Hobby Horse

Interviews that go elsewhere

Predictable patterns


I've learned a lot over the past month and a half of this project and especially now that I've completed 8 interviews (a couple are set to go out the next 2 weeks) I think it's time to take stock. I knew it would take time to work the bugs out and get my sea legs, and I think in the last two interviews I've done (one is unaired) I finally hit on a pretty good format that gives the listener a consistent framework and predictable pattern for how these episodes will go. The best interviews so far have gone like this:

  • Do an intro with the guest live, and let them fill in any blanks and make any clarifications. No more pre-recorded canned intros (but don't forget to introduce myself, which I've done a few times).
  • Frame their current work and career for the listener. Give them at least five to ten minutes to talk about their main work so anyone unfamiliar would be compelled to understand their job and their outlook.
  • Let them plug their latest thing! I underestimated how much people are willing to waste an hour with me if they know they can pitch their new thing in it. So far, I've only used it for helping friends with their books and conferences, but I imagine I could get famous people to talk about their side gigs if they were there to promote a movie or book or TV show.
  • After about 10 minutes of background on their current gig and any new thing they want to share, transition to talking about their side thing.
  • Ideally, on the last question, try and tie their side thing to their career somehow (it's only worked out perfectly once with Jessie on Disney & her conference).

I realize in listening back to all the episodes, I've quickly learned how to give guests more room to talk and I'm not interrupting them as much as I used to, but I'm also thinking of witty comebacks on these re-listens I didn't think of at the time of the interview. In trying to be a better interviewer and giving each guest time and space, I feel like I'm not quite holding my entertainment end up of the bargain. In a way, if you imagine my show like a Conan O'Brien show, I need to be both Conan and Andy Richter, and while I think I'm getting better at being a better (but maybe boring) host, I hope in future shows I can interject more wacky sidekick when it makes sense.

I hope that refining the format is helpful for listeners. It definitely helps me as a host as it takes some pressure off to keep everything organized and on track all the time. Instead, I have a template and I know what blanks need to be filled and I can watch the clock to know when to make transitions. Endings and conclusions are always going to be tough, but I am hoping those get easier with time too. I think these episodes are improving and I'm hoping the framework is the big reason.