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5 Expert Ways to Find Your Podcast's Hidden Gems

5 Expert Ways to Find Your Podcast's Hidden Gems

5 Expert Ways to Find Your Podcast's Hidden Gems

  • Dec 18, 2023

As a podcaster, one of the keys to producing a high-quality and engaging show is being able to draw out insightful and interesting nuggets from your guests during interviews. These hidden gems not only make for a great listening experience but also help your podcast stand out in a crowded field. 

In a recent episode of the Podcasting Secrets show, host Nathan Gwilliam interviewed expert podcaster and producer Max Branstetter about best practices for consistently creating quality episodes. They dove deep into how to skillfully prepare for and conduct interviews in order to uncover these invaluable gems.

Here are 5 key expert strategies Max shared:

1. Research Thoroughly Beforehand
The first step to unearthing gems is doing your homework on guests before the interview. Max refers to this as “friendly stalking” - looking up the guest online, listening to other podcast episodes they’ve been on, and generally immersing yourself in their background and areas of expertise. 

You'll want to dig into their professional bio of course, but also look for interesting personal details, life stories, passion projects, little-known tidbits or unique perspectives they can share. This provides context to craft better questions, dive deeper on key topics in the interview, and actively listen rather than scrambling with what to ask next. 

Specifically, look for any overlapping interests, controversial opinions, current work, and more personal background compared to their general public persona. Understanding these aspects allows you to make deeper connections during the podcast chat.

Some key places to research are the guest's website, organizations they work with, social media accounts, past media appearances, related news coverage, colleagues in their circle, among other spots their fingerprints exist online.

While going down the rabbit hole learning about them, keep a running list of curiosities you want to ask, stories you’d love for them to tell, differing views to explore, and more unique angles worth digging into.

2. Map Out a Flexible Interview Outline
While thoroughly researching your guest, also develop an outline to anchor the podcast interview. This should contain about 5 main sections or topics to cover as you plot out the conversation flow from start to finish. However, the outline must remain flexible enough to adapt on the fly based on where the actual discussion wanders. 

Having an outline provides a crucial structure and direction to prevent getting off track. But room for inspiration once the interview starts rolling is key as well. Be ready to follow interesting tangents organically.  

Mark areas you particularly want to explore more deeply with stars, brackets, or other notation on your outline. Highlight key questions you don’t want to forget. Note personal stories from their career you want them to share or controversial opinions you hope to draw out. This helps spotlight gems you’ll want to take time unpacking whenever they arise.

3. Actively Listen and Take Notes 
During the interview itself, make sure to employ active listening skills to pick up on potential gems being uncovered. Stay laser-focused on whatever your guest is discussing, picking up cues on what they really light up around or when they seem to be holding back. 

Jot down spontaneous questions and especially compelling points made in real-time. Underline, highlight or somehow flag comments you want to revisit later and probe further. Designate a special mark like “***” for moments you absolutely need to dig into more before wrapping.

Maintaining eye contact and conscious focus directly on your guest also helps pick up nonverbal cues about what they’re saying, revealing key areas warranting more exploration.

Your prepared outline and pre-interview research will lend mental bandwidth to hone in closely on your guest’s responses without other distractions. So take advantage of that focused attention to catch any gems tossed out you'll want to grab hold of with follow-ups. 

4. Know When to Pounce and When to Move On
An adept interview skill Max emphasizes is knowing when to pounce and when pivoting ahead is the wise move. If your guest hits on something especially insightful, controversial, profound or impactful during one of their responses, ask follow-up questions, prompt examples, and dig deeper into that vein. Explore multiple facets around a compelling point. 

But also recognize when it’s time to move forward in your outline to make sure you cover the necessary ground you mapped out. This balancing act between going deeper and pushing ahead keeps episodes feeling focused yet flexible enough for inspiration to emerge unexpectedly.  

It’s an art honed over many interviews, but pay attention to cues your guest is wanting to explain something further vs. when they’ve fully covered a topic and are ready to have you direct the dialogue. Ultimately you lead the interview, but let guests organically guide the flow when they latch onto something exciting to unpack for listeners.

5. Unlock Gems in Format Experimentation
Gems don’t just come from the prepared interview questions and improvised answers alone. Additional nuggets can be unearthed through creative formatting experiments as well, especially for milestone episodes. 

For example, the sailing podcast Max produces set up live satellite interviews from a competitive crew while they were racing across the Pacific. This highly unique remote broadcast was both a cool novelty sponsors loved and also unlocked content impossible to recreate otherwise.

Pushing format boundaries now and then keeps your podcast from going stale. Changing up recording locations, segment structures, guest pairings, and technical production provides fresh opportunities to uncover one-of-a-kind content gems your audience won’t find anywhere else.

So get creative with production and not just rely on your outlines and questions to repeatedly mine for podcasting gold over time.

Finding these gems within guests and shows takes practice and skill. But actively preparing through research, carefully listening, nimbly moving between structure and openness, and even tweaking formatting provides huge payoffs for podcasters. It leads to content that enlightens and delights audiences.

And over time, consistently unearthing these inside scoops and nuggets of wisdom from guests becomes more intuitive too. As Max noted about his own experience, “the more interviews you do, the more practice you have with it, the more times you're cooking up that recipe.” So get out there and start prospecting for podcasting gold through these keys!

Here are my key takeaways from this episode...

  1. Make the jump to podcasting full-time if it is your passion. It is difficult financially at first, but very fulfilling long-term.  
  2. Consistency and high quality are key. Release episodes on a regular schedule and ensure excellent sound quality.
  3. Master the art of interviewing to unlock gems from your guests. Prepare outlines and research guests, but also actively listen and probe deeper on intriguing topics. 
  4. Unlocking gems leads to fantastic interviews that audiences love and want to share. Dig for gold when you find it.
  5. Consistency doesn't mean monotony. Be innovative with episode formats occasionally while maintaining your core value.
  6. If you already have an existing audience, create a podcast to reach them through a new medium and provide additional value.

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Thanks for joining us for this episode. I wish you success as you discover your podcast's hidden gems. 

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