Asking pointed questions is what I do all day long - I interview entrepreneurs and tech professionals for my podcast. I believe that asking the right questions has become my business superpower and a significant part of why people are able to binge-listen. I don't ask the same questions every week. I turn down potential guests who require prepared questions. But I do appreciate those rare guests who prepare a customized list of 3-5 questions I should ask.
After talking with Tony Wilkins, host of the Small Business Forum Radio, I found that he trains speakers to be the ideal guests by "getting their brilliance out clearly and quickly" and by delving into the interviewer or audience needs through asking two power questions. In a media-driven business world where content and resources talk, speakers and interview subjects need to be flexible to adapt to the niche market. Begin by asking Tony's two questions and my additional one to become the ideal guest.
1. What do you need?
If you can't ask an event organizer or interviewer this question directly, research it on your own. Let's say you are a Graphic Designer and you want to be a guest of the On the Shelf podcast with Tim Bush. You should already know (by listening to some episodes and by the show's description) that the audience is comprised of listeners that want their products or inventions on the shelf at retailers like Costco and Target. Tim doesn't need a guest to talk about building a great web site but how to make packaging that sells makes an appropriate but great subject. Be sure to do your homework though - in this case, Tim has already had an interview with a retail package designer. But through actually listening to the episode you might discover that a particular aspect was overlooked and you can provide that in depth insight.
2. How can I help?
This may sound like the same question as "What do you need?" but it goes further into long-term business goals instead. Helping an event planner or show host grow an audience or increase social media presence might be more valuable than a great show topic. According to Tony, the most common answer to this question is "I want to get more... media, speaking opportunities, attendees, members, clients, or followers?" If you can help bring more help, you will be the guest in demand.
3. Why Me?
This is my power self-reflection question and an essential one I ask every time I send out a pitch, email inquiry or bio. Why am I special? What makes me the only one suited to provide what is needed? Although I have a general one-sheet speaker profile, it has many specialized topics and a few key general ones. But, I never send a general email with it. That is always clear and concisely focused on my contact and demonstrates a respect and understanding of who they are, what they do and shows what's in it for them to book me. Interviewers and event planners are busy. Figuring out the fit with their niche audience is your job, not theirs.