The Ultimate Guide to Finding and Booking Podcast Guests
Finding podcast guests to interview can take a lot of time and effort.
You need a steady flow of quality guests that will resonate with your audience.
But where can you find these people? What’s the best way to do outreach so they’ll agree to be a guest? And how do you keep doing that consistently week in week out?
It can also be hard to delegate this work to a member of your team or a virtual assistant. How can you be sure they’ll also find the right high quality guests?
You also need an effective system for tracking all this work, i.e. who has been contacted, who declined, who accepted, who needs follow up and when etc.
The good news is that finding and booking guests for your podcast doesn’t have to be a difficult or time consuming task. And with the right system, it’s something that you can easily delegate or outsource.
In this guide, I’ll give you a step-by-step proven method for finding and booking podcast guests. And I’ll show you (mostly free) tools that you can use to help automate tasks and stay organized.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Defining the Ideal Guest for Your Podcast
- Using a CRM System to Track Guests
- How to Find Guest to Interview on Your Podcast
- How to Evaluate Potential Guests
- Sending Invitations to Your Podcast Guests
- Scheduling the Interview
- Following Up with People Who Don’t Respond
- Preparing for the Podcast Interview
Defining the Ideal Guest For Your Podcast
Before you can find your ideal guests, you need to be clear who they are.
This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many podcasters skip this step and then can’t understand why they struggle to find guests.
And if you can’t clearly explain who you’re looking for, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult for you to delegate or outsource this task.
The answer is to develop a ’persona’ of your ideal guest.
Personas are fictional characters created to represent a group of people e.g. marketers use personas to represent different customer types.
You may have already created a persona of your podcast audience. And if you haven’t, it’s something that you should also consider doing.
But we don’t need to develop a ‘full blown’ persona for our ideal guests…
…we’re going to create a ‘micro-persona’ in around 15 minutes. We’re going to focus on a few key attributes that will help us develop a lot more clarity.
Start with a blank sheet of paper. Draw a vertical line down the center of the page. And then draw a horizontal line half way down the page.
You now have a page with 4 quadrants. At the top of each quadrant, write one of these headings: Attributes, Exceptions, Most Needed and Don’t Want.
And then take a few minutes to list 3-5 key points in each of your quadrants.
- Attributes: what are the key attributes of your ideal guest e.g. role, industry, market, skills, experience, knowledge, areas of expertise etc?
- Exceptions: what are exceptions (if any) to your required attributes where you might still consider someone as a guest?
- Most Needed: what are some segments or types of guests that are more important to you i.e. which areas are you lacking guests?
- Don’t Want: what are key indicators of a guest that might meet your required attributes, but you still wouldn’t want to have on your show?
Here’s an example of a completed ‘micro-persona’:
You’re not aiming for perfection with this exercise. Your goal should be to write down what you already know about your ideal guests.
This gives you a good starting point for building clarity about your ideal guest. Over time, you can continue to refine this and add more information.
Using a CRM System to Track Guests
Once you get into a routine of finding and inviting people, you’ll quickly start dealing with a lot of information e.g. contact details, who you’ve invited, who’s accepted, who’s declined, who you need to follow up with etc.
You could store all this information in a spreadsheet, but it will quickly become unmanageable e.g. every time you add a new person to the spreadsheet, you’ll need to manually check that you haven’t already added them. This may not be an issue right now, but it will be when you have hundreds or thousands of entries.
A CRM (customer relationship management) application will give you a much better way to organize and track all this information. There are lots of CRM applications to choose from but they will all let you do two important things:
- Store the names and contact information of all the people you think might be a potential guest for your podcast.
- Create a ‘pipeline’ to keep track of all the actions you’ve taken or need to take with each of the contacts to get them scheduled as a guest.
A typical pipeline in a CRM system could be setup with the following stages:
- Suggested Guest: any potential guests you or your team members find are added to this stage, to be evaluated by you later.
- Invite Guest: when a suggested guest is approved by you, they are moved to this stage to indicate that an invitation can be sent to them.
- Invitation Sent: when a person is moved to this stage, it indicates that an invitation has been sent but no response received yet.
- Follow Up #1 Sent: when the contact hasn’t responded after say 2 weeks, they’re moved to this stage and a follow up invite is sent.
- Follow Up #2 Sent: when the contact hasn’t responded after say 6 weeks, they’re moved to this stage and another follow up invite is sent.
- Follow Up #3 Sent: when the contact hasn’t responded after say 12 weeks, they’re moved to this stage and a final follow up invite is sent.
- Scheduling Guest: when the contact accepts the invitation and you are working on scheduling a date, they are moved to this stage.
- Guest Scheduled: when the contact is moved to this stage, it lets everyone know that a date/time has been confirmed for the interview.
Here’s how to setup this pipeline in Insightly (a free CRM application):
Here’s how to setup this pipeline in Pipedrive (a paid CRM application):
Here’s a more detailed guide on how to setup Pipedrive to help you get great podcast guests.
How to Find Guests to Interview For Your Podcast
Finding guests can be one the most challenging tasks, but it isn’t really.
There are lots of places you can find great new guests. Here are the most common ways:
- Companies you like or have done business with
- People mentioned in relevant industry publications
- Influencers in your market (bloggers, authors, speakers etc.)
- People who have been guests on other relevant podcasts
- Existing customers or people on your email list
You should schedule a weekly recurring time in your calendar to go through those sources and make a list of interesting people who look like they might be good guests.
At this stage, you’re generating ‘leads’ i.e. people that look like a good potential guest, but you haven’t decided for sure if you’re going to invite them or not. Don’t try to evaluate that right now.
When you find someone who may be an interesting guest, you should add them to your CRM system and put them in the “Suggested Guests” stage.
Here’s an example of potential guests added to the “Suggested Guests” stage in Insightly:
Here’s an example of potential guests added to the “Suggested Guests” stage in Pipedrive:
Also, you can now delegate or outsource this task fairly easily, since you have a ‘micro-persona’ of your ideal guest and a good system for capturing leads.
Using an RSS Reader to Find Guests In Less Time
You can dramatically speed up the process of finding guests by using an RSS reader to quickly review blogs, podcasts and other relevant sites.
Feedly is a great and free resource which can help you do just that. You can add feeds for the blogs, podcasts and news sites that you want to keep track of. And you can also have it search for new content based on keywords.
Then all you need to do is to scan your Feedly feed every day or every week and identify interesting topics and stories and find the people behind them.
How to Evaluate Potential Podcast Guests
You should now be adding new guest ‘leads’ to your pipeline every week.
The next step is to evaluate these leads and decide who you’d like to actually invite.
This is one step in the process that I don’t delegate or outsource. It’s important for me to make the final decision on who I want and don’t want to interview.
Every week, schedule some time to go through the new leads that have been added to the “Suggested Guests” stage of your CRM application.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you evaluate each suggested guest:
- Browse their company website and/or personal website
- Look at their about page and read their bio if available
- Checkout their LinkedIn and/or Twitter profiles
- Browse any recent articles or blog posts they’ve written
- Review any recent interviews they’ve given
You don’t need to spend a lot of time evaluating suggested guests. You’re not trying to learn everything about them. You’re simply trying to decide if you want to interview them or not. I suggest spending about 5 to 10 minutes per person.
Once they accept your invitation, then you can go back and spend more time to research them properly before the interview.
Once you’ve decided that you want to interview that person, move them to the “Invite Guest” stage of your CRM application.
If you don’t want to interview someone, you should close the opportunity/deal in your CRM application and add a brief note explaining why.
There are a couple of benefits to doing this:
- It’s useful to be able to look back at people you decided not to interview and remind yourself why you decided not to invite them.
- If you delegate the task of finding suggested guests, your team will start to better understand what type of people to look for.
Here’s an example of a closed opportunity in Insightly:
Here’s an example of closed/lost opportunity in Pipedrive:
Sending Invitations to Your Podcast Guests
Now that you’ve evaluated your suggested guests and identified the ones that you’d like to have on your podcast, you’re ready to send invitations.
You can contact your prospective guests in several different ways e.g. you can email them, send a LinkedIn InMail message, invite them with a tweet etc.
There’s no right way to do this. You’ll have to test what works best for you and your target market. However, in my experience email is usually an effective method.
How to Find Your Podcast Guest’s Email Address
Use these steps to help you find your prospective guest’s email address.
- Check Their Website: as simple as it sounds, you can sometimes find your prospective guest’s email just by checking their website. Check the home, about and contact pages.
- Install Rapportive: Rapportive is a Chrome and Firefox plugin that shows you a summary of people’s LinkedIn profile in Gmail. This is a powerful tool for validating email addresses.
- Generate a List of Possible Email Addresses: use Email Address Guesser to generate a list a possible email addresses for your prospective guest.
- Validate Possible Email Addresses: copy and paste your email list into a new Gmail message. Then hover your mouse over each email address until you find the one that’s connected to a LinkedIn profile.
Here’s an example of how Rapportive shows profile information in your Gmail sidebar:
For more details on how to do this, check out this great article.
If this approach seems like too much work, you should consider using paid tools such as Prospectify or SellHack to do the work for you.
Sending a Cold Email Invitation to Your Guest
Now that you’ve got the contact information, you’re ready to do the outreach and invite your guest to join you on your podcast.
This can be an intimidating task for many new podcasters. Maybe you’re just starting out and have a small audience or may you’re just afraid of rejection.
The reality is that many people will decline your invitation. But don’t be put off by that. Just keep going and you will start landing some awesome guests.
To increase your chances of getting more people to accept your invitation, you have to ensure that your email is well written and gets their attention.
Here are 5 best practices for writing a cold email invitation:
1. Be Personal
We all hate getting unsolicited email. And most of us will either ignore it or mark it as spam. To get around that, make sure the emails you send are personalized.
You don’t have to write every email from scratch. You can have a template that you use for every message, but still personalize parts of that message.
This can be as simple as making sure you start the email with “Hi Joe” instead of just “Hi”. You can mention their company name in the first sentence. Or you might want to include a link to a recent article you read about them/by them.
2. Keep It Brief
Nobody likes to read long email messages – especially if they don’t know you.
So keep your email messages short. People should be able to read your email in 30 seconds or less. If it takes longer, then you’re probably saying too much.
Be respectful of people’s time and they’ll be more likely to accept your invite.
3. Be Direct
Your email should quickly get to the point. Don’t write emails that ramble on endlessly and leave the reader wondering what the point of the email is. Tell them quickly why you’re emailing them.
You can do this even before they read your email by putting your question in the subject line e.g. “Pete, will you join me on my podcast?”. Or you can say something like “I’d love to have you as a guest on my podcast” in the first paragraph of your email.
If you don’t get to the point, you could lose them after the first few sentences. They may just give up and not bother reading the rest of your email. Be direct and get to the point.
4. Give Them a Reason
People don’t like wasting their time. So one of the first questions they’ll have in their minds when they read your email is — is this worth my time?
Briefly explain in your email why they should consider you and your podcast. If you’re just starting out, you may want to mention your background if it helps to build credibility with your guest.
If you have an established podcast, you could tell them who some of your past guests are. Sometimes people will accept just based on who’s already been on your podcast, especially if you’ve had any high-profile or well-known guests.
And if you can’t do any of those things, just tell them why you want to interview them. Don’t give them a generic reason. Tell them why you’re interested in their story or why their expertise on a specific topic could help your audience.
Whatever it is — make sure you give them at least one good reason or benefit.
5. Have An Easy Call to Action
Don’t overwhelm your prospective guests when you first email them. Give them an easy call to action that they can take with minimal effort.
For example, if on your first email you ask them to send you some dates and times that they’re available, you might be asking too much too soon.
In the first email, your goal should be to just get them to say “Yes”.
In fact, your call to action can be as simple as that i.e. end your email by saying something like “If you accept, please reply to this email with a Yes”.
It’s simple. They don’t have to think about scheduling a date. They don’t have to add an action to their to-do list to look into it later. They just need to reply with ONE word.
Once an invitation has been sent to your prospective guest, they can be moved to the “Invite Sent” stage of your CRM application.
This task can fairly easily be delegated or outsourced. You just need to decide how you’re going to personalize each email and write that down for your team.
Scheduling the Interview
When someone accepts your invitation, you’re ready to schedule the interview.
The easiest way to do this is to use online scheduling software like Calendly or YouCanBook.me or ScheduleHopper. You simply connect the software to your own calendar and specify what dates/times you want to be available for interviews e.g. between 1pm to 5pm Monday to Friday every week.
The software provides a link which you can send to your guests. The link will take them to an online booking calendar where they’ll be able to see available times and book the interview. You’ll be notified by email when a booking’s made.
Using scheduling software is a lot more efficient than going back and forth over email to discuss which dates and times work for each of you.
Your guest simply clicks a link, selects a date and time and fills out a booking form.
Here’s an example of a booking calendar using YouCanBook.me:
Once they’ve booked, they are moved to the “Scheduling Guest” stage in your CRM application.
Following Up With People Who Don’t Respond
If people don’t respond after a certain period of time, you should follow up with them. Don’t be put off if you don’t get a response to your first email.
You might have to send several emails before you get a response. That’s why we setup the CRM pipeline to have 3 follow up stages.
You need to decide how long you want to wait before you send each follow up email. Here’s one example of how you could do that:
- Initial Email: wait 2 weeks before sending follow up #1
- Follow Up #1: wait 2 weeks before sending follow up #2
- Follow Up #2: wait 4 weeks before sending follow up #3
- Follow Up #3: wait 4 weeks before closing the opportunity.
Each follow up email should be a ‘reply all’ of the previous email that you sent. That way, your guest can quickly scan the previous emails for context.
Your follow up email message can be a simple as “I’m just following up on my last email. I’d love to have you join me on my podcast (see below). If you agree, just reply with a ‘Yes’ and I’ll send you more details”.
Make sure to vary the text of each follow up email slightly. You don’t want to do a copy and paste for all your follow up emails and come across as mechanical.
Don’t be put off sending follow up emails. Just keep your message polite and friendly. Don’t apologize of complain that you haven’t heard back from them. Be persistent but polite. And it will pay off.
Once you’ve sent them a follow up email, you can move them to the relevant “Follow Up” stage in your CRM application. And make sure to mark a follow up action and date so you get a reminder to send the next follow up.
If you haven’t heard back after the 3rd follow up email, you may want to call it a day and move on. Just mark the opportunity/deal in your CRM application as “Lost” and close it.
Here’s how to set a reminder for your next action in Insightly:
Here’s how to set a reminder for your next action in Pipedrive:
Preparing for the Podcast Interview
Once you get an email notification from your online scheduling software, you can move that person to the “Guest Scheduled” stage of your CRM application.
This is a good time to start researching your guest and more detail and preparing for the interview. It’s also a good time to help your guest get prepared.
There are a few ways you can do this.
- Send Questions: once you’ve completed researching your guest, figure out the angle you’d like to take with them and send them a list of 10-20 questions.
- Share Interview Flow: if you have a fairly standard format for your interviews, then create a ‘flow page’ on your website to explain the format of the interview, what type of questions you’ll ask them etc.Here’s a great example of a flow page that John Lee Dumas uses for his Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. John has interviewed well over a 1000 people.
- Pre-Interview/Angle Interview: schedule a pre-interview before the actual interview to discuss the topic/angle you want to cover. Not everyone will be willing to make time for this, but it might help both you and your guest to be better prepared.
Over time, you’ll learn which approach works best for you and your guests. The success of your interview will depend on how well you and your guest prepare.
Wrapping Things Up
Once you’re done with the interview, you can mark the opportunity/deal in your CRM application as “Won” and close it.
You’ll still want to track all the work that happens after you’ve recorded such as editing, post-production, writing show notes, publishing, social media promotion etc. You can try to do that within the CRM application or use project management software such as Teamwork, Asana or Trello (if you’re working with a team) or to-do list software such as Todoist or Wunderlist (if you’re working alone).
Finding and scheduling guests can seem like hard work, but it doesn’t have to be if you take a little time to follow this guide and setup a well-defined process. And by using the right tools, you’ll be a lot more productive and better organized.
And most importantly, you’ll have a steady stream of great guests on your podcast and will be able to spend more time creating great content, building relationships and growing your audience/business.
We’d love to hear your feedback – please share your thoughts in the comments below.
I recently had a bunch of guests cancel and I’m wondering how you would deal with the situation.
I had 3 guests booked on the same day at different times. They were all locked-in and confirmed. The day of the recording, they backed out which left me scrambling.
How would I avoid this happening in the future?
Great question. Unfortunately, there will always be interview guests who need to reschedule or cancel at the last minute. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to plan out a content calendar and schedule. However, there are a few things that I’ve done which have helped to reduce how often this happens:
1. Once my guest has booked the interview, I send out a calendar invite to make sure they’ve got it in their calendar.
2. I typically will send an email reminder 7 days before the interview so the upcoming interview is on their ‘mental radar’.
3. In that email, I add a note in bold with something like “If you need to reschedule, please do so ASAP so we can try to schedule another guest”. If they’re going to cancel, it’s better they do it a week before instead of on the day of the interview. Plus it’s a polite way of pointing that if they cancel/reschedule, it’s going to have a knock on effect on your scheduling.
4. I send another email reminder 24 hours before the event. This time I DON’T include the note about “If you need to reschedule….” because that makes it too easy for them to cancel at the last minute if they’ve got other priorities.
5. I have a limited interview schedule i.e. I interview one person every Thursday morning. And typically my schedule is booked for the following 6 weeks. So if someone cancels, they usually have to reschedule 7-8 weeks in the future. Your schedule might be different — just don’t offer too many alternative dates/times so it’s easy for people to reschedule all the time.
All of these activities can be done manually or automated using a tool like YouCanBookMe or Calendly.
One final thing — I also assume that a certain percentage of scheduled guests will still cancel/reschedule. And that’s fine. People will have important things that come up at the last minute that they need to deal with. But your goal should be to reduce that percentage of as much as possible.
This is a really elaborate guide! Easy to follow and the website is clean. Thank you for this!