I love this question. The ability to ask good questions is one of the most valuable tools in life. Not only do great questions lead to great podcast content but they also allow you to learn more completely from another’s experience.
The best questions to ask will depend on what the format of your show is. However, I’ve always shared these few pieces of advice to those we work with and advice on our work at The Science of Success.
Do Your Research Prior
This should go without saying but if someone is taking the time to come on your show, especially someone highly sought after, do your research ahead of time. What I mean by this is take the time to search their recent projects and interviews.
This allows you to pick up on topics and points that they typically hit during interviews. This can be a great way to decide what you want to hit on, and what you want to miss or gloss over. Say your guest told a story in a previous interview and after the story, you had a follow up that the interviewer missed. Note the story, mention it in your interview then present your question.
This research allows you to get a feel for what they will want to talk about but more importantly also allows you to find something original to ask that has not been asked before and makes your content original and potentially newsworthy.
Ask Questions You Actually Care About
Remember to ask questions that you actually are interested in hearing the answer to. This does not mean you should ignore the central theme or project they are looking to push. (If they’re on your show you should be interested…right?) But find a way to put your spin, humor, thoughts, or insights into the phrasing or positioning of the questions.
Always stay engaged in the conversation. Nothing is worse than speaking to someone who you can tell is just waiting for their turn to speak. Likewise, most can tell when you are already planning your next question and have checked out during their answer.
Staying more engaged will come with experience as well. If you’re not comfortable on the mic yet it might be harder to stay present but shaping the questions in a way that reflects your interests or personality will lead to a conversational interview.
Go Beyond The Surface
When someone comes out with a new book, makes the news, or starts a new project that is getting a lot of attention, they’re most likely being interviewed A LOT. It’s no fault of theirs but often people fall into routines and tend to give the same answers and stories in each interview they do. This makes things easier on them and ensures consistency in their message.
But oftentimes does not lead to anything original that gives listeners a reason to listen to you over others.
Think beyond the surface. So your TED talk on X topic has gotten over 5 million views? – Let them go over the content in their TED talk – Then don’t be afraid to dig. What was it that you saw in your life or in the world that made you think this was necessary to research? Why do you love X topic so much, how were you introduced to it? What does it mean to you? Who showed you X topic?
All these example questions go beyond what someone can typically find with a google search.
For Example. We interviewedregarding his latest book Rebirth. He told us about the book and some of the lessons in it but then Matt asked him “Why Spain? Why a pilgrimage?” and the answer we got is not only gold but is something you could never find in a search…
You want the truth? I was in Italy visiting a friend from college, and we were at this beautiful Italian woman’s house and we were very drunk on grappa that her grandmother made, and I was trying to impress her, and she told me about this pilgrimage and I said I would walk it. So I came up with the idea when I was really, really drunk trying to impress a beautiful Italian woman. The next day when I woke up I was like, “Well that was interesting, but it seems cool. Let me just go do it for a few days.” So I went off and I did it, and ended up doing the whole thing. But the whole thing started off being drunk trying to impress a woman, which was pretty much where all a lot of great male stories start. – Kamal Ravikant on The Science of Success.
So now we know the funny and completely original story of how Kamal decided to take his pilgrimage and ultimately experience the source material for his best selling book.
Original stories and thoughts behind the creation are magic. Not just the what you did or created, but the WHY.
Don’t Be Afraid To Push and Dig
Not everyone likes to go off script. Sometimes you have to push someone a little more in order to get great information out of someone.
NOTE: BE RESPECTFUL. ALWAYS.
However, don’t be afraid to push someone to open up a little bit.can be a great way to get someone to divulge more information without even having to directly ask. It goes something like this…
Person 1: To get someone to tip their hand and clarify, simply repeat the last three to five keywords in their sentence.
Person 2: You repeat the last keywords?
Person 1: Yeah, pretty crazy right? What that does is it causes me to explain my point again from a different angle, revealing more information that could be extremely valuable and also it helps you decipher my true desired outcomes and motivations.
- Chris Voss on The Science of Success
See there? Person 1 gave more information and Person 2 never even had to ask directly.
Sometimes, however, you have to ask directly and a great way to push for more information is to ask about the surrounding emotions behind an action, a project, or story. “How did that make you feel?” “What was your biggest takeaway from that?”
Whenever possible, tee up a story. Stories stick with people. If I simply explain something to you, it’s easily forgotten. If I can picture it in my head and play it out as if it were a movie. I’ll remember it.
If you enjoyed this…
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