An interview-style podcast is only as good as its guests, especially when you’re covering a technical topic like software engineering. But finding interesting, knowledgeable, and engaging guests for your development podcast can be a big undertaking, especially starting from scratch on a brand new project. But there are so many people out there for you to meet. And while not everyone will eagerly jump at the chance to speak on your podcast, you’re asking people about their favorite topic: themselves!
Below are seven strategies for finding the best guests for your podcast. Robby, Founder and VP of Engineering here at Planet Argon, just released a new podcast on maintainable software and legacy code. We’ve utilized every single one of these strategies to recruit guests for the newly-released engineering podcast, Maintainable, so we can attest that they really work. These pointers specifically describe finding engineers to interview, but the concepts can be applied to podcast guest sourcing in any industry.
Plus, as a bonus, we’ve included a handy spreadsheet for keeping track of your potential guests (just like the one we use!) at the bottom of the post. Read on!
1. Look at guests on other software and engineering podcasts
We’ll start with this strategy as it’s an obvious one. Unless you have a really groundbreaking idea, there are probably already a few podcasts similar to your podcast topic of choice. You’ll want to learn about what content is already out there in the dev industry, so research some potential guests while you’re at it.
Find two or three podcasts that are in a similar area as yours, and look through their list of previous episodes. If any specific topics pique your interest, take note of who was interviewed. This also allows you to get a preview of a potential guest’s interview style. You’ll already know if they’re engaging and informative. Of course, you don’t want to have your guest sit through a duplicate interview. If you pitch someone who was recently on a similar podcast, be sure and take a unique angle so there isn’t repetitive content.
It’s best not to overutilize this strategy, especially if you’re just starting your podcast – you want to stand out from your peer podcasts. But it’s something that you can dabble in as you get more episodes released.
2. Dig deep in your email inbox (especially if you’ve been in the software industry for a while)
If you’ve decided to start a podcast on software development, I’m going to assume you aren’t completely new to the industry. When we decided to begin work on Maintainable, Robby already had a short-list of people he would like to interview at some point during the show simply by digging through his own email inbox from the last decade.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you haven’t spoken with in years – they’ll likely be excited about your new project, and happy to help out how they can. Do a little Googling to see where they are now and reach out with a friendly check-in first, then request to interview them on the podcast if your re-introduction goes well.
3. Submit a HARO “High Tech” request
HARO is an acronym for Help a Reporter Out, an email-based service that pairs up reporters and content creators with potential sources for stories (or in our case, podcasts). It’s a useful tool for finding experts in any field. HARO is a free service to sign up for, send queries, and submit pitches.
When you submit a query, it will be sent out to thousands of subscribers to the topic through an email blast. They have a “High Tech” topic that we subscribe to for pitches, and it’s a great place to submit a query for a podcast interview, too.
Potential sources can review the list of queries, and submit a pitch for any that they are knowledgeable about and interested in. Be clear in your description of your query, and don’t be afraid to get specific in your requirements! If you’re looking for someone with particular experience or knowledge in the software industry, include it. When you receive pitches, you can reject them if they aren’t a good fit, or continue the conversation and connect.
A tip: I would recommend setting your due date for two weeks from the date you submit your query. It will likely take at least a week for your query to go out in an email, and can sometimes take longer than that – I’ve had inconsistent results here.
4. Post in relevant engineering Slack groups
There is a Slack group for everything these days. The chat tool has somewhat taken over the old forum days of bringing people together around a topic. Do a search for “–podcast topic– Slack groups”. For starters, we did a search for “web development Slack groups” and found several curated lists of relevant groups on the first page. Score!
Join these groups, and spend some time poking around first before jumping in with a pitch about your podcast. Introduce yourself, answer a question or leave a comment on a topic you know about. Then, find the correct channel to send out an inquiry for podcast guests – some groups have specific channels for more self-promoting content, so learn the rules before you post.
5. Find authors who have written books in your industry
There are two great things about book authors as potential podcast guests: 1. They’re deeply knowledgeable about the topic of their book. 2. They have a book they want to promote.
If you’re looking for a true expert on a topic, a quick search for books in your field will generate a list of authors who may be interested in speaking on a topic on your podcast. Authors will often have an accessible contact form or email address in their bio on their website, so tracking them down should be a bit easier, too.
6. Search for keywords on Twitter
Twitter is a goldmine for finding influential people in the tech industry. Perform a quick Twitter search for a keyword related to your podcast. First, keep the search option to “People”. This will show people who have the keyword in their bio. For example, I did a search for “legacy code” and these were some of the top results. Look at all of these legacy code enthusiasts! (And wranglers, wrestlers, etc.)
After doing a “People” search, you can search the term for Tweets as well. Stick to the “Top Tweets” instead of recent Tweets option to filter out some of the noise. You’ll see who recently had popular tweets on the topic in these search results, and do a little digging to find out their relationship to the topic, and if it’s something they often talk or write about.
7. After an interview, ask previous guests for suggestions
Once you’ve begun to interview folks for your podcast, you can use your previous guests to extend your network of new potential guests. In one of your followup emails after you record, ask your guest if they have any peers who would be interested in joining you on the show. If you had a pleasant interview, they’ll be able to vouch for you as a host to their network.
You’re on your way to finding interesting, knowledgeable people to interview on your new engineering podcast. But wait, now you’ll need to keep track of all of these people somehow! A spreadsheet of potential guests, their contact info, some notes about them, and a way to track whether you’ve reached out or not will be your best friend as you search for podcast guests.
We’ve saved you a few steps and put together a Google Sheet template that’s already formatted. Click below to view the sheet, and hit “File > Make a copy” to have your own, customizable copy to use to track your podcast guests.