Podcast Alchemy: How to Be a Great Podcast Guest

A few simple actions can turn a good podcast guest into a great podcast guest. On the other hand, not doing them can lessen the quality of the episode.

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This is the sixth article in a ten-part series on podcasting. Previously we investigated whether you should host or guest (Podcast Alchemy: 2. To Host or Guest) and then, for guests, looked at the right way to approach guesting (Podcast Alchemy: 3. The Philosophy of Guesting), how to pitch podcasts (Podcast Alchemy: 4. Creating the Perfect Podcast Pitch), and where to find podcasts to pitch (Podcast Alchemy: 5. How to Get on Hundreds of Podcasts (or Find an Ideal Podcast Guest)).

Now that you’re going to appear on an episode (or hopefully many, many episodes), let’s explore how you can be not just a good guest, but an outstanding one.

If you’re a host, don’t skip this. It’s certainly helpful for you to know, too (just as I’ll recommend guests read next week’s article Podcast Alchemy: 7. How to Be a Great Podcast Host). Also, some of the advice here applies equally to hosts.

You may want to link to this article in your standard outreach email to upcoming guests.  It’s also a resource such that, if you have a guest who could use some guidance, you can send this article, or entire series, which may be easier to give than direct feedback. (Having it shared by default in the pre-interview email is usually a more innocuous way to do it.)

Let’s get into it.

Make It Easy for the Host to Say Yes

A media kit is a good start (see Podcast Alchemy: 4. Creating the Perfect Podcast Pitch for how to create one). Even if you don’t have a full media kit, have a document, public online folder, or standard email that has all your relevant information (headshot, bio, social handles), in one place. Many podcasts have guest intake forms, so even if they don’t need the document, you have it in one place making it easier to fill out the form.

Ultimately, you want to make it easy for a host (or producer) to know who you are, your value proposition, and basic information about you (e.g., social media links, headshot). Ideally you also have additional information to help the host do background research on you. As noted in Podcast Alchemy: 4. Creating the Perfect Podcast Pitch, every click or mouse movement you save the host makes him more likely to say yes to you. It shows you respect the host's time and that you’ve put effort in because you’re serious about guesting.

Focus on the Audience

“While you are talking to the host, you are talking to the AUDIENCE,” says Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting. You are there to provide value to the audience, not to promote your products or services (see Podcast Alchemy: 3. The Philosophy of Guesting). A good host will give you a question at the end to pitch yourself. The rest of the show is not about pitching.

It may be the case that your product or service comes up in conversation during the show or is even the topic of the show. If it comes up naturally that’s fine. Just don’t try to force it in there.

Likewise, give value, not teasers. A fiction author certainty wouldn’t give away the ending, but she will explain the premise and perhaps some of the plot. If you have a book on the five secrets of online marketing, share at least one or two of them. If every time you keep saying, “read my book to find out what they are” then the entire show is an infomercial. You don’t have to give away all your secrets but there should be some clear value that the audience got if they only listen to the episode and never buy your book or service.

Know Who the Audience Is

In order to focus on the audience, you need to know who they are. You might be thinking, “I’m going on a marketing podcast, the listeners are people who want to learn marketing techniques. Duh.” Yes, but who are they, really?

Marketing executives at large corporations likely want to learn to be better marketers. But then, so do many individual contributors at marketing organizations. This is to say nothing of marketers are small businesses. Of course, many small business owners and solopreneurs also want to learn to be better marketers. Who are you speaking to on this show?

Some techniques conceptually apply to all, e.g. “Improve your SEO by using keywords and backlinks.” But the process, or rather level of effort, that a solopreneur may do is very different from what a small marketing team of five may do, which is different from what a multinational team of one hundred marketers may do (or a marketing agency).

The techniques, and maybe even if the ideas will differ. Certainly, the examples should differ. If I know it’s mostly small business owners in the audience I’m not going to talk about a six-month, fifty-thousand-dollar example used by a Fortune 500 company. Instead, I’ll try to choose one they can better relate to. Obviously if I only have the one example, I’ll use that. Even then I may suggest how the idea can be applied at a more relevant scale. If it’s a broad audience, I may pick examples that resonate with different segments of the audience.

You don’t have to do this, but the more you can relate to the specific audience, the more you will connect to them and help them find value. But this all begins with knowing who the audience is. Obviously, if you’re a host reading this, you need to provide that information. (We’ll revisit this in Podcast Alchemy: 7. How to Be a Great Podcast Host.)

Promote Other People

You are the center of attention for the next thirty to sixty minutes. There’s plenty of time to share the spotlight.

If someone connected you to get you on the show, thank them. I mentioned how I and my colleagues get each other on shows we’ve been on (see Podcast Alchemy: 5. How to Get on Hundreds of Podcasts (or Find an Ideal Podcast Guest)). Taking a little time to thank the person is kind, and it’s a chance to give their episode a shout out and promote it.

Even when I’m there talking about the topics of my book, I often tout other books. Remember, we’re there to promote value to the audience. If another book, product, or person can do that, I’m happy to mention it.

If you can work in a way to give credit to the host and/or their products or services definitely do so. The host also doesn’t want to come off as salesy. A good host promotes you; give back by promoting them if you can. In Podcast Alchemy: 7. How to Be a Great Podcast Host I wrote that a host should provide their background. This is easier when the guest has your info readily available. Even so, as a guest I recommend doing some research on the host ahead of time.

When I talk about my background and how I didn’t have formal training in the topic of the show, I’ll often say, “Back then we didn’t have great podcasts like this one to listen to.” It’s a true statement and shines light back on the host. If I can, I’ll work in the host’s service or product as an example (in a positive way) so that the audience hears about it but it’s not self-promotional coming from the host.

Justin Peters, Co-founder of SimplePod Studios, also suggests that a guest shouldn’t be afraid to turn the table on the host. If it’s a conversational interview, throw a question back to the host. Both the host and the audience will likely enjoy the back and forth. (I must admit I should do this more often than I actually do.)

Don’t Monolog

On news shows sound bites are now as little as ten seconds. Thankfully on a podcast you have more time. Still, try to keep your answers between thirty seconds and two to three minutes. Most responses will be about thirty to ninety seconds.

Maybe there’s some complex theory you have, or a great story but it needs a little more time. That’s fine if one or two of your answers go longer. But ultimately the interview should be a dialog, even if you’re doing most of the talking. What you don’t want it to do is give a five-minute monologue every time the host asks you a question.

If you’re new to guesting, treat it like public speaking or interviewing: practice answers to common questions. Record it and play it back. Work to make your answers more succinct if they’re running long. (These days you can even ask generative AI to help you convey the same message in fewer words.)

Another technique is to transcribe your answer. People speak at about 125-150 words a minute. After transcribing, try to edit it to under 250 words (or less) and practice the more succinct version. But, just like public speaking, you don’t want it memorized word for word; rather, you want to know the key parts of the shortened story and have it come out naturally.

Standard Questions

There are three questions you’re almost guaranteed to get, so have canned answers for all of them.

Welcome to the show.

It’s not a question per se but does require a response. Have a standard reply like “Thanks for having me on.” or “Glad to be here, I’m excited to share cooking tips with your audience.” It should be 1-2 lines, no more, and should be a polite response, convey excitement or energy, and/or set expectations for the show.

Tell us about yourself.

This is a 60-120 second relevant bio. It’s not time for your life story. Instead, this is giving the relevant background (relevant to the audience) about why you’re an expert, or what’s bringing you to the show. Occasionally there’s a guest who gives a five-minute life story, unless that’s the point of the podcast you’ve lost the audience who came there looking for something specific.

How can our listeners find you?

This will likely be one of the final questions in the show. Have a 30ish second answer. This is where you give your website, and any calls to action like, “follow me on social media at . . .” or “download [a free offer] at . . .”. My answer is below. I generally recommend a single call to action (e.g., “sign up on my email list to get more tips”). If you give too many, people are distracted and overwhelmed. Because I have nothing to really upsell, and really don’t even care about selling the book, my goal is to provide options for those who want it, even if it doesn’t drive more revenue for me. So the example below is probably not exactly how you want to do yours. Instead, you want yours to be a little more succinct as what I do in my second, fictional examples below.

One thing to note, I pronounce and pause on each word in the URL. Not everyone is a native English speaker, and some words can sound similar to others. By slowly annunciating each word, I make it easier to hear. This is why I list the URL in both cases word by word. You can hear me do it on any of my book’s podcasts.

You can go to The Career Toolkit Book dot com. There you can see where to buy the book, follow me on social media, read additional articles, or get lots of resources on the resources page. They’re all free; I don’t even ask for your email. There’s also a free app you can download with tips from the book. All of this at The Career Toolkit Book dot com.

[Note, that was before I created the Brain Bump app which now has a separate website. If we talk about the app, I’ll go slightly longer and also mention https://brainbumpapp.com/ otherwise I just stick to the above. Again, I don’t recommend giving multiple websites if your goal is to move them through a sales funnel.]

Go to Instagram Pet Stardom dot com. When you sign up for my email list, you’ll get my proven fifty free tips on how to make your pet an Instagram star, and then a weekly email after that with great tips for your pets IG profile.

[This second case is fictional and at the time of this article no such website exists.]

Of course, you likely know other questions the host is going to ask, because you provided it in your media kit (see Podcast Alchemy: 4. Creating the Perfect Podcast Pitch). Have practiced, but not memorized answers for those, too. If you’re an expert and experienced talking about your topic this should be natural. If you’re not as comfortable talking about it or get nervous when “on stage” (as opposed to with clients), make sure to practice your answers. Again, much like with a speech, you shouldn’t memorize it word for word, but know the flow well, and just speak in the moment to have it be natural.

Be Honest

It’s ok to say, “I’m not sure,” and admit you don’t know something. If it’s a hot take you can denote it as such, “I haven’t given that much thought; here’s my first take on it. . .”

Personally, I love these surprise questions. This is partially because I think well when on the spot, but also because it will often inspire a future blog post (and I’m always looking for fodder).

Promote the Show Afterwards

This is not optional. There’s an implicit understanding that if you’re going to be on a podcast you need to promote it. You should promote it at least once on every channel (social media and your email list as well as any others). Even if the host doesn’t provide you with any assets, you are still obligated to promote it. This includes having a link to the show so people can quickly click and access it, leading to plays for that episode. Ideally you should tag the host in these posts.

Some hosts will give you multiple media assets, like images or audio or video clips. You are absolutely welcome to promote the show more than once. (When I was doing hundreds of shows a year, I simply didn’t have space in my social media calendar to promote a show more than once, otherwise I would have.)


Founder of PodMatch Alex Sanfillipo points out that many guests are too “in the moment.” You're recording your episode today, but it may not come out for weeks or months, and it may be heard by people for weeks or even years to come.

Don’t give temporally relative answers like “last week” or “next month.” Instead use absolutes. I often say, “we’re recording this in the spring of 2023 as AI is gaining in popularity” or “the 2.0 version of Brain Bump will be out in the fall of 2023.”

This is not only helpful to your audience, but makes you look more credible. If you said, “No one is talking about AI regulation” you might sound out of touch if it’s 2026 and that’s a big topic, but if you say, “Today, in early 2023, no one is talking about AI regulation” you set the context.

Likewise, don’t talk about, “my book launch next week,” but, “my book launch in April 2023,” or, “my book launch next week, on April 3rd, 2023.”

Cross Talk

Another of Alex Sanfillipo’s biggest peeves is cross talk. Audio editing can do a lot these days; it can remove background noise, change the volume, clean up the voices, and more. What it can’t easily do without a lot of expensive tools is split two voices talking at the same time.

If you’re using Zoom (which is the most popular podcast recording channel in both my experience and surveys I’ve seen) it records a single track for both speakers. Everyone wants to fix it in post (historical note: Icons Unearthed: Star Wars attributes this phrase to the Star Wars movies’ herculean special effects added in post). What you can easily do in post is remove long pauses, disfluencies, and false starts, but splitting the audio is much harder. It’s better to have excessive pauses than to talk over each other.

Some podcast recording tools (e.g., Riverside.fm, StreamYard) will record the host and guest separately making it easy to deal with this. Even then, keep in mind if you’re also recording video; someone will have her lips moving with no sound, or you need to flip to a single frame view.

Don’t panic if you talk over each other for a second or two once or twice in a show. That sounds conversational. But you don’t want long, extended cross talk.

Assume Audio Only

A guest (and host) should assume the listener is audio only. There has been a trend in the early 2020s [see what I did there with timing] towards more video-based podcasts. I’m not discouraging this, but don’t assume people will see the video. Also, this is not an office PowerPoint presentation, avoid visuals.

Beyond accessibility considerations there’s the actual delivery. Many people listen to (or “watch”) podcasts, while driving, cooking, or at the gym. They’re not looking at their screens. Even if they are, it might be on a small cell phone screen where they can’t see details well.

If you really need a visual, please make sure to take a moment to describe it (e.g., “for our audio only listeners it’s a black monolith 1’ x 4’ x 9’”). Likewise, when doing things like air quotes with your fingers also say, “quote unquote took a lunch meeting” (or whatever phrase you’re using). It’s like the opposite of closed captioning, it’s audio narration for those not seeing the video and the audience will appreciate it.

Build a Relationship

The podcast recording is a one-time thing, but the relationship can last a lifetime. The fact that you two are doing a show together means that you have some interest in common. The recording should not be the end, but rather the beginning of a relationship. Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting observes, “The biggest benefit of guesting is the relationship you build with each host. Don't do a drive by interview. Follow up from time to time to see how they are doing (easier said than done).”

I always spend ten to thirty minutes afterwards talking with the host where we get to know each other. We cover this more in Podcast Alchemy: 8. How to Get the Most Out of Your Podcast. Sometimes there are other ways to work together in the short term, other times not.

It was actually during these conversations that someone asked about whether the Brain Bump app I was building for books could work for podcasts. The app was designed to help readers better retain and use what they read, and helps authors stay top of mind. With that one question I realized podcasts listeners and hosts have the same challenge. That was huge value gained from an easy conversation. The two of you are in the same field, or an adjacent one, and the conversations can help you discover new opportunities or trends to capitalize on.

This may seem like a lot to do but each item is something that doesn’t take much effort. It’s more about making a small change in style or activity to make the episode a better experience for yourself, the host, and audience. In some cases, not doing them hurts the experience of the listener and overall quality of the episode. With very minimal effort, you can come off like a podcast guesting pro and get rave reviews from the host and audience, burnishing your brand.