Attack & Defend: The Tactic Behind All Captivating Podcast Interviews

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

There’s a YouTuber who’s been popping up in my feed recently named Brandon McNulty.

Brandon is a fiction author who shares the writing advice he wishes he had when he first started out, including topics like storytelling, dialogue, plot and character development, and lots more.

Despite the fact that I’m not planning on writing a novel anytime soon, I’ve recently found myself binging through his back catalogue.

In particular, I’ve enjoyed his series of videos breaking down ​good vs bad dialogue​ and highlighting the specific traits that determine which category a given scene falls into.

In the series, there’s one trait of good dialogue that comes up repeatedly that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.

And it’s this:

Good dialogue attacks and defends.

I’ll let Brandon explain further:

“Good dialogue involves conflict. It involves characters trying to learn something that another character doesn’t want to tell them. It involves characters trying to push a worldview on another character who is defending against it. Your character should always be wanting something in their scenes and they should be trying to obtain information through dialogue exchanges.”

After hearing this principle, I notice it (either its presence or absence) in every TV show or movie I watch.

And it holds up.

The most engaging scenes are always those where every line has a purpose, is attempting to advance a character’s goals.

The best podcast interviews are based on the same principle.

Whether they (or you) realize it or not, every guest that comes on your show has their own agenda that they’re trying to advance.

Often, that agenda is less than perfectly aligned with your agenda—for your audience, your brand, and yourself.

And yet, often, hosts capitulate entirely to the guest’s agendas.

  • They talk about their most recent book
  • They ask them to supply the questions and talking points
  • They steer clear of anything for which the guest has not explicitly prepared for

And as a result, they create boring episodes devoid of any type of attacking, defending, and—as a result—tension.

And a show without any growth potential.

So what do you do instead?

As the host of the show, your job is not to make the guest look good.

That’s not to say that your goal is to humiliate them, far from it.

Instead, your goal is to push the guest out of their comfort zone and into new intellectual territory. Somewhere they may have never gone before, and may, in fact, need some help to reach.

Like Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Weird Barbie, your job as the host is to coax and cajole your guests out of the cozy confines of their comfort zones and into the wider, messier, less certain world where genuine discovery can occur… for you, your audience, and for them.

Of course, that’s not where they want to go.

And so, in order to move them in that direction, your line of questioning must attack.

In response, they will naturally defend.

And so the dance begins.







This is the cadence of the most compelling episodes.

The type that keep you sitting in the driveway, doing an extra lap around the block, or finding another chore to do so you can keep listening to see where it will go and how it will end.

No tension, no interest, no growth.

Pushing your guests into this uncharted territory doesn’t come easy.

But that’s kind of the point.

The best type of tension emerges when both you and your guest step out of your comfort zones together, attacking and defending as you progress together toward a destination neither of you could reach on your own.

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