The key to a successful podcast is the host, not the guests. Amazing podcast hosts are facile interviewers able to pull the most pertinent information from subjects, even those who are interviewed frequently. If you want to become one of the best podcast hosts, focus on being thoughtful and interested in the person your interviewing. Then, be silent.

Some of my favorite content over the last several years has been the podcasts I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on. In addition to being different than the same old blogs, or written content in general, podcasts can be exciting, fun, interesting and illuminating, in large part because the audible nature makes for a far richer experience than you typically find on a blog.

It’s not surprising that seemingly everyone is now onboard with podcasts as an ideal content type. But what nearly everyone seems to be missing is that sound quality and interesting people are not the true imperatives for success with podcasts. The sine qua non elements for make-’em-come-back-for-more productions are the interviewer and the questions.

You must be a strong interviewer and ask thoughtful questions for your podcast to stick out. Here’s how to do that successfully and consistently.

1 – Put on your investigative journalist’s hat

The best interviewers in the world are investigative journalists (and top-notch homicide detectives). Why? They know how to ask a question, then not interrupt the answer, even if it’s slow in coming. They’re comfortable with the pregnant pause. To become an amazing podcast host, you must become comfortable in the silence, which is when the interviewee is developing a nuanced, thoughtful answer, typically for a question they had never had to consider. Whatever you do, don’t assume the person didn’t understand the question and try to pull an answer out of them by asking another question or talking over them as they verbalize an answer.

Ask your question, then shut up. The best answers come out of the silence.

2 – Ask the next question

Take the time to get to know the person on the end of the line in advance of the interview.

  • Listen to previous interviews with an ear for discerning original nuggets of wisdom.
  • Read blog posts they’ve written and ask specific questions about important aspects of their work.
  • Reach out to friends online to learn of funny stories the guest would likely be amenable to sharing.
  • Check out their personal blogs or social media profiles to see what hobbies they indulge in.
  • Read through their Facebook posts, Twitter feed or Instagram updates to see what’s important to them.

My former newspaper editor referred to these steps as asking the next question, which creates a more in-depth, context-heavy story.

Years ago, when Dan Shure of Evolving SEO had me on his Experts On The Wire podcast, I was immediately impressed with two things:

  • He asked interesting questions: Instead of trying to appear interesting, he focused on being interested…in me.
  • He knew about the things that were important to me, including fitness and nutrition.

3 – Hone your interviewing skills

Most important, Shure asked questions, then receded into the background, which allowed something very important to happen: I was able to think about myself and my work in ways I had not thought of before. It was as though I had cathartic freedom to view my ideas as unbound from me, the person, and could imagine the possible impact they have on the online community.

This occurred in no small part because I’d never had to answer the questions Dan asked, and as I answered them the work and the impact became real in my mind for the first time. But that would have never happened if he’d interrupted me at every turn. If your brand is giving podcasting a whirl, actively focus on preparation, whereby you develop thoughtful questions; strive to be interested as opposed to interesting; and don’t fear the pause.

What are some podcasting tips you’d like to share?