Don’t Skip the Podcast Prep Call

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Hosting a Podcast, Podcasts, Prep Call

Over 60 percent of Americans have listened to a podcast but most listeners haven’t been podcast guests. Today we’re going to pull back the curtain a little bit and cover what goes into getting a guest ready for recording. Recently on our company podcast Creating the Greatest Show guest  Mark Stiles (Host of Elements of Stiles) covered how he improves the quality of conversations on his podcast. His secret? The prep call. Mark dove into how taking 15 minutes for this pre-interview improved relationships and helps guests feel more comfortable. Here are all of the reasons why a podcast prep call should be part of your show structure.

This article is based on Episode #003 of Creating the Greatest Show featuring guest Mark Stiles and hosted by Casey Cheshire.

What is a Podcast Prep Call?

When a major movie star heads onto a talk show do you think they’re walking in with no prep? No. Everyone has something to accomplish. The host wants a great interview, the star wants to promote a movie and the PR rep wants to make sure the star isn’t asked any messy personal questions. 

A prep call is similar. Think of it as a podcast pre-interview. The podcast host and guest jump onto a 15-30 minute call ahead of the recording. This gives the host a chance to outline the format of the show and share a few of the questions. Then the guest can be prepared to dive in and share valuable information. Most importantly though, that quick conversation allows the guest and the host to establish rapport. It gives both a feel for how the other speaks, pauses and responds. This allows for a smoother flow of conversation that sounds more professional on the recording.

Before the Prep Call 

Set a clear date and time for the prep call with your guest. Be sure to let them know what you’ll need. You want to do the prep in the same format that you’ll be doing the recording. If it’s a video podcast have them log onto Zoom or your platform from the space they’ll record their episode in. This allows you to make sure that their audio and video will be clear. It’s better to push a guest to a calendar slot further out than to allow a recording to move forward without making sure everything is good to go.

READ MORE: How to Choose the Right Room to Record In

Podcast Interview Checklist: Prep Call Items

There are so many things that you could spend time discussing on a podcast prep call but in our opinion, these are the most important. It’s important to have a tight outline of what you want to accomplish so that the prep call remains valuable and doesn’t turn into a disorganized time suck. As Mark explained, “have a structure, have a plan, have a checklist.” 

Podcast Style and Format

Although you’d hope that your guest looked at past episodes before agreeing to come on you want to make sure they know what your show is. 

  • Cover whether the show is audio-only or audio and video. 
  • Explain your show’s format. Is your show conversational or more of an interview podcast with the guest doing more talking? 
  • How long should the guest expect to set aside for the podcast recording? Are the episodes 15 minutes long or 50 minutes long? If your conversation is going amazing will they have a hard stop or do they have a buffer built in?  

No Detail is too Small 

  • Cover introductions. Listener drop-off often happens during the intro portion of a podcast. Either an intro isn’t engaging or is too long. Setting intro expectations keeps the guest from jumping in to add information and helps you get into the conversation faster. 
  • Ask how to pronounce their name. Do not attempt to say it first. Our mind likes to program things in and if you’re the first one to say it your brain may betray you on the recording. 

Podcast Overview: Who is Your Audience and Will This Be a Thematic Episode?

As the host, preparing your guest includes sharing audience information. This can help a guest gauge how nitty gritty to get on an answer. A great example is The Hard Corps Marketing Show. With an audience of mid to high-level B2B marketers, they want guests to dive into specifics. Their audience is highly engaged and wants to learn more than just base-level takeaways. However, a show that lists the best advertising campaigns may not want to dive into the behind-the-scenes step-by-step actions the agency took or they’d risk their listeners losing interest. 

Another important thing to cover is any theming you might be following. If you’re releasing a month-long series on marketing analytics and your guest loves to talk about measuring intent let them know! You’ll both benefit from them having the chance to pull stats ahead of time so they can get into the details.  

Podcast Audio & Tech Check

The Prep Call is the perfect time to work out any audio or logistical issues. You’ve already asked your guest to take the call from where they’ll be recording the podcast. Listen carefully. If there are lots of echoes or other audio issues, now is the time to bring them up. 

Make sure to check in on the guest’s internet connection. Is it reliable and will it keep up? Also, make sure that the guest doesn’t have any questions about the recording itself, how to hit record or any other logistical needs. Do a quick practice run of hitting record and “starting” the show. 

READ MORE: Improving the Audio in Your Space

Set Expectations for the Podcast Release 

Your guest is excited to chat with you and of course, they naturally want to know when their episode will come out and where they’ll be able to find it. This is the time to let them know what your process is. Will you send out an email to let them know it’s live with links to share? Will you tag them on social media? When can they expect it to go up? If you don’t have a release date nailed down yet, give them a date range and let them know you’ll check back in. 

What Podcast Guests Get from a Prep Call

Your podcast should make your guest feel like a rockstar and put them, and their business, in the best possible light. To do that, you need to make sure they are ready, comfortable, and have some great stories queued up. Pre-interviewing them allows you to set the tone.

Familiarity and Comfort

One key reason to use a Prep Call is guest comfort. A guest who is comfortable recording and understands expectations is well-spoken. Being prepared allows them to open up and show their authentic selves. Prep calls get rid of the guard that might be up at the start of a recording session. You’ve already met so you’re familiar with each other.  

If your show is edited (and you’re open to it) you can let them know that they can do another take or have items taken out later. This allows them to speak freely on the recording because they know there will be a safety net. 

READ MORE: Create a Great Guest Experience from First Contact

Set Them Up for Their Expert Moment

You’ve invited the guest on for a reason. You and your audience have something valuable to learn from them. Many B2B podcasts have an opening question- Q1- that is consistent across shows. You want your guest to come on ready to tackle that first question with a great, well-thought out answer that establishes the vibe for the episode and hooks your listeners. 

Share your Q1 and spend a few minutes chatting through how they answer it. Make sure they’re coming in strong with their answer. 

Let Them Know that Stories are Welcome

We don’t advocate spelling out every question because that can actually stifle conversation. However, it’s important to outline a few of the big ones and prompt them to think about experiences and anecdotes that showcase their answer. They’ll have the opportunity to mull over these prompts between the prep call and recording making their answers more detailed and valuable.

Let them know that you’re not here to back them into a corner or ask questions that they can’t answer.  

“You don’t want to stump anyone. You don’t want any gotchas. That’s the worst thing that can happen in a podcast conversation.” 

– Mark Stiles

Are Prep Calls Really Necessary? Yes! 

A prepared guest is a great guest and while some shows prepare by having a guest fill out questionnaires there’s a personal touch to a call. 

We’ve found the following great outcomes come from podcast prep calls: 

  • More shares. Ultimately you want downloads right? A prepared confident podcast guest is generally happy with the finished product and will share the podcast with their network. 
  • Lasting relationships. We don’t keep our love of creating human connections through podcasting a secret. The prep call is a touch point for building a lasting relationship with your guests. 
  • Identify mismatches. Look, not every guest is a great guest. A prep call can help you identify someone who is going to phone it in, isn’t invested in the interview, or is unwilling to make sure their sound is decent. You can choose to remove these guests from your schedule before spending time recording which results in a subpar episode.

Ringmaster is a full-service podcast production company. Need help formatting a Prep Call or starting a podcast? Schedule a time with our team. We’ll help ensure you and your guests feel comfortable and prepared for a great conversation before you press record.

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