Don’t Ask THAT Question …

by Erik K. Johnson

Don’t Ask That Question.

(photo by icyimage)

If you have a decent guest on your podcast, they have probably been interviewed many, many times about the same subject. Popular guests often get bored with the same questions being posed to them over and over again. To make your interview truly engaging for all involved, find unique ways to ask questions that serve the guest as well as the listener.

Often, you will hear a host ask their guest stale, typical questions. You know the questions. “So, how did you come up with the name of your latest project?” “What have you been up to lately?” Guests truly dread these questions. They serve no real purpose, yet everyone asks them.

I have had musicians confide in me off the air how much they hate doing radio interviews, because they are all the same. When I once asked a question taken from the band’s website, my guest said, “Oh, I see you’ve read my bio.” He called me out right there on the air. Most hosts take the easy way out and just skim the bio or news release and take their questions straight from there.

Using typical methods of preparation leads to stale questions. “When does your album come out?” “Where did you get the name for the band?” “How did you guys meet?” Pop group Ben Folds Five began making up answers for the question “Where did you get the name for the band?”. In fact, they almost had a different answer every time the question was asked. They had to make the interview interesting for themselves.

Every guest is looking to benefit in some way from the interview. Usually, they have come on your show to promote their latest book or new product. You can help your guest promote without asking painful questions.

Let’s say you are interviewing a musician who has a new album coming out on July 1st. You ask, “When does the new album come out?” Your guest will instantly think, “Didn’t this guy do any homework before he set up this interview?” Your guest will also be saying in his head, “Oh, not this line of questioning again.”

Instead, make your questions interesting. Ask, “When your album comes out on July 1st, what will you be doing to celebrate?” You could also ask, “The album is released on July 1st. Who have you slipped some advanced copies to?” How about asking, “When the album hits stores on July 1st, where will you go to buy your first copy?” Believe me, every artist buys a copy of their first album in the store. They just want to see it on the shelf.

By asking creative questions, you’ve helped the guest promote their goods without sounding stale. You have avoided the mistake of stealing their answer. Best yet, everyone is engaged in the discussion.  Be unique.

Country act Little Big Town was recently a guest on my show. By reading information about the band on the internet, I knew all four members have kids. I also knew all of the kids travel with the group when they tour. I could have asked, “What are the names of your kids.” How about, “Is it fun travelling with your children?” I’m sure they get asked questions like this all of the time.

By getting a little creative, I instead asked the members of Little Big Town, “When the kids travel with you guys, what is the craziest kid thing you have on the bus?” They had just purchased a new kiddie pool for the summer that would fit on top of their gear. They also have a pink pottie for toilet training. It gave them a great opportunity to talk about their kids without asking the same, lame questions they always receive.

— I’d love to help you with your podcast. Post any questions or comments you might have, or e-mail me at Let’s turn your information into engaging entertainment.

Keep your interview engaging. Be creative. Find unique ways to ask questions that serve the guest as well as the listener. By all means, don’t ask that question.