How to be a (good) podcast guest

I host a small podcast that has had 70+ guests so far.

This is my guide on how to 1) be on podcasts as a guest and 2) be a good guest (from a host’s perspective).

One thing before I start: this is not a discussion of whether you should go on podcasts. I’m writing this for people who’ve already decided they want to.

What podcasters want

This is sales 101, but the most important thing for getting on a podcast is to understand what podcasters care about.

It might differ slightly per podcast, but here’s what I care about (in rough order):

  1. Making a great episode
  2. Getting lots of new listeners
  3. Learning something new
  4. Human stuff - e.g. enjoying the conversation/talking with someone they like or are already friends with.

A misunderstood thing

Whenever I say this, people think I’m arrogant.

But here goes….

LOTS of people ask to come on my podcast.

I’m not kidding.

Even though my podcast is small, I get a ton of guest requests. Way, way more than I could ever talk to. I assume this is an industry-wide phenomenon.

And I have to say no to a lot of people. Which is hard for me.

But the thing is, every episode costs me roughly $300 and a lot of time to make.

And I already have more people on my guest wish list than I can handle.

I very rarely accept guest requests. So you have to stand out.

Note: I don’t know if you should care about standing out to people like me. It is almost certainly better to focus on other things.

Tips to appear on podcasts

1. Share cool stuff publicly on your own channels e.g. Twitter.

This is best because you are living your life and not focusing on coming on my dumb podcast.

Here's how I invited two guests based on their tweets.

You could also do a variation: if a host likes something you wrote or appeared in, you ask them to come on.

This also applies to the founders of cool things like Supabase, PostHog, or Resend: I fanboy-ed over them and actively pursued them (that’s another article, though).

Max has a fantastic newsletter where he shares his journey and I gave him a standing invite. Because I love his story.

2. Be a big fan/friend of their podcast

We love fans. It’s SO easy to standout as a fan for a small podcast. And we’ll be interested in hearing what you like or would change about the podcast. As well as appreciating your support.

Marty from Orbital is the best

Beyond this there isn’t really a formula but I think it could organically just happen, especially if you do 1 + 2.

By the way, 90% of the time I get a message from someone who says “I love the podcast”… it’s swiftly followed by “I’d love to share the story of my company”. So if you take this approach, space it out a bit!

I also interview my friends a lot. Mainly because I enjoy it and I already have good questions.

Note: I can probably tell you the names of the 5 biggest fans of my podcast. I would accept all of them as guests.

3. Get a referral from a cool person

Another good way is if a former guest recommends another guest. A lot of my guests come this way.

For instance, Anh-Tho Chuong from Lago recommended some great guests. And Tim from Open Source Startups podcast also gave me some great recommendations.

So if you know someone who has already been on, you could ask them to introduce you. Much higher likelihood of success.

4. Be compelling

As mentioned I get a lot of requests from people to come on the show. Some of them have never been on a podcast or written anything about the topics they’d talk about. So, to stand out, bring examples of great stuff you’ve done previously. Or a unique angle. A strong opinion you have that others don’t.

I’d still combine it with at least one of the above, though.

5. Have a big audience

If someone has 200,000 Twitter followers, I’m more likely to interview them than if they have 100.

That might make me sound douchey, but that’s the reality. I want to market my podcast. So, the bigger you already are, the more likely I am to interview you. Although, honestly, this is a fairly minor factor for me. I don't think I've invited anyone simply because they're tech famous.

A caveat

I get regular emails from podcast booking professionals. Some guest suggestions are relevant. Some are completely random. I get lots of requests to talk about very technical topics even though it’s not a technical podcast - so I think most of them are just spamming.

I’ve never accepted one of those, but they’re still in business, so some people must. Maybe try them out?

Tips when you’re already a guest

Ok so you got an invite to a show. How do you smash it?

1. Have something interesting to say

I stole this from Adam DuVander, but if you are giving the podcast equivalent of the below article, no one will care.

So don’t just talk about the cool features your company built.

Unless you’re OpenAI, no one probably cares.

But feel free to weave it into an interesting story.

You can definitely brainstorm with the host - maybe have a pre-call and come up with some notes on topics.

2. Be real

Don’t bs. Don’t come in and put a big layer of brand out there. Don’t promote your company too hard.

Just talk like a real human being and share your honest views on things.

Love him or hate him, there’s a reason Elon Musk gets a ton of free PR - because he shares things an internal PR team would never approve.

I’m not saying be an edge lord but don’t be afraid to share your failures or cock-ups.

3. Be articulate

Definitely the hardest of all tips, but if there is a story or a concept you want to explain, perhaps write an article before.

That’s the best way I know to become more articulate on a topic.

4. Share passionate/emotional topics if you’re comfortable doing that.

Everyone loves this kind of stuff. Including me. I love it when a guest shares their true genuine passion or something emotional. I come away feeling like we connected deeply. Plus I believe this works with listeners too.

For example, Matt recently shared an article about how GoLang keeps him alive

5. Have an opinion (this is just generally good advice)

I learned this from Adam DuVander.

Have an opinion, even if loosely held.

For instance, Stefan had an opinion that startups don’t need DevRel.

I didn’t agree with his opinion, but I wanted to hear more about it. And I respected him for putting his neck out.

And we did a debate episode on this and I enjoyed it. Even though we all ended up agreeing.

6. Share the heck out of the episode

Please, please, please share the heck out of it.

It sucks so hard when a guest doesn’t share the episode (much) because:

  1. It makes us feel like they didn’t like it
  2. Episodes are expensive and often labours of love. If the guest doesn’t share them, that episode probably won’t grow the podcast.

If you want to go the extra mile - maybe help turn the content into extra stuff - clips, articles etc. Also link to it on your site (backlink juice!) and share it with relevant newsletters.

After all, it will help push your name out too.

Note: Sometimes, when a guest doesn't share, it's my fault. Because of bad planning or them not liking the title, or feeling insecure etc.

7. Stay friends

Dan Moore is probably the best person I know at this. I follow his lead. He listens to the show, shares my episodes on Hacker News etc. He's generally just a good internet citizen.

I invited him back onto the show recently when I needed a DevRel expert for a debate.

I hope that’s helpful! If you’re interested in how developer tools grow, I recommend this episode with Zeno Rocha from Resend on how they build developer trust.

Subscribe to Scaling DevTools

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.