Fans, Assemble

6 minutes, 2 links

You’re reading an excerpt of Stop Asking Questions, by Andrew Warner, a veteran podcast host of 2000+ episodes. The book explains how to lead high-impact interviews and learn anything from anyone. Master the craft of interviewing with this complete digital package. Purchase now for lifetime access to the book and extensive audio and video resources.

Ask Your Audience To Help You

The startup community was enthralled by Fred Wilson. As a social media pioneer, he was an early user and investor in some of the world’s most popular apps: Twitter, Kickstarter, Etsy, and other companies that reshaped the internet and our communities.

My audience wanted to hear from him, and I wanted to interview him. But he wasn’t replying to my emails. I’m not sure he even saw them.

So I did something I had never done before—I asked my audience for help. I made a public plea for someone to connect me with Fred. I asked my fans during live streams. I blogged about what I wanted to learn from him. I told my email subscribers how badly I wanted this interview.

And then, something amazing happened: my audience came through.

One of my listeners happened to work in the same building as Fred. He used my call to action as an excuse to strike up a conversation with the notoriously cagey investor. That got things started. Then a few listeners found Fred’s email address and sent him requests. Another nudge. Other people sent him private messages on platforms I’d never heard of before. Each little bit helped.

Finally, Mike Colella, a longtime Mixergy listener and founder of ad research company AdBeat, happened to see Fred teach at the Future of Web Apps conference. Mike asked Fred for an interview on my behalf. This time Fred said yes. Mike introduced us by email, and I finally got my interview. The interview became one of my most popular of the year, and it gave me credibility with companies that aspired to build the next Twitters and Kickstarters of the world. They wanted to hear how the person who backed those companies thinks.

But my public cry for help did more than just connect me to Fred. It tightened the bond between me and my listeners. We were a team, working against the odds to land a big-time guest. They were part of creating the interview with me. Mike and I went on to be friends for over ten years, and he was one of the first people to visit my house when I moved to San Francisco. He later became a Mixergy guest when Adbeat took off.

Here’s the most amazing part: my audience continued to help me find new guests, some who weren’t even on my radar. When Foursquare launched, it became the most talked-about startup in the tech world. The word was that its founder, Dennis Crowley, turned down “generational wealth” from a company that wanted to acquire it. He became one of the most sought-after founders in the country for everything from jobs to investments to interviews. I didn’t even try to jump in the fray. I figured I’d come back and get his story when things died down.

But then, out of the blue, AppSumo founder Noah Kagan emailed me an intro to Dennis. Noah was a friend and Mixergy fan and knew I was always looking for good guests. After talking with Dennis, Noah sent an email encouraging him to do an interview with me. All it took was a reply from me to book an interview with one of the hottest founders of the year.

My podcast now gets an average of 11 inbound interview requests every day, but I still ask my audience for introductions. They often connect me to people and trends I’d never find myself.

I needed my audience’s help more than ever in 2019 when I decided to do in-person interviews (and run a marathon) on all seven continents in a single year. I couldn’t figure out which countries to visit, let alone find and vet potential guests in places where I didn’t speak the language. So I turned to my fans. And again, they came through.

I wasn’t sure where to go in Latin America, so Nathan Lustig, who invests in startups there, got on calls with me to help me understand what’s working there and whom I should meet. I planned to go to a big country in Europe, but Ragnar Sass, who founded the sales platform Pipedrive, opened my eyes to how his home country of Estonia was producing more startups per capita than just about any part of the world. And in South Africa, Adii Pienaar, founder of WooCommerce, which turns websites into online stores, invited my wife and me to his house and introduced me to entrepreneurs with whom he had spent his professional life building relationships.

The hardest place on Earth for me to reach on my tight schedule was Antarctica. Because of international agreements, environmental concerns, and harsh conditions, there are limited flights to Antarctica. But Eric Miller, a listener and adventurer, knew an organization that supported expeditions to Antarctica. He helped me catch a flight on an old Soviet plane so I could complete my goal.

It takes time to build trust with your listeners. But ironically, asking for help actually creates more trust with your audience, not less. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and make a public plea. You never know who might show up to your aid.

Listen: Fans, Assemble

Say No5 minutes

Turn Them Down Without Offense

When you’re just starting out as an interviewer, it’s hard to get guests. When you’re established, it’s hard to turn down guests. But if you say “yes” to every request because you’re too scared to say no, your quality will inevitably dip. And your audience will notice.

As tough as it is, you have to learn to turn down interview requests. I’ll show you the right way to say no and help you avoid the wrong ways.

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