How To Deal With A Difficult Podcast Guest

How To Deal With A Difficult Podcast Guest

Sometimes it doesn’t go the way we hope. Today, I want to talk about what happens when that’s the case, specifically with a guest. How do we deal with a bad guest?

Before we dig into this, I want to just say that it’s a fundamental truth. There are good interviews and bad interviews. I titled this episode How to Deal with Difficult Podcast Guests because yes, sometimes the behaviors of the guests are difficult, but some of the things we’re going to talk about today are generally not the fault of the guest, are occasionally the fault of the hosts, and sometimes, it just happens even when both the host and the guest are exceptional human beings. Sometimes it just does not blend together well; the mojo, the magic, it’s MIA. Before we get into this conversation, I want to be super, super clear, this is not about good and bad people, this is about an end product, achieving or not achieving our goals just first and foremost.

We’re going to talk today about how to navigate that situation where you have a guest and you sit down and you have a conversation. You go to listen to the episode, you listen to the final edit from your team, or whatever it is and you go, “Well, that’s crap. That’s terrible.” Or maybe even during the interview, you felt off. Like occasionally, I felt like a power struggle, like everybody’s trying to be in charge, but whatever the case may be, however you got there, I do want to talk about some ways to manage that and we’re going to end with some ways to avoid that because here’s the dealio: it will very likely happen but there are some things we can do to prevent it and as the host, it is 100% solely your job in this instance. Because here’s the deal, as the host of this kind of show, you are also the executive producer. You are the one who makes these decisions. As the business owner that sponsors that show, you are the network. It is your responsibility what you put on the air.

We’re going to have this conversation, but before we have this conversation, I want to remind you that there is a brand new episode coming out next week of the Podcast Newsroom. We’re going to be talking about some annual evaluation things that I like to look at for my show. To prepare for that, I highly recommend listening to November’s episode where we talked about some things I wanted you to start thinking about before that episode, because you’re running out of time to think about that before that episode. Head over to and get access to the Podcast Newsroom, an exclusive, private podcast just for you, and totally free. Cool. I’m excited. Let’s dig in.

First and foremost, let’s say you recorded, it seemed fine, you got done, and you’re like, “This is all the way bad.” Or you know what, sometimes they’re not all the way bad, sometimes they’re just a little bad. What do you do? Is it your obligation to run the episode regardless? No. 100% no. If you get absolutely nothing else from this podcast episode, I want to be absolutely clear, your obligation is to the listener, not the guest. Yes, even if that guest is a client. Yes, even if that guest is your best friend. Yes, even if that guest is your life partner or spouse. Yes, even if that guest is your child. The small human that you are turning into a big human—I feel like that’s the best way to describe parenting by the way—no matter what, your customer in this relationship is your listener. That is who matters.

Now I feel like you could just take that segment of advice and apply it to literally all the advice I give you. I don’t care if my kid likes the show. I care if he likes me but I don’t care if he likes the show. It’s not for him so I don’t take his advice on it. Otherwise, we would have a lot more Minecraft references, and I don’t know, definitely a YouTube channel. But I want you, although the show is up on YouTube now if you want to consume it there, I want you to remember that at the end of the day, the product belongs to the listener and so that’s who it has to serve. If you get done with an episode and that episode is not going to be valuable for your listener, here’s your permission slip, signed, sealed, and delivered, to not air that episode, to not release that episode. Because if it is not valuable to your listeners, it is not worthy of your airwaves. Full stop. Full and complete stop. Period. Whatever schmancy slang term we’re using now. Whatever it is, I cannot be more clear, don’t air it.

Reach out to the guest if it feels good, if it feels valuable, and re-record it. In some instances, you have to send an email that says, “Hey, upon reflection, this episode isn’t really a fit for what we’re talking about right now so I won’t be airing it. Thank you for your time.” It sucks. It’s wildly uncomfortable to do that. I’m sure it wouldn’t be fun to receive that email, but if it’s not going to serve the listener, it’s not going to serve you or the guest, so don’t air it. On the flip side, if you are in an episode and you’re going, “Eeh,this is not going where I want it to go,” I want you to stop. Hit the pause button. Redirect the conversation. You can absolutely stop the recording, stop the interview, stop the conversation, and say, “You know what, I really want us to refocus so let’s take a step back.” Realign your goals, realign your flow, talk to the guest and start fresh. Maybe it’s not fresh, maybe you keep parts at the beginning of the episode, but you restart where you need to, you come back to a point that got lost, or whatever it is. Or if it’s going really, really poorly and you know you’re not going to air the episode, stop recording it. Don’t waste your time or the guest’s. Let it go. Let it go.

I don’t remember where that’s from. Anyways, I want you to be super honest with yourself about the fact that not every episode is going to be great. There will be times where there is something you’ve recorded—and by the way, this may happen alone too—that you go, “This cannot see the light of day. This is not valuable. We need to take another swing at this.” Then I want you to take another swing at it because too many podcast hosts, too many podcasters are throwing out episodes they know suck because they’re trying to stick to a schedule, because they’re trying to fulfill their editorial calendar, and that’s not a reason to put out content, it’s not going to do service to you, your business, or your listener, and so stop doing it.

How do we prevent this from happening? How do we prevent ourselves from being in a situation where we have to scrap a whole episode or where we have to go to a guest and say, “Wait, wait, we got to try this again”? How do we prevent that? First and foremost, have a really clear understanding for the goal of every episode, especially ones where you’re bringing in another voice because you need to be really clear on your goals so that you can be (A) asking the questions that are going to help you move the conversation towards that goal, and (B) clear with the guest, “Hey, here’s where I want us to get in this conversation,” let them know the destination that this journey is working towards. Because when you can loop them in on that, then you’re working together. I know it’s warm and cozy. It’s teamwork. It makes the dreamwork, love. Make sure you go into it having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with the show.

Number two, make sure that you have guests who are going to be a value alignment with you, your show, and your guest. This means that if you want to take guests based on pitches, which are totally cool, go for it. There might be some podcast guest work that you need to do in your production cycle. That could be a pre-interview, that could be going back and forth via email, that could be a really thorough questionnaire, but you’re going to need to do some pre-production work with that guest and for that show. When you are going to loop a guest in, you are now having to manage two voices. Quite frankly, occasionally, two different goals because your goal may be to help the listener have a better understanding of a topic or move them towards something you offer, and it’s entirely likely that your guest is there to try to move them away from your show and towards their own show, towards their own offer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We can’t be all things to our clients at all times.

Part of the reason I love bringing people onto this show is there’s a gazillion things I’m not an expert on that you probably need in your life in business. How can the people who I know, who are really cool, support you in getting that done and doing that? That’s what I want you to be looking at as you look at who these guests are and really be clear on who you’re inviting onto the show. Yes, even if somebody pitches you, you are inviting them on to the show, you are the gatekeeper, “you are the bouncer to this here” club. It is your responsibility to make sure that every episode of your show is supportive of your listener. It is your responsibility as, going back to this metaphor of the network, that every episode of your show is supportive to your sponsors which is your business.

Pre-interviews, questionnaires, and most importantly and where I want to wrap this up with, is the importance of saying no. Not all guests are a fit. In many cases, few guests are going to be a fit. You’ll notice this show does not have a ton of guests. When I do, it’s for a very specific purpose. It is for a very strategic reason. It is because I want you to have support on something really specific or it’s because I want you to have an understanding of a piece of what we do. Certainly, that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about bringing on client stories and things like that. But you’ll notice that my reason for bringing on these guests is not to promote them, it is to serve my listener. That’s going to be a critical part of prep and pre-production that prevents having to have the conversations we started the show with, having to have the “This is not a fit, sorry bud. This cannot go to air. Sorry pal.” I want you to look through who is on your guest calendar for next quarter for Q1, who is on your calendar that needs to just come off or who you need to take a step back and do some better preparation for, because that pre-production work is critically important when we bring in another voice, critically.

That’s what I’ve got for you, another quick and dirty one today. We’re going to be ending the year with some of these little short pops of episodes. I hope that’s helpful for you. I know for me, my capacity gets a whole lot smaller this time of year because we’re getting ahead on things and preparing for some off time. Of course, there are family things that are going on and so my capacity is definitely reducing right now and yours might be too, which is probably why it’s a really good time for you to think about “Do I want to be in the same situation next November where my capacity is shrinking and I’m feeling a bit squeezed?” If that is a resounding “No, I don’t want to,” let us help you with production.

We are currently having conversations with clients who are going to start getting produced by us in January, so let’s have those conversations because I foresee our start of the year getting pretty busy and so I would love to make sure that you and I have a conversation either already on the calendar or your setup can be done in December so that the first episodes you’re releasing with us happen in January. But we only have I think one or maybe two spots left for that at this point. Head over to Find a time that works for you, either in December or in January, and let’s make sure that this time next year, you are supported with your show, you are feeling totally prepped and ready, and that you’re not running into too many situations where you have to tell a guest that you’re not releasing a show because you have a strategic approach to the content that goes out. I’m so excited. I hope you have a great week. I will talk to you next week.

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