How was your long conversation with someone

10 tips for better interviews from professional questioner Markus Tirok

What tricks are there to improve an interview, and what should you definitely avoid?

You have invited a top-class expert or a prominent guest for your podcast and all of a sudden your nervousness increases: What if he doesn't answer your questions correctly and lets you pull all the details out of his nose? What if she talks endlessly to a simple yes-no question? What if your questions come across as monotonous and uncreative? And how do you actually ask correctly? Open? Closed? With a lot of subjectivity or without at all?

In the current episode of our FEED DIVE podcast, our Head of Content Jürgen talks to Markus Tirok from Interviewhelden. An interview about interviews, so to speak - and at the end of the episode there is even direct feedback for our questioner. Best of all: if you don't want to hear, you can read! In this blog post we summarize the most important tips that Markus gave us for better interviews!

First ask why!

Define a clear goal of what you want to achieve with your interview. Why are you leading exactly this Conversation? Why are you charging exactly these An expert? What is your intention? Do you want to convey knowledge or point out your agenda? Do you want to entertain your audience or build a brand? Do you want to generate jobs or have a good time? Let your guest know your idea and your topic beforehand, but avoid sending it in your entire questionnaire - otherwise the conversation could quickly become inflexible. That brings us to the next piece of advice:

Preparation is everything!

Research your guest and the topic beforehand. Prepare a good set of questions that will serve your purpose. However, this catalog of questions is not intended to be processed statically. Good preparation gives you flexibility. Then you can jump to the topic if it is good for the conversation, but you can always find your way back to your central theme. The big secret: The simpler, apparently more spontaneous an interview sounds, the more (preliminary) work it probably took.

The opening should be short, clear and crisp!

You should have established a trusting relationship with your interviewee in the preliminary talk or immediately before the recording. This should make it easier for you to start the conversation later. In order to break the ice with the first question, you should by no means let your guest begin with a self-introduction - on the one hand you are giving up the scepter and on the other hand this opening of the conversation is simply bulky, trite and yawning. Instead of the 0-8-15 opening with "Just imagine what you do and who you are!" Rather ask something like “I've read your latest project as a director is a documentary about tapirs, how do they smell?”.

Specific questions are best!

Concrete questions help you and your counterpart not to drift into empty talk. You don't have to come up with any super creative questions either, it often seems too strained or over-headed. Even if your guest is supposed to be a professional interviewer, it can happen that the dialogue becomes tedious and stagnates. Simply prepare a few short, quick questions. The myth that closed questions are a conversation killer is long out of date: Everyone has something exciting to tell if you ask him or her the right questions - and the urge to say more than just a "yes" or a "no" give! By the way, you can practice this wonderfully: at the next garden party or visit to the canteen, simply ask your counterpart a few simple but genuinely interested questions and see where the conversation leads you.

Don't be afraid of difficult questions!

Sure, you want to make your guest look good and have a friendly conversation. But that doesn't mean that you have to go on a total cuddle course. Dare to ask difficult and critical questions that challenge your guest. After all, he or she is an expert in the respective field and usually absolutely sure of it. Even more: only with really critical questions do the respondents get the chance to counter cleverly - this more friction also generates more attention from your listeners.

Don't be afraid to interrupt!

You alone are responsible for the dramaturgy of your conversation. If your guests wander, charmingly guide them back to the topic. It is not impolite to interrupt. For example, you can say something like "Let me interrupt you for a moment - that's a really exciting aspect, but I would like to come back to the smell of tapirs now ..."

The very-very-best interview doesn't need superlatives!

Avoid asking superlative questions. Celebrities in late-night shows are used to this, but normal conversation guests like to feel taken by surprise. Or can you immediately answer what was the absolute best thing you've ever done in your life? So instead of asking “What was the most relaxed day of your life?”, Simply ask “Describe how a day has to go so that you find it relaxing!”.

Ah, ums, ums and Achsos!

Some podcast endors want to signal to their counterparts that they are listening and that they are completely with them. Especially if you are recording your interview from different places and you may not see each other at all. You don't need any for that Hmmm-mmms and Yes-exactly - they just pretend to be paying attention. Better to show your attention with smart follow-up questions! One exercise for this is to just be careful not to make any approving sounds during your next conversation.

Talking is silver, listening is gold!

When it comes to podcasting, the boundaries between journalistic interviews and exchanges at eye level become blurred. Successful podcast episodes are often just well-conducted conversations. Empathy, genuine interest and listening are more important than meticulously working through the catalog of questions. Maybe the conversation is going in a direction that you hadn't dared to dream of before. Nowadays there is no longer gatekeeping where only people with journalistic training are allowed to conduct interviews - and in most cases, public dialogues do not require excessive, professional distance. As an interviewer, you too can join a conversation without being intrusive. Always keep your audience in mind. They don't just stand by and listen to two people talking - no, they want to be taken into the conversation ... and with podcasts these are often people who have already got to know and appreciate you and your opinion!

The sound has to be right!

No matter how illuminating or entertaining the content, it doesn't matter if the sound is bad. So find out about the technology beforehand, test the programs and record all participants on their own audio track. In post-production, you should make sure that the conversation still looks natural after you have edited it. You can remove longer breaks, but linguistic stumbling blocks are welcome so that the conversation sounds authentic.

At the very end: The better you get at giving interviews, the better you get when someone interviews you - because the respondents are also jointly responsible for a successful result!

You are also welcome to write us your tips and tricks that have helped you during interviews. In the end, what counts is simply trying it out and practicing again and again, practicing, practicing: doing, learning, getting better.

Have fun with the next interview!

You can find Markus Tirok's website here:

You can hear the latest episode of FEED DIVE here: