May 28, 2022

JF2825: 12 Tips for Interviewing Podcast Guests | Beyond Multifamily ft. Ash Patel

The Beyond Multifamily series is hosted by non-residential commercial real estate investor and Best Ever Show host, Ash Patel. Ash’s goal for this series is to introduce you to the world of non-residential commercial real estate investing and teach you how to look at and underwrite different commercial asset classes. 

In this episode, Ash shares his top 12 tips for interviewing podcast guests.


1. Watch your energy — it sets the tone for everything.

Amplify your tone, volume, and emotion so that it doesn’t come across as muted. Record yourself normally, then record yourself with over-the-top emphasis and energy, and see exactly how muted each version comes across. 


2. Ask the hard questions.

Ask the questions your audience members will want to be answered, and get into the deal numbers. How much did they raise? How much did their investors make? What percentage annualized return did they all make? Etc. 


3. Podcasts are not about self-promoting; they’re about building connections and adding value. 

If your guest is having a hard time coming out of their shell and sharing their own mistakes and failures, take the lead by sharing some of your own first. 


4. Find out your guest’s podcast experience. 

Don’t assume how much experience they have on podcasts based on their level of success. Before the interview, ask your guest if this is their first podcast. If it’s not, ask them how you can make this podcast different from the ones they’ve previously done. If it is, offer them some tips on breathing, talking speed, etc. 


5. Research your guest and be respectful of their time.

Know something about your guest so that if there is ever a pause, you can fill in the gaps with something that you know about them. Show your high-profile guests that you respect their time by asking questions no one else has asked them before. 


6. Address self-promoting if it happens. 

If there is a specific point in the podcast where it is appropriate for your guest to promote themselves, make it clear beforehand. You can also tell your guests that if they want to promote, it would come across best coming from you. 


7. Use your own humility to encourage others to share theirs.

Set the tone when it comes to energy, content, and humility. If a guest is afraid to promote themselves, you can talk about your own successes and then ask them to bring up some of theirs.


8. Watch how you breathe.

Take deep breaths while your guest is talking. This will keep you from having to take breaths between sentences when you speak, and it will keep you from interrupting your guest.


9. Don’t interrupt unless you have to.

Make a conscious effort to let your guest finish talking before you speak — unless they are particularly longwinded. If you need to regain control of the conversation, you can piggyback on what they are saying, or simply tell them you need them to stop for a moment so you can switch gears.


10. Write things down.

Ash recommends the strategy he uses: Take a yellow pad of paper, write the guest’s name at the top of the page, and draw a line down the middle. On the right side, write down anything you can use to summarize the interview at the end of the episode. On the left side, write down topics you want to ask about and cross them off as you get to them.


11. Watch for the word “so.”

Instead of beginning sentences with the word “so,” use your guest’s name instead. Make a conscious effort to do this both in podcasts and in your everyday conversations. 


12. Listen to yourself, critique yourself, and make minor adjustments.

Record yourself and see what you sound like, then figure out how you can improve.



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Ash Patel: Hello Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I'm Ash Patel and this is an episode of Beyond Multifamily where we will get into a lot of topics beyond multifamily. Today, I'm going to share with you my top 12 tips for interviewing podcast guests and share some rookie mistakes that I made along the way.

This story starts in late 2020, I received a phone call from Joe Fairless and he asked if I would be interested in being one of the hosts for the Best Ever podcast. My response was immediately, "[expletive]. Yes." And he was a bit taken aback and he said, "Really?" I'm like, "Yeah, I'd love to." So he's like, "Okay, thank you", hangs up, and a couple of months went by before I heard anything else from him. When the time finally came for me to do my first interviews, I thought I was ready. This didn't look as hard as it actually is. I'd listened to the Best Ever podcast for years so I thought I could pick up on the vibe that Joe had started and just run with it.

Well, after my first round of interviews, probably the first four, five, six interviews, I get an email from Joe Fairless critiquing my performance. The first thing he said was, "You have no energy." He said, "I've seen how you greet people that come to your house. Why can't you greet our guest with that same energy?" To me, that never even occurred. I assumed you just do the podcast; all the podcasts that I've listened to over the years, I assumed what you hear is just people's personalities, it's just how they are. In reality, you sound very muted even if you have a little bit of energy, you actually need a lot of over-the-top energy for the podcast for it to come across as normal.

Your energy is also important, because it sets the tone for the interview. If you're a drag to listen to, the person that you're interviewing is going to have a difficult time getting their energy levels up, because they're essentially going to match the tone that you've set. I want to say, if you haven't already listened to the podcast where I talk about being a guest on other people's podcasts, and my top tips for that, please give that a listen. I go a little bit deeper into energy, equipment, background, lighting, all that good stuff.

So number one, again, for interviewing other guests for your podcast, number one tip, remember your energy sets the pace. How do you change or how do you amplify your energy? It is changes in tone, changes in volume, laughter. Don't be afraid of emotion. Just put yourself out there. But remember, everything comes across as muted, and you have to amplify it. A good way to test this or see exactly how muted your sound comes across is record yourself doing an intro, and do it two different ways. Do it, one, where you just normally think you're doing a good job. Then, record it again where you're really over the top and you put a lot of emphasis and energy into the intro, and see exactly how muted both of those come across.

Number two, ask really hard questions. Another rookie mistake. I sent Joe an email months and months prior to us having this podcast discussion. That email had a lot of questions that I wish he would ask. I said, "Joe, you're giving people a lot of softball questions. I wish you would ask harder questions." I probably gave him 10 different questions that I wish he would start asking. "If you lost everything today, how would you start over?" "Tell me a deal you lost money on and what did you learn from it?" Along with Joe's critique of my energy, in that same email, he pointed out a very specific area of an interview where I should've asked one of my own questions. He pointed out, "This was the perfect opportunity, and this was your question that you didn't even ask." He was absolutely right.

Another thing that Joe is a really big proponent on is numbers, numbers, numbers. Get into deal numbers. It's one thing when somebody says, "We made a lot of money." "This was a very expensive deal." "We lost a lot of money." Dive into all of the numbers. "What did you buy it for?" "How much did you raise?" "What was your loss?" "How much did you make?" "How much did your investors make?" "What percentage annualized return did you all make?"

Number three, contrary to what a lot of people may believe, podcasts are not about self-promoting. They're more about building connections with your audience and making sure you add value to them. I went in-depth on my Beyond Multifamily episode where I talked about being interviewed for a podcast, but I'll reiterate some of that. The best way to build a connection with your audience - show humility, share some of your mistakes or failures. Now, when you have a guest that you're interviewing and they're not coming out of their shell, they're only talking about their successes, the best way to help them build that connection to their audience is share some of your own mistakes.

In the past, I've shared deals that I've lost money on, really stupid mistakes that I've made, not just with business, but in life in general or with partners. I've also shared times where my ego got so inflated, it made me do really bad deals and got me in a lot of trouble... And I brought people into my mindset at the time, and that helps a lot. If you share that with your interviewee, it may help them open up a little bit, share some of their own mistakes, and again, that just builds a connection with the audience and helps bring the audience into their world.

Number four, find out what kind of podcast experience your guest has. Don't assume just because they're vastly successful that they've been on a lot of podcasts before. Or don't assume because they don't have much of a resume that they haven't been on a podcast before. So I'll often ask, "Is this your first podcast?" "Have you done a lot of podcasts before?" Get a range of answers from, "Yes, this is my first one" to "No, this is my fourth one today."

Now let's start with the easier one. If this is somebody's fourth podcast in the day, or they're on a podcast circuit where they're just promoting a book, or they just want to get money for their next deal, or whatever it is, but they're doing podcasts left and right, I will ask them, "How can we make this podcast different and not sound like all the other interviews that you've done?" We will come up with a game plan; we'll share failures, we'll deep dive into something specific. But you want to make sure that your interview, your interview style, everything is different and you extract something from that interviewee that the other hosts have not. So make sure it's unique and it's not just another cookie-cutter interview.

If somebody says, "This is my first podcast", I often give them tips. "Make sure when I'm talking, you're breathing in." "Talk a little bit slower than you normally would." Because when people are nervous, they tend to talk quickly. You don't really catch that, it's just the heat of the moment. "So purposely slow yourself down and you'll come across just fine." Talk to them about the energy.

Number five, research your guests. Again, if this is somebody that's been on the podcast circuits, find something that's unique about them that other interviewers did not pick up on. You want to make sure that you know something about your guests so if there's ever a pause, you can fill in the gaps with something that you know about them.

A good example is I interviewed somebody, the interviewee just did not have a lot of energy. His personality was just fairly reserved so it was a lot of one-word answers and there just wasn't a whole lot of interaction. I was reaching to extract the information that would build credibility and add value to our audience.

I remember, when I looked at his website, all the principals in his company share the same last name. So I asked him, "Hey, is this a family business? Do you work along your entire family?" That opened up a whole world of questions and answers where we got this person to open up. He talked about his siblings, talked about some of the hard interactions he's had with family members and business.

When you research your guests and you find out somebody is on a podcast circuit, they're doing interviews left and right, find a way where you can break that cadence. Ask them, "Tell me about a disagreement that you've had with your partner." "Tell me about the last disagreement that you've had with your partner." "If we were interviewing your partner, what would he want to see you doing better?" Just a question that you know no one else has ever asked. This is especially important when you're interviewing high-profile guests, because you want to show them the respect of their time. If they're giving up their time to be on your podcast, you should be well prepared.

A great example of this is I recently interviewed Neal Bawa. You guys I'm sure know him, the mad scientist of data and multifamily. If you don't know him, please Google him. Joe Fairless has done some great interviews with him. So when I had the opportunity to interview Neal Bawa, I relistened to Joe Fairless and Neal Bawa. I believe in 2016, their interview, Neal specifically talked about a market crash coming within two years. And when I interviewed him in 2021, I asked him, "Hey, Neal, I got to ask you a question before we leave. In the 2016 interview with Joe, you mentioned a crash coming, and it didn't really happen. Can you talk about that?" And he said, "Yeah, listen, it happened. It was a COVID crash, it reset everything." But I think he admired the fact that I did the research, as anybody would.

So if you have a high-profile guest or someone that you've interviewed before, please show them the respect of not just duplicating their previous interview. Dig into something that they mentioned in their previous interview and try to piggyback on that in their new interview, and it shows them the respect that they deserve.

Break: [00:11:46] - [00:13:34]

Ash Patel: Number six, address the self-promoting. I mentioned earlier, a lot of people believe that podcasts are a way to get out there and promote yourself. The best way to do that is build a connection with your audience. You're not there to self-promote, you're really there to build that connection and give others a lot of value. That's the best way to self-promote. Nonetheless, not everybody knows that and not everybody's going to listen to this Beyond Multifamily episode.

One of the ways I try to avoid having our guests self-promote is before the interview, I tell them my opinion of the best way to build a connection with the audience, and if there's anything that they want to promote, you can do that when I ask you, "How can the Best Ever listeners reach out to you?" Perfect time. John Casmon, another fellow podcaster, multifamily syndicator, him and I had a conversation. And what he does is he tells his guest, "If there's something that you want to promote, it would come across a lot better coming from me than it would coming from you. So you disarm people." There's nothing wrong with somebody promoting their book or talking about a deal that they have, they're raising capital, whatever it may be, but do it at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner. You can't just have somebody repeating their website name 20X throughout the podcast.

Number seven, set the tone, not just in energy, but in terms of the content and the humility and the bragging that's going on in the podcast. So the same time that we have people that are self-promoting all the time, we also have people that literally are so afraid to self-promote, they talk about their failures continuously. It's okay for them to talk about their successes and they need to know that. So you can then talk about your own successes and deep dive into them and bring some of their successes out. So just know, you as the interviewer, set the tone for energy, for content, and for making sure that the audience gets real value from this interview.

Number eight, focus on your breathing. You want to make sure you're taking deep breaths. The opportune time is when the other person is talking. It is the best time to focus on taking deep breaths, and that accomplishes two things. One, it keeps you from having to breathe in between sentences because you're shallow breathing, and you have to stop, and that will come across in the interview. But number two, it keeps you from interrupting the other person as I often am inclined to do. So if I'm focusing not only on what the other person is saying, but I'm taking some deep breaths myself, it keeps me in a calmer state and keeps me from interrupting the other person, even though I'm inclined to do so.

Which brings me to number nine. Don't interrupt others unless you have to. What does that mean? All right, listen. I'm from Jersey, I'm a pretty high-strung guy, high-energy guy, and I want to talk a lot. It's a conscious effort for me to sit back, wait for the other person to finish, and then talking. It's still a struggle that I work with, but there's times where that is a great ability to have. The ability to talk over people or to interrupt somebody. You need to do that when you have some people that have this crazy ability to talk for three, four, five minutes. And you can't even tell that they're breathing, let alone, you don't have an opportunity to talk at all. So if somebody has those canned answers where they just go into this dissertation, and it's minutes and minutes long, you can't allow that.

Yeah, a lot of it can be cut out in post-production. But you also want to set the tone and let that person know that we want to add value to our audience so let's change the subject and let's take the conversation this way. The best way to interrupt somebody is piggyback on what they're saying. So if they say, "The reason I made this change to my business is because I see the economy heading this way." That's a great time for you to say, "Hey, listen, I want to get your opinion on the economy." Then, you take back control of the conversation. This was a huge struggle for me.

Because I listened to my early interviews, and it was horrible where I kept interrupting people or I would start talking before they were even finished. Because they were close to finished, I thought i's my turn to go. That was bad on my part. I made an overly conscious effort to not interrupt people until they were completely finished. Then, I struggled because people would just continue to talk and I was trying to be respectful. I'm not the same guy from Jersey that's too rambunctious. But I've learned that there's times where you have to take back control of the conversation and steer it a different way.

I've also learned that a lot of the people that have that crazy ability to talk five, 10 minutes without being interrupted are okay with you interrupting them because it's not the first time it's happened to them. In recapping how to interrupt people, you can piggyback on what they're saying, or just come with a hard stop and say, "Hey, listen. I want to stop you for a second." Just find a way to stop and take back control of the conversation.

Number 10, please don't think you can wing this if you're not writing things down. Whether you're being interviewed for a podcast or especially if you're the one doing the interviewing, you have to have that yellow pad in front of you and you have to be writing things down. The most crucial time is in the beginning when somebody says, "Yeah, I grew up in here. I started with wholesaling, I did fix-and-flips. My first deal was this." It's amazing, in the beginning, people often have that rehearsed introduction, but there's so many nuggets in there that you want to circle back to. And if there's times in the conversation where you run out of things to talk about, you can circle back to something about their childhood. "Hey, so your grandfather was building houses." Whatever it is, so it's so important to write things down.

What I do is I have my yellow pad in front of me. I write the person's name at the very top, and I draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the right side, I write down anything that I can use as a summary so when I'm recapping the interview at the very end, it's, "Hey, Slocomb Reed started out in high school, building houses. And college, he was doing fix-and-flips." You recap the whole story because you have that summary on the right side of that sheet. On the left side, I write down anything that I want to ask a question about or if there's something I want to deep dive about. In summary, on the right side, write down factual things that you can reiterate in a summary. Left side, use that as your sketchpad, ask questions on. And as you ask those questions, put a little check or cross off the question.

This is important because there's no way you can remember everything that you want to ask. There's times where you've got really good questions that you want to ask. For example, somebody that converted a hotel into apartments, but then the conversation starts talking about a high-rise building and you forget those important questions. The problem is the audience wanted to know more about whatever it was that person was talking about, and you forgot because you aren't writing things down. So please, make sure that yellow pad's in front of you, write things down.

Best Ever listeners, we're almost there, number 11. Watch for the word "so". It's amazing how so many people whether they are being interviewed or doing the interview, start sentences with "so". This also came in my other podcast about being interviewed. So, do not start sentences with "so". Instead, replace it with that person's name. It's a crazy thing that when you're nervous, you just want to start a sentence with "so". Instead, "Joe, I meant to ask you," instead of, "So I wanted to ask you." Just make it a conscious effort and not just in podcast but try to do that in real life and it'll help you all around.

Number 12, listen to yourself. It took me months to listen to my first podcast that I did. It was not good and, to this day, it's painful. If I go back and listen to some of my early recordings, they're not good, but it's so important to listen to them and figure out how you can improve. You got to practice this. Practice it in normal conversations that you have with your spouse, your kids. Get your iPhone or your Android phone, hit the sound recorder, and start recording, and see what you sound like. But guys, it's so important. You have to go back and listen to yourself, critique yourself, and make small adjustments.

Best Ever listeners, that's it. That's my top 12 list that I've learned from doing about 100 interviews. I'll recap them real quick. Number one, watch your energy, it sets the tone for everything, overdo your energy. Number two, ask the hard questions. Number three, podcasts are not about self-promoting, they're about building connections and adding value. Number four, find out your guests' podcast experience. Number five, research your guests, be respectful of their time.

Number six, address the self-promoting if it happens. Number seven, use your own humility to encourage others to share theirs. Number eight, watch how you breathe. Number nine, don't interrupt unless you have to. Number 10, have that yellow pad with a line down the middle. Number 11, watch for the word "so". Number 12, please, as hard as it is, listen to yourself and critique yourself and make those minor adjustments.

Best Ever listeners, I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Beyond Multifamily. If you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with somebody you think could benefit from it. Follow, like, subscribe, and have a Best Ever day.

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