How to be the world’s greatest podcast guest

greatest podcast guest

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I’ve hosted the MarketingProfs podcast for five years (now on episode 338), and while all guests have a unique perspective to share, some stand out as truly exceptional. There’s my own perspective on the guest’s interview, of course, but I also look at social posts, ratings, and feedback I receive directly from listeners to determine who my MVPs (Most Valuable Podcast guests) are.

Looking back, it’s clear that the best guests share certain characteristics, and I’ve used these to help me identify outstanding prospects in a sea of pitches. If you’re podcasting (and you should be), I hope my experience helps you to identify high quality guests.

The best guests have in-depth expertise on the topic.

Mark Schaefer has been on the MarketingProfs podcast every year (sometimes more than once a year), and yet he never discusses the same thing twice. His incredibly deep and varied experience in marketing and promotion enables him to bring new insights to the MarketingProfs audience every time we talk. Omni-channel marketing, Twitter, content strategy, personal branding…he’s covered it all, in depth, offering valuable insights with every interview. That’s why Mark has an open invitation to come back anytime.

The best guests have a sense of humor.

Business advice can be dry, but enterprising marketers crave advice and insight. Humor can be the “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.”

Jeff Barrett rarely utters a sentence without a joke in it. He’s like the Robin Williams of PR and influencer marketing. If the interviewer can keep up, the result is a frenetic conversation packed with fun moments as well as valuable insights.

Productivity expert and recent guest Neen James has an infectious laugh, and you hear it several times in our conversation about the value of attention. “Laugh, and the world laughs with you,” they say. But they could just as easily say “laugh, and a 30-minute podcast flies by!”

The best guests are human (and willing to show it).

Chris Brogan will answer any question I ask him, and he will answer it completely. He’s built what Mark Schaefer calls a “heroic brand,” but Chris works hard to cultivate a genuine relationship with his audience, and that requires candor. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the weird: he shares it all, like he did in this episode on entrepreneurship. That makes him one of my best guests.

The best guests give up the goods.

Of course, if a guest joins the podcast to promote a book or an upcoming appearance, they can’t share everything about the book in the podcast. On the other hand, a great guest shares substantial value with the audience, so that the time spent listening is worth their while. The best guests strike a balance between “giving away the store” and “giving up the goods.”
Jeff Sass recently joined me on the podcast to discuss his book Everything I Know About Business and Marketing, I Learned from The Toxic Avenger. The book itself is a fun, informative read, with valuable business insights tucked inside entertaining movie-industry anecdotes. Jeff shared some of these from the book (and some that aren’t included), and went into more detail when I asked him about certain lessons. But there was still plenty of value to be had from the book! He struck the right balance, and the resulting interview was valuable to my audience before they ever read so much as the dust cover of his book.

Some guests join to show to promote their business, rather than their book. The best of these share some of their business secrets with the audience. When Katie Bullard of DiscoverOrg joined me to talk about account-based marketing, she shared her own company’s “secret sauce” for hosting events to get facetime with people at their target accounts…by giving those people facetime with their desired prospects. She went into detail and gave listeners a blueprint for recreating her success. The best guests know there’s room for everyone to succeed.

The best guests show up for the prep call.

Unless I know the guest already, I routinely request a ten-minute prep call to finalize discussion topics and test sound. What I’m really doing is establishing a rapport prior to the interview. Time and time again, the guests who are willing to join me for the prep call give a better interview than those who don’t.

Take Dara Treseder of GE Business Innovations & GE Ventures, for instance. I’d received an initial pitch from her agency spanning three topics. At the prep call, we discovered that she hadn’t actually approved those pitch topics, but did have a long list of other subjects she could discuss. As it turned out, her topics were much more valuable and aligned with my audience than the discussion points originally pitched. But I’d never have known to explore those areas without a prep call.

A prep call enables us to get past any initial nervousness, set the tone for our conversation, and ensure that the interview covers material that best showcases the guest’s expertise and will benefit the MarketingProfs audience. Without it, I spend the first precious minutes feeling out a stranger’s personality and sense of humor. No matter how many emails we exchange in advance to set discussion topics or how much research I conduct on the guest beforehand, there’s no replacing that ten-minute prep call, and you can hear the difference in the finished episode.

The best guests bring their A-game every time.

I’ve had several repeat guests on the podcast (Mark Schaefer, Chris Brogan, Mack Collier, Christopher Penn, Nichole Kelly), but they’ve never once “phoned it in.” The people I invite back treat every conversation as a new opportunity to connect. I invite them back because they satisfy every requirement mentioned above, and they do it again and again.

An interview show is only as good as its guests, and I’m grateful to have hosted so many top notch guests for MarketingProfs! If this post reminds you of anyone, pitch them for the show: [email protected]. And in the meantime, check out the people I’ve mentioned here. You won’t regret it!

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also Director of Product Strategy, Training, at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. Find Kerry on Twitter.

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