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Wanna Get Thought Leaders On Your Show? Here’s How To Build A Podcast Guest List That Works

June 13, 2024 Deciphr AI
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Nowadays, podcasting is no longer about just hitting the record button and chatting away. 

Over time, it’s evolved into something that has its purpose rooted deeper into building a platform: a genuine space where real conversations happen, and where ideas get tossed around and debated on (sometimes, even turned on their heads).

Now, think about the heavyweights in any industry—the thought leaders. These are the folks who've been there, done that, and probably even have a t-shirt, Netflix series, or a cabinet full of awards to prove it. 

When they speak, people listen. Why? Because they have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Bringing them in can elevate your podcast from being just another show to an expansive archive of must-listen episodes.

But, here's the catch: if you're a solo podcaster or diving deep into niche topics, getting these thought leaders on your show can seem impossible.

Think about it—how do you even start the conversation? What if they say no? And if they say yes, how do you make sure the conversation flows naturally and doesn't sound like a rehearsed script?

There’s no reason to hit the panic button, though. 

While these challenges might seem big, they're not impossible to overcome—in fact, it all boils down to having a game plan. You need a strategy that's more than just sending out a mass email. 

It's about reaching out in a way that's genuine, that shows you've done your homework, and that highlights the mutual benefits of them being on your show.

Here's everything you need to know about getting thought leaders on your show.

  • Identifying potential guests
  • Crafting an effective invite
  • Building a podcast guest list
  • Simplifying podcast guest ingress
  • Promoting your show with thought leaders

Identifying Potential Guests

Before you start drafting that guest list, take a moment to understand your audience. 

Who are they, really? Maybe they're ambitious millennials navigating the corporate ladder—or maybe they're tech-savvy boomers looking to stay updated. 

What keeps them up at night? Is it the rapid pace of technological change or the nuances of putting a perfect, three-Michelin Star-worthy dish together? 

By getting into the nitty-gritty of their world, you're setting the stage to bring in guests that they'll genuinely care about.

Criteria for Selecting Guests

When you’re choosing who to get on your podcast, there are three main details you’ll need to look at:

  1. Expertise: Here's the deal - the podcast world is brimming with voices, and to make yours heard, you need the crème de la crème. Does your potential guest have articles in top-tier journals? Have they spearheaded industry-changing initiatives? Their depth can be the difference between a 'meh' episode and a 'mind-blowing' one.
  2. Relevance: Picture this—you've got a world-class sushi chef on your podcast about vegan diets. See the problem? It's essential to ensure that your guest's expertise aligns beautifully with what your podcast and audience are all about.
  3. Audience Appeal: Now, expertise and relevance are great, but can they hold a conversation? Will they keep your listeners hooked, eagerly awaiting the next word? The ideal guest is a blend of knowledge and charisma.

Places for Finding Potential Guests

Now that you have an idea about who you want to have an engaging conversation with, it’s time to answer another question: where do you find them?

To save you from the agony of playing a months-long game of “I-Spy” with actual people, here are the best places to get in touch with your potential guests:

  • Social Media: Spend an evening deep-diving into LinkedIn groups related to your niche. Or maybe, follow a few intriguing Twitter threads. You'd be surprised at the gems you can find. Look out for those who are not just posting, but engaging in meaningful conversations.
  • Industry Events: Ever attended a webinar and found yourself completely engrossed? That's your next guest right there. Whether you're physically attending conferences or joining them from the comfort of your couch, keep an ear out for those speakers who ignite discussions and leave the audience wanting more.
  • Online Communities: Now, this is where the magic happens. Platforms like Reddit or niche-specific forums are buzzing with passionate individuals. They might not have a fancy title, but their insights can be pure gold. Engage, ask questions, and you might just stumble upon your next star guest.

In a nutshell, understanding your audience is your compass, setting a clear criteria is your map, and exploring a mix of sources is your adventure. With these key details in hand, you're all set to curate a guest list that's bound to keep your audience coming back for more.

Crafting an Effective Invitation

Securing the right guests is pivotal to elevating your podcast's quality and reach. The process begins with a well-crafted invitation that resonates with potential guests.

Let's delve into the essential components of creating an invitation that is personalized, efficiently structured, and highlights mutual benefits.

Personalizing Your Pitch

The podcasting world is buzzing—and there's a sea of hosts out there, all trying to reel in the big fish. So, how do you make your bait irresistible? 

The answer’s pretty simple: make it personal. 

Every guest, whether they're a seasoned pro or the new kid on the block, has a story. Your job? Dig into that story. Maybe they wrote an article that had you thinking for days, or perhaps their recent podcast appearance had you hooked—mention that. 

Say something like, "Hey, your piece on [Topic] really changed everything for me." 

This level of personal touch not only shows you've done your homework but also makes your invite hard to resist.

Using Email and DM Templates

We're all about working smart, right? So, have the same approach to guest outreach. Luckily, this is where templates come in—they make a world of difference when it comes to saving time, especially when you've got a long list of potential guests. 

You need to make sure the template you use doesn’t end up sounding generic. After all, no one likes a robotic, copy-paste job—your potential guests, included.

So, how do you make a template work for you? Start with the basics, then sprinkle in some personal flair. 

Instead of the usual "Dear Sir/Madam," try:

"Hey [Name], I just read your deep dive into [Topic], and wow, mind blown! I've got this cool community of listeners who would love to hear more about it. Fancy a chat on our podcast?"

This approach is like saying, "I see you, I value your work, and I think we can create something epic together."

Highlighting the Benefits

Booking top guests on your show can give you a 16% bump in listeners. In fact, on average, podcasts with guests get 6,500 listeners vs podcasts without guests who only get around 5,000 listeners on average.

The benefit to you is clear.

Now, here's the golden question: What's in it for your guests? 

See, top-tier guests get invites all the time—which means your pitch needs to stand out and highlight the “win-win” aspect of your ideal guest coming on the show. 

Maybe your podcast reaches an audience they've been trying to connect with. Or perhaps it's a platform for them to share their latest passion project. 

In short? Spell it out for them by saying something like: "Our listeners are super keen on [Topic], and having you on would be a masterclass they'd cherish.

By laying out the benefits, you're not just extending an invite—you're building a bridge to a collaboration that promises mutual growth and success.

Building a Podcast Guest List

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party: you wouldn't just invite anyone, right? 

You'd want a mix of personalities—some who can tell a great story, some who bring the laughs, and some who can spark a deep debate. 

And your podcast? It's that dinner party. 

So, how do you ensure you're inviting the right mix to the table? Let's go over what you need to know so you can do exactly that.

Creating a Guest List

Okay, it’s time to brainstorm—and what better way to start than by building your podcast's dream guest list. 

Here are a few questions that can help you fill up an empty sheet from top to bottom:

  • Who are the folks you've been dying to chat with? 
  • Who are the voices that make you sit up and listen? 
  • Who does your audience want to hear from?


Grab a coffee, find a comfy spot, and start jotting down names. From the big shots in your industry to the underrated gems, get them all down. 

And, a word of advice: dream big! You never know who might say yes—so feel free to add anyone to your list.

Prioritizing Your Outreach

Alright, with your list ready, it's time to play favorites (just a bit!)

Not everyone on that list will be the right fit for your show or your audience. 

So, how do you decide? Here's a quick criteria that can help you sort your roster of options out:

  • Relevance Check: Does their expertise align with your podcast's theme?

  • Audience Appeal Test: Would your listeners geek out if they heard this guest?

  • Reality Check: Big names are great, but are they attainable? Sometimes, emerging voices can bring just as much value.

Once you start measuring options against your criteria, you’ll get to size your guest list down to a practical and actionable “to-contact” list that will have you moving, calling, and emailing in no time. 

Tracking Guest Responses

So, you've sent out those invites (or DMs… or carrier pigeons—we won’t judge), now it’s time to get organized. 

Whether you're old-school with a trusty notebook or more into digital tools, find a system that works for you. Here's a quick guide of things to take note of:

  • Outreach Log: Keep track of the date, mode of contact, and important notes like "Asked to check back in June".

  • Response Tracker: Document who's in, who's out, and who's still giving it a think.

  • Schedule: You don't want to be that person who forgets they booked a guest. Always jot down schedules.

Podcast Guest Ingress, Simplified

When you’re building up to your podcast’s era of superstar-packed episodes, make sure your guests feel comfortable, prepared, and eager to engage in conversation. 

Instead of discussing the weather or the latest movies, you're diving deep into niche topics—and your audience is eagerly listening in. 

To help you out, here’s everything you need to know about what it takes to turn your podcast into a space where every guest feels right at home and ready to chat.

Sending a Prep Email

So, your guest has given you the green light—fantastic! 

Now, it's time to set the stage. 

Think of the preparation email as your first impression. Start by thanking them for their time (everyone appreciates a bit of gratitude), and then lay out the game plan. 

Will it be a structured Q&A or more of a casual chat? Clue them in and list down the topics you're keen to explore so they can prep their thoughts as they get comfortable. 

A pro tip: Include technical details—such as the software you’ll use, where your conversation will be, how many questions you’ll ask, and the likes.

This way, you're both on the same page, and there are no last-minute surprises.

Creating a Podcast Guest Briefer Sheet

Alright, let's talk about the Podcast Guest Briefer Sheet—think of it as a cheat sheet or a quick reference guide. 

It's not just about your podcast's name and the episode theme, so you’ll need to dive a bit deeper and answer questions like: 

  • What's the vibe of your show? 
  • Are there specific segments they should be aware of? 
  • Do you have a rapid-fire round or a fun ice-breaker in the beginning? 


If you're feeling extra helpful, maybe include a few sample questions. This will give your guest a sense of direction and make them feel even more prepared.

Ensuring a Smooth Recording Experience

We've all had those "Oh no!" moments during recording day—sudden background noise, a dropped call, or even an unexpected doorbell ring. To minimize these hiccups, it's all about preparation.

Here's a quick checklist:

  • Conduct a soundcheck. How's the audio sounding? It should be clear and crisp. No muffled or garbled audio allowed.
  • Scout for potential noise culprits. Maybe there's a window you can close or a fan you can switch off.
  • Make the guest feel comfortable. Here's something often overlooked: the comfort factor. Before you dive into the main questions, have a light chat. It eases the nerves and sets the tone for a relaxed, engaging conversation.

Pro tip: If you’re worried about the “ums” and “ahs” coming out in your podcast transcript, don’t worry! Deciphr AI’s Hobbyist and Professional plans make sure they never see the light of day.

A successful podcast episode isn't just about the content. It's about the experience—for you, your guest, and your listeners. With a bit of prep and a dash of hospitality, you're all set to create podcast magic. 

So, go on, roll out that virtual red carpet for your guest and let the conversations flow.

Promoting Your Podcast with Thought Leaders

Navigating the podcasting world can feel like you're hosting a party in a massive hall. You've set everything up, the music's playing, but how do you get people to walk through the door? Well, if you've got a thought leader as a guest, you've got a VIP.

Let's chat about how you can use their presence to get the party started.

Encourage Sharing

Alright, so your episode with that amazing guest is live. Now, let's get it in front of people. 

Give your guest a nudge to share the episode. This gets it extra mileage and builds excitement around your episode release.

Here's the trick—make it super easy for them to share to their heart's content:

  • Craft a Shareable Kit: Whip up some catchy graphics, intriguing sound bites, and maybe even a GIF or two. Think of it as giving them a goodie bag of shareables.

  • Draft Some Suggested Posts: Not everyone's a wordsmith, so help them out. Write a couple of tweet or post suggestions they can use.

  • Send a Friendly Reminder: A day or two after the episode is out, drop them a message. A simple "Hey, hope you loved how the episode turned out! If you could share it, we'd be over the moon 🌙" works wonders.

Leverage Their Influence

Your guest has clout. When they speak (or tweet), people listen. So, when you're posting about your episode, tag them. It's like pointing to the VIP at your party and saying, "Look who's here!"

If you want to make the most out of your guest’s influence, tag them, engage online, and keep on posting strategically.

  • Tag Thoughtfully: When you post about the episode, tag your guest. But don't just stop there. Mention something specific they spoke about to pique interest.

  • Engage with Their Audience: If someone from their circle comments or shares your post, engage with them. A simple thank you or a playful GIF can make their day.

  • Keep the Momentum Going: Don't let the conversation die out. A week after the episode, share a memorable quote or moment from it. Keep the buzz alive.

By encouraging your guest to leverage their influence, you're helping your episode get more listens and downloads.

Final Words

Gone are the days when mass emails or generic pitches could land you a prized guest. Today, it's about forging genuine connections, showcasing authentic interest, and truly understanding the pulse of your audience.

The strategies and templates provided in this guide aren't just tools; they're a roadmap. They guide you through the intricate process of identifying, approaching, and collaborating with thought leaders in a way that's respectful and effective. 

By following this roadmap, you're not just building a podcast guest list, you're curating an experience for your listeners—one that’s rich in knowledge, diverse in perspectives, and high in value.

Need a tool that can help you turn your high-value guest episodes into powerful pieces of content? Deciphr AI’s here to make the journey quicker, easier, and smoother for you—learn more about it here.