Follow up questions move the conversation from the surface to the core. The more you interview, the better you will become at asking them. The challenge with follow up questions is you don't know what to ask ahead of time because it is contextual to the moment and the flow of the conversation.
You may not have any trouble keeping a conversation going and getting to the deeper layers of information. I envy you.
I become immersed in what is being said and sometimes don't know what to say next. Of course, the guest stops speaking at some point, which means I must say something to move the dialog forward. Rarely do I automatically think of something to say. I have had to work at it and continue to improve my craft.
This is why I have a few standard follow up questions on hand as a safety net, which I will describe momentarily. This is separate from my list of questions which I provide to the guest and use to guide our conversation. The beauty of these questions is that you can use them anywhere and anytime, not just on a podcast interview, because the goal is to add to "the pool of shared meaning."
Pool of Shared Meaning
In the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (an incredibly helpful book btw), the authors describe the situation before a conversation occurs in the following way:
"Each of us enters conversations with our own opinions, feeling, theories, and experiences about the topic at hand. This unique combination of thoughts and feelings makes up our personal pool of meaning. This pool not only informs us, but also propels our every action. When two or more of us enter crucial conversations, by definition we don't share the same pool. Our opinions differ. I believe one thing: you another. I have one history: you another."
The shared pool is what all parties in the conversation know and have shared. Walking into a podcast interview as the host (or as the guest), you likely have not met the other person or even spoken with them. Your pool of shared meaning is tiny (think "drop of water" size). These questions can encourage the guest to fill the pool for both you and the audience.
Okay, on to the five questions!
Question 1: "Tell me more"
This may seem incredibly mundane and boring on the surface. In fact, you probably think it won't work. I use it occasionally and it has never failed to elicit a further response and greater elaboration on the part of the guest. For me, the times I most frequently use it are when there is a pause after their answer and I sense there is more than what they just shared. Sometimes they have a backstory in their mind which they see and I don't. Sometimes, they may think I only want to hear the short version instead of the longer version. Regardless of their why, I use "tell me more" to encourage further details.
Questions 2: "Would you elaborate on that?"
Another favorite of mine. This is a real question (unlike the previous one, which was a request but not a question 😁). It moves the guest to go deeper and unfold the story further.
I think of it like the "expanding the map view". For example, let's say I tell you, "I am going to the store." It's a simple statement which denotes I will travel from Point A to Point B in search of one or more items to purchase. Unless the store is next door to my home or current location, there are a lot of details I glossed over.
If I were to elaborate on what going to the store looks like, I would tell you that I go out to my car, back into the road, then drive to the first road on the left (which is Innsbrooke), where I turn left, then go to the first stop sign. I then go through the stop sign (after stopping), go around the round-about to the other side (staying on Innsbrooke), then travel to the stop light. I turn right onto State Road 231, move into one of the two left hand lanes, go through three stop lights and then turn left at the fourth light (which is Joe B. Jackson). I then turn right into the store parking lot, which is the first right I can take with my car. I usually park on the right side of the lot. Of course, this is still not everything I saw along the way, but you get the idea.
Sometimes we get the "I'm going to the store" answer but we really want the details which they have in their personal pool of meaning..
Question 3 (and 4): "What else?" or "And <pause>?"
I added these to my list recently after a meeting with one of my mentors. We have been going through the Crucial Conversations book and he brought these up as other follow up questions to use.
I have not used them in a podcast, but I did use "what else?" with my son this morning when he shared with me some of the ideas he was considering for a career. He mentioned something new and didn't say anything else about it. I pulled "What else?" from my conversation toolbox and asked him, "what else about it is moving you in that direction?" He then shared for 10 more minutes. It works.
Question 5: <Silence>
Okay, so I don't actually say, "silence". I just mean I pause and let silence fill the moment after they have shared. I do this when I think there maybe more they want to say, but I am not sure, so I wait. Maybe there was a slight hesitation in their voice or a pause on a thought. I want to give them the opportunity to continue before moving to a different question. I also use this as a way to gather my thoughts, especially if I am going to ask a question which differs from where we were in the flow of the conversation.
The one caveat with using silence is that sometimes they don't share anything else. If that happens during a podcast interview, you must be ready to say something.
Wrapping It Up
This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, when you can add a follow up question grounded on what they said in the moment, it can work better. Yet, these work well in most situations on a podcast and are in fact quite interchangeable.
I started by writing them on a Post-It note and sticking it to the side of my monitor so I had them in sight. I am adding "what else?" and "And <pause>?" to a Post-It for my next interview as a reference.
I don't use them every time and I try not to use the same question more than once on the same interview (except for silence, which can be used multiple times). Think of them as tools for your conversation toolbox to use when the situation calls for them.
Till next time!
P.S. If you only want to the do the interview and don't want to mess with all of the headaches of creating a podcast for your startup (scripting, recruiting, production, etc), my white glove podcasting will take care of all of it so you can focus on your business. Reach out if you would like to know more of what is possible. P.P.S. If you would like to be one of the first to receive this newsletter each Tuesday afternoon, sign up at https://podcastprep.xyz/. #podcastprep #whiteglovepodcast #entrepreneur #startup Published on my LinkedIn newsletter on September 8, 2023 and published through the Podcast Prep newsletter on August 22, 2023.