Working with External Guests: Top Tips from Wistia Studios
March 3, 2021
When it comes to interview-style shows and projects, having a great guest is just as important as having a great host. You’ll want guests that are relevant to your show and audience and folks that are comfortable and natural on camera. And trust us, this combination is no easy feat, especially if you have multiple episodes to record or an ongoing show.
If you’re new to making this type of content, you might be wondering how to get started with working with outside guests — and that’s where we can help. With interview shows like Brandwagon and Talking Too Loud, our team here at Wistia has developed a tried and tested formula for working with external guests. We’ll share our top tips for a seamless guest experience in this post. Let’s go!
The benefit of working with outside voices
First, let’s talk about why getting external guests is worth the extra effort when you’re making casting decisions for your show.
When you bring on external guests, you have an opportunity to share a broader range of perspectives. These folks are going to have unique experiences outside of the ones readily available at your company. They might also bring years of experience working at different companies or on other projects, and you’ll be able to share that perspective with your audience.
The other thing external guests bring is their own audience. You’re able to introduce these fresh faces to your brand!
How to book great guests
So, how do you book great guests, especially if you’ve never done something like this before? Sydney Rutman, Lead Producer here at Wistia, shares three essential steps to add to your routine.
Finding the right folks for the job
A great place to start is by looking within your immediate networks. Chances are you know a bunch of cool people who’ve done cool things! While it may be hard to recruit guests for your first season, it will get easier over time.
As your project grows, you can expand your search beyond your network by sending cold emails and tapping mutual acquaintances for connections.
Believe it or not, there are also a ton of people out there who want to be a part of a video series or podcast — you just have to go out and search for them. You can also find various personalities on YouTube, Instagram, and other social channels who might fit the bill for your show.
If you think someone might be a great fit for your project, here’s how to approach your initial outreach.
When you reach out to potential guests, remember that a real person is on the other side of your message. Research your guests to make it clear you understand their brand and the messages they’re trying to put out into the world.
“When you reach out to potential guests, remember that a real person is on the other side of your message.”
Showcase what production means for your company and create a really great experience for external guests. If you step into their shoes, they want to make sure this is going to be an awesome opportunity where they’ll look great, sound smart, and it’ll be an asset they want to share.
Keep your message short and to the point. Clearly explain what your brand is about, what your show’s about, the audience you reach, and why it’s going to be a great use of their time. By doing this, you’d be surprised how often you get a ‘yes’ from someone you thought was totally out of reach!
Set up contracts to make it official
Providing legal documents for guests after they’ve agreed to be on your show is another good habit to get into. At Wistia, we create Production Release Forms and Image Release Forms for all of our external guests. These should state that by signing, the guest releases their right to the company for them to use any footage however they want, and for as long as they want.
Sydney typically tries to get guests to sign the agreement 2–4 days before the slated interview date. Electronic forms via Hellosign is one way to make legal documentation easier to track and organize. If guests don’t sign in time, she prints physical copies and brings them to the shoot for guests to sign in-person.
Keep guests informed throughout the project
Sydney has a few pointers for handling communication over the course of the project as well.
Her goal is to never inundate guests with emails and requests. Instead, she tries to be concise and grateful in all of her communication. You’re the first person they usually begin to associate with the company, so you need to remember who you’re representing when you reach out to external folks.
“You’re the first person they usually begin to associate with the company, so you need to remember who you’re representing when you reach out to external folks.”
After a guest has agreed to join a project, Sydney will set up pre-production calls to discuss the interview content and logistics. This might be covered in a single call or might require two separate meetings depending on the scope of the project.
For the content chat, we typically present guests with a slate of topics that we’re hoping to cover in the interview. From there, they can narrow down what they’re most interested in or passionate about. This helps shape the script and arc of the conversation and also ensures the guest is prepared to talk about something they truly care about.
When it comes to logistics, Sydney gives guests as much detail as possible so nothing slips through the cracks. Is there travel involved, or is it a virtual shoot? Do they have any questions about what to wear or how to use certain equipment? We let our guests know that we’re just an email or phone call away if they have any questions or concerns along the way.
For the day of the shoot or recording, Sydney will get in touch to make sure guests are ready to go. You should verify the location, time, directions, and provide everything they’ll need to feel comfortable.
Lastly, it’s super important to thank your external guests for their time in an email soon after their shoot day wraps. You can also recap any directions or next steps they need to take if there are any. For larger projects, consider going above and beyond with a personalized gift.
Start branching out
Working with outside talent is a great way to bring new voices to your brand. But remember — being on a show is a commitment, so you want to be mindful of this and provide an unforgettable guest experience. If you deliver on this, guests will gladly share the love and help spread the word on your project.
Take these tips to ensure your external guests have a great experience!