The Art of Being Interviewed

I planned this piece as How to be a Good Podcast Guest. But as I plugged away in research, I realized the tips I’ll list are just as applicable to regular online conversations like Zooms and written guest posts. To keep on track, though, let’s focus on how to behave as a guest during a video podcast. After all, there is an art to being interviewed.

First, a look at how big today’s podcast world is. I found a statistics site called DemandSage and dug into their podcast stats as of 23February2023. Here are some interesting bits:

  • There’re an estimated 464.7 million podcast listeners globally.
  • That’s expected to reach 504.9 million by the end of 2024.
  • It’s up from 274.8 million in 2019—approaching double.
  • There’re over 5 million podcast sites with over 70 million episodes combined.
  • Over 100 million Americans regularly tune in to podcasts.
  • 78% of US citizens are aware of podcasts.
  • 28% listen to at least one podcast per week.
  • This year the podcast industry’s value is $2 billion USD.
  • Next year, 2024, it’s expected to be $4 billion.
  • 79% of Americans who enjoy podcasts download the episodes to their mobile smartphones.
  • 15% still use a web browser and only 6% use a tablet.
  • Apple is the leading podcast streamer followed by Spotify.
  • 90% of podcasts are pre-recorded. Only 10% go live.
  • The majority of podcasts are 20-40 minutes long.

You’re probably wondering why I’m qualified to write a post about podcasts. No, I don’t host a podcast, although the thought has shot through my mind. My experience is from being a guest—being interviewed by podcast hosts, some with large audiences.

Also, I’ve been a resource person in webinars and on talk shows. In the past few years, I’ve had several dozen online appearances and now it’s common to have one guest podspot per week and a half. Today, for instance, I’m on a crime writing podcast based in Ireland. (I hope my west coast Canadian accent amuses them.)

On with it. I’ll break my tips into three areas. Before the show, during the show, and after the show.

Before the Show

Be on time. This is crucial. Do not be late or arrive at the last second. It’s rude and unprofessional and you wouldn’t want anyone doing that to you.

Know your material and be prepared. This sounds so basic, but it’s the key to a meaningful performance. The host’s audience tunes in to get something out. Make sure you’re ready to give it.

Be familiar with your host and their show’s style. It’s a good idea to watch a couple of previous episodes if you’re not familiar with the program.

Tell the host what to ask you. This might sound vain, but you are the resource the host is presenting. You should know more about your particular subject matter than your host and it can be particularly helpful for them to formulate questions if you tell them what to ask.

Check your equipment. I’ve done enough appearances now to make a worthwhile investment in professional quality stuff—noise-cancelling headphones, a 1080-pixel camera, and two boom mics (one dynamic and one condenser). You can always use your computer’s mic and camera along with earbuds but the quality won’t be as good. Regardless, just ensure they’re operating.

My Writing & Recording Station

Check your internet signal—especially if you’re on wireless. I had an embarrassing experience last week when I was on a live webinar and my signal crashed. I had to shut down, leave my studio with its backdrop full of props, and restart in the kitchen near the router. I survived, but I went and bought a roll of coaxial cable to hardwire my feed for next time.

Secure your room. Make sure whatever place you’re speaking from is secure from unexpected interruptions that could derail your presentation. Watch this funny video of a professor being interviewed live on BBC when his little kids crash the door. (BTW, it has 54 million YouTube hits.)

Turn off your cell phone.

Sound deaden your background. This is important. No one wants to listen to an echoey or tinny talk. I’ve decorated my space with fabrics like drapes, cushions, and neckties. Yes, I admit I’m a grabologist and collect neckties. (Have about 500.) They’re excellent for acoustic control and make a great backdrop. For economy, just lay towels over hard surfaces to do the job.

My Studio

Adjust your camera angle. How many pods and webs have you watched when you stared up a person’s nostrils or had a good view of their bald spot? I’ve learned to have the camera right at eye level so it appears you’re looking right into the audience’s eyes. And I’ve got a trick to share. I work with two screens. One is my laptop on the desk surface. The other is a larger monitor higher up. I fasten my Logitec digital camera with a piece of duct tape right in the center of the upper monitor. The audience can’t see the jury-rigging and the angle is perfect, but I do sit at an angle so my good side gets exposed. (I have a multi-time broken nose with a hump on one side.)

Microphone distancing. I use adjustable boom mics with pop filters. I find the best mouth-to-mic distance is spreading your palm and fingers open and place the mic from your mouth the space that your thumb tip is to your little finger. In my case, that’s 8 inches. Also, try to place the mic close to the centerline of your mouth but not blocking the camera view too much.

Lighting. Very important and should be unnoticed. You need a balance of light impacts, and it’s a visual tool to experiment with. Kind of the Goldilocks zone where it’s not too much, and not too little, but just about right. You want your front illuminated enough to be clear but not so bright that every imperfection (zit) is highlighted. I have dimmable LED overheads with adjustable side lights as well as backlighting. Part of the pre-show test with the host is checking the lights.

Dress and grooming. When you appear on camera, think of it like a job interview. Dress and look the part for the job. Clean and well kept but not overdressed or underdressed. Cameras are finicky when it comes to patterns like checks and stripes. It’s okay to be plain, Jane.

Water and bathroom. Make sure you’re comfortable. Take a pre-show bathroom break whether you need to or not. There’s nothing worse than feeling the urge at half-time. Hydration is important and the best drink is a lukewarm glass of lemon water. Also, have lip balm ready to suppress dry mouth lip smacks.

Eating on camera. This is a big no. Don’t even have food nearby and the same goes for chewing gum. It’s terribly distracting for a viewer to see a host or guest chomping away and then—Eghads!—letting off a belch or a fart.

Rest. Make sure you’re rested and ready. Don’t pull an all-nighter and go on a podcast in the morning. A yawn, or series of yawns, is a show killer.

Be aware of your tics. We all have ‘em. Use hand gestures to accent your speech but leave your hands from touching your face. As for tic words—“uhh”, “aww”, “geeze”, “like”, and “etcetera”—just be aware and keep them minimal. I know. That’s harder than it sounds because we don’t want to sound robotic.

Cheat sheets, notes, and props. It’s handy to have talking points or reference facts handy. Anticipate what you might need and have the materials nearby. Also, ask your host in advance if they’d like some “show as well as tell”. Never surprise them by whipping out something unexpected.

Your bio. Send your host a short and current bio before the podcast. A decent headshot, too. They’ll use this to introduce you. Clearly say who you are in third person and what expertise you have for the show. Include your links on how to be found but don’t try to sell anything. That can wait till the end of the show and let your host do the selling for you.

Nerves. We’re human, right? It’s natural to be nervous before a performance. Being properly prepared, as in all of the above, goes a long way toward killing butterflies. I like to engage with the host for about 15 minutes before show time. This sets a tone and allows an equipment check as well as giving some nerve-quelling time. If you do get a bit fluttery while on camera, here’s a remedy that works and no one sees. Simply place your fist in your solar plexus and slowly press. There’s a physiological reaction that calms the nerves.

During the Show

It’s your host’s show and audience. Your appearance is not about you. You’re just adding value to the host and their audience. Keep that in mind and focus on what’s in it for them. Remember, your host allowed you to go before their audience so be humble.

Listen as much as you talk. Take cues from your host and answer the questions. Clearly and concisely. Don’t seem evasive or unclear. Audiences, as well as hosts, pick this up and it either helps or hurts delivery not to mention credibility.

Stay “on brand”. Try not to get sidetracked and ramble off the topic. If you find yourself drifting, stop. The host will recognize this and steer you back.

Be conversational. Talk like you’re speaking casually with a friend. Ignore the audience and converse with the host as if the audience wasn’t even part of the show.

If you stumble or fumble your words, just own it. Laugh it off. Correct course. Move on.

Don’t hesitate to have a notepad handy. Stop and capture an idea or a link that comes up. It adds to your authenticity.

Lean forward toward the camera when you’re speaking. Lean back when you’re not. This subtlety truly works to engage interest. If you practice it, it becomes second nature. You won’t realize you’re doing it.

Use gestures. Don’t just sit stationary and converse. Smile, nod, wink if it’s appropriate, and use hand gestures, especially when explaining or comparing. But do this in moderation and be sure it appears natural, not contrived.

Be yourself. Relax and enjoy your time. Be entertaining and deliver value. But, you don’t have to be a comedian. It’s fine to freely laugh and get others laughing, too.

Remember your host’s name (and how to pronounce it). I keep the host and podcast name on a sticky note on the monitor, and I naturally use the host’s name in conversation. Can you imagine being interviewed by Joe Rogan and mistakenly calling him Neil Young?

Don’t hesitate to mention previous work your host has accomplished. Leave a compliment and/or a reference to something your host has previously done.

Leave a takeaway at the end. Be prepared to sum up your core reason for being on the show. Depart by planting a seed in your host’s and their audience’s minds.

After the Show

Send a thank you note. Possibly a small gift, too. A little gratitude goes a long way toward being remembered, and you want to be remembered as a great interviewee.

Promote the podcast. Source the links and pitch the program on your social media sites and your mailing list. It not only boosts your host’s podcast but it increases your personal exposure.

Ask for referrals. Your host undoubtedly knows other podcasters and influencers. Don’t be afraid to ask if your host knows anyone else who’d like to have you as a guest. The worst they could say is no.

Get ready for your next podcast appearance.

*   *   *

I hear the question. How do you get leads and invites to appear on a podcast or be interviewed on a show? Well, there are lots of pitching tips on the internet. Some involve cold-calling. Some involve building rapport through networking and referrals. I don’t solicit appearances and can only speak to what’s worked for my discovery.

It’s come from my blog at I’ve been at it 10 years and have over 400 posts. I stick to my tagline Provoking Thoughts on Life, Death, and Writing, and I consistently publish new material every second Saturday morning. I’ve worked out proper backlist Search Engine Optimization (SEO) protocols, and I get randomly found by podcast hosts and film producers on their constant search for new content.

And I have somewhat of a catchy bio:

Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective and coroner, now turned crime writer and emerging film content producer. Garry has twenty indie publications on the market as well as being a regular podcast guest focussing on crime and forensics.

Garry Rodgers lives on Vancouver Island at Canada’s west coast. You can contact him via his Twitter handle at  @GarryRodgers1 or follow his blog at

Kill Zoners – What’s your experience in being interviewed? Have you been a podcast guest? If so, how was your time? And what helpful art of being interviewed tips do you have for us?

New Kid In The Zone

by Laura Benedict

A few weeks ago, the incredibly generous Joe Moore invited me to blog here at TKZ on alternating Wednesdays. It was an easy “yes” for me because I’ve visited before, and I admire both TKZ’s reputation for excellence and its smart and talented contributors. I toyed with the idea of jumping right in with a specific writing topic, but then I decided it might be better to introduce myself first. So I’ve asked and answered a few questions that will help you get to know me. (Forgive the slightly snarky tone of the questions. Sometimes I’m a grouchy interviewer.)

Let’s start with an easy question. Where are you from?

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. I graduated from college and worked in St. Louis, then moved to rural West Virginia where my husband’s family had a dairy farm. After a chilly two-year excursion to Holland, Michigan, we went back east to Roanoke, Virginia, for eight years. Now we live in Southern Illinois, which is an hour closer to Tupelo, Mississippi than it is to Chicago. Setting plays a big role in my fiction, and up to this point I’ve stuck pretty closely to those locations.

When did you start writing fiction?

As a child and young adult, I was always a reader, but I didn’t have the confidence to imagine I could be a writer—amateur or professional. It wasn’t until I was working for A Great Big Beer Company in St. Louis, and found myself tinkering with the professional copy I was buying for sales promotion projects, that I even considered writing fiction. (You’ll note the connection in my mind between ad copy and fiction.) By then I was in my mid-twenties. I didn’t publish my first novel until I was in my forties.

What kind of books do you write?

I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of fiction, and perhaps that’s why I can never find happiness writing about those quotidian epiphanies that are so popular in academic/literary circles. It wasn’t until I wrote my third novel that I really found my voice—and it was a supernatural story called Isabella Moon, about a woman who tries to solve the murder of a little girl while on the run from her psychotic husband. That novel was the first one I sold, as part of a two-book deal with Ballantine. My latest novels are a gothic trilogy set in a haunted house in a fictional Virginia town: Bliss House, Charlotte’s Story, and The Abandoned Heart (Pegasus Crime, October 2016). Despite their pretty covers, they are not quiet books for the faint of heart. As I mentioned, I write short stories as well. They show up in various places and run the gamut from straight mysteries to the horrific and surreal. In fact, my absurdly talented writer husband, Pinckney Benedict, and I edited an anthology series of southern surreal stories called Surreal South. You can take a peek at my website or author page to read more about all of my work.

You look like such a nice lady. Why do you write creepy stories?

I look forward to talking about how I—and other writers—choose stories to write. But as to the why? Sorry. That’s between my therapist and me. As you get to know me better, you might hazard a guess or two—and I just may tell you if you’re right!

Why are the most ragged, dog-eared books on your bookshelf Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca? Talk about a peculiar pair.

I’ve never been one for chasing down celebrities, but I confess I’d love to have had dinner with Daphne and Cormac just to see what they’d make of each other. But—with apologies to every writer here—I’ve found that most writers aren’t so great at talking about or even understanding their own stories. It’s the books that are important. Besides being darned good reads, Blood Meridian and Rebecca both contain elements that appeal to me as both writer and reader: complex, disturbing crimes, unforgettable characters, and settings that are, themselves, active characters.

Pantser or Plotter?

I suspected this question was coming. To borrow a description from my friend, Jordan Dane, I’d say I’m a recovering pantser. Up until very recently, my mantra excuse was, “If I figure out the plot ahead of time, I’ll have told myself the story and I’ll be bored and won’t want to write it.” What I’ve learned—the hard way—is that there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in pondering plot and character before getting into the writing. And there’s much, much more to it than saying this needs to happen, then this, etc. The first inkling of each story nearly always comes to me as a vivid image—usually of a protagonist or a setting. But that’s not a heck of a lot to hang a novel on, and thus the plot often reveals itself with an agonizing slowness that undermines my production goals. I’ll get into this later, but for a long time I bought into the notion that the story was a sacred object, and if I manipulated it, it would become over determined and wouldn’t work.

Do you have an MFA? Have you been educated by highly trained writing professionals?

No, and let me think about that for a moment.

Approximately a hundred and fifty years ago, I got a B.S. in Business Administration with a major in finance. I didn’t take a single writing class until I was well into a promotions career with the subsidiary of A Great Big Beer Company in St. Louis. After I took a couple undergrad creative writing classes, I talked my way into a grad fiction workshop and was promptly and roundly mocked for my plot-heavy stories. The professor said they were too old-fashioned to be published. Ouch. But being a contrary sort, I decided to forge ahead. I understood that I wasn’t trained to write literary fiction (which I consider a genre, not an end-game—more on that later, too), and after the workshop experience, I wasn’t much interested to learn. So I read more than ever (classics, literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction) and wrote even more. I wrote short stories and entered many, many contests. In 2000, I discovered a Joyce Carol Oates story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and told myself that if she—one of my literary idols—wrote for EQMM, then I should give it a shot. They published my story, The Hollow Woman, in their Department of First Stories in 2001. (My third EQMM story, The Peter Rabbit Killers, is in the recent July issue. And you can listen to me read The Erstwhile Groom on their Podomatic website.)

When I decided to write novels, I swallowed my pride and took a couple of independent studies and workshops to give myself some deadlines. I know I learned at least as much from the other participants as I did from the teachers. Of course, the best teachers are always books themselves.

Do you know anything about independent publishing, or are you strictly about traditional publishing?

When the great publishing purge of 2009/2010 occurred (does anyone else remember that, or was it just my personal cataclysm?), I was dropped by my publisher. I panicked and pouted for two years, but I also kept writing and, after my next novel didn’t find a traditional home, I delved into the brave new world of independent publishing. My husband and I started our own small press and put out my third novel in ebook and paper. Since then I’ve published my backlist, a Bliss House short story, and a couple of anthologies. There’s more on the way.

I’m a big believer in using the right delivery system for the right story. And never giving up. I’m happy to share what I know, and am always anxious to learn from others in the business.

Do you have a day job, or do you just sit in your house and write all day?

For the past twenty-four years, parenting and writing have been my competing jobs. I homeschooled my daughter at various points up until high school, and am now partially homeschooling my sixteen year-old son. My mornings are for writing business, promotion, research, and/or social media. Homeschool is in the afternoon, then I write before dinner and into the wee hours. I have raging ADHD but can’t write on medication, so staying at my desk to write is a major act of will for me.

If you follow astrology profiles, you already know that my early July birthday makes me a Cancer, and Cancers are often introverted homebodies. Though I do like to get out and meet readers and socialize at conferences and book festivals. If you’re wondering what I’m currently up to, let’s get together on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at my website.

Do you teach writing, or do you just write?

I’ve taught at many writing workshops over the years, including the residential Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop at Hollins University, and the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop. I’ve also done many smaller writing workshops for both children and adults.

What do you bring to The Kill Zone party?

I bring my love for the written word along with me, and my enthusiasm for sharing what I’ve learned with emerging writers. I bring my curiosity and hunger to learn and adapt. Also, I always have chocolate to share, and occasionally even a salad in my purse.

I’m thrilled and delighted to be here, but that’s enough about me. Tell me a bit about yourself and what brings you here.