have anticipated, but you discovered because you listened and followed up.

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Listen

We’re starstruck.

I have a friend who started a podcast and relatively quickly, within the first few episodes, got to interview someone he’d been following for years. My friend was so excited and so nervous. Hours were spent preparing and coming up with questions. When the interview started he was very worried about taking too much of the guest’s time. He didn’t want to do anything that would make his hero uncomfortable or think badly of him.

Being stuck in his own head, and his own worries lead to him making the not listening podcast mistake.

Iconically this leads to him not really engaging and listening to what his hero was saying during the interview.

Instead, he had a list of questions and he was just trying to get through them as quickly as possible.

We’re thinking about what comes next.

You must spend time on preparation to do a good interview. Start with the questions in your interviewee guide. Then make questions specific to your guest. But you shouldn’t be focused on this list and getting through it.

I once heard NYT bestselling author and Rolling Stone writer Neil Strauss talk about how he does interviews so he avoids this trap. He does his prep, and comes up with a list of questions and talking points. He writes them down on a piece of paper he takes to the interview. Then right before he goes in to interview someone, he reads that piece of paper, folds it up and sticks it into his back pocket.

He never uses it during the interview.

Instead, Neil trusts all the prep and the review of the questions will be in his brain and will come out when needed. In the actual interview, he focuses on the person he’s interviewing.

Distraction Is The Enemy

The world is full of distraction, whether it is things like our phones beeping notifications at us, or all the recording equipment we’re using for the interview. You must minimize this stuff during an interview. You need to have everything focused on the interaction between two people that is your interview. Turn everything off you can and minimize what you have to do during the interview.

Relax and just talk. Be truly interested in the person you are interviewing and just do it. Talk like you would if you were just out to dinner or something.

I used to say that Photographer and Model was like when photographers and models meet up and talk. The subject matter was what they’d talk about anyway. The things they cared about.

Your podcast can be the same.

We’ve created a free Anti-Distraction Countdown for you. Just give us your email and we’ll send it right to you.

Have A Conversation

I once heard someone tell Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that his dialog sounded so natural and how did he write it that way.

“My dialog sounds like we all want to sound like.” In reality, people’s conversations are disjointed, full of pauses and verbal ticks. But when you smooth those out it sounds natural.

All your prep helps you make your questioning seem natural. The fact you are recording and can edit later helps smooth out the discussion. Being present, not starstruck or distracted, makes for a great experience for both you and the listener.

Interviewers who don’t listen is one of my pet peeves and I hope after reading this it will be one of yours too. When you hear non-listening podcasters, you will be appalled. When you catch yourself doing it you will be immediately put down your notes, turn off your phone’s notifications and just listen to the person on the other end of that Skype call.

Don’t make the biggest podcast mistake new interviewers make. Listen and be present.