8 WAYS TO BE A GOOD INTERVIEW
OR: WHAT SEASONED BROADCASTERS WISH YOU KNEW
We surveyed three top broadcasters–two from radio, one from television–who have interviewed people like you, as one put it, “since the earth was cooling,” which could mean 6,000 years or billions of years, your call. By every measure, this is seasoned advice for anyone who gets near a microphone, and our advice, as you read, is to mentally cut, paste, and hit save.
By the way, the one piece of counsel from all three? Stories: Tell stories. They’re broadcast gold.
The best and most effective radio interviewees understand that radio is a “secondary” medium. People shave while listening, or carpool with their kids, or tune in as they walk or work out. To “punch through” on radio, an author or spokesperson must:
- Know the audience. Sounds elementary, but it’s easy to overlook. Know who’s listening and speak to that audience. Shape your comments to its interests, references, needs. As one broadcaster put it: “Find common ground with your audience, and stay there.”
- Try to chat with the interviewer/host ahead of time. Very likely, you’re one of many things in your host’s day and in the show’s schedule–and your host’s prep time can run short. Before you go on, ask how your host sees the interview going. If there’s any misunderstanding, help steer in the right direction.
- Be compelling for the audience. For instance, instead of talking “education policy,” explain how what the Congress or state legislature does affects listeners’ kids and families. Show where policy hits the pavement.
- Remember that listeners DON’T have your book yet. So, “As I say on page 38 of my book,” or “I cover that in Chapter 5” become like those trombone riffs from the teacher in Peanuts cartoon TV specials. Your goal is to send them to Amazon or to Barnes & Noble . . . not to another radio station.
- Relax and have fun. If you’re upbeat, funny and engaged the audience will connect and want to see your film, attend your seminar, or buy your book. If you flub something, don’t sweat it. As Scarlett O’Hara observed in Gone With The Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”
- Keep your message front and center. The interviewer asks questions, but you control your answers. Get your most important point, ideas, stories, or lessons up front. Even if you’re not specifically asked about your main message, bring it up. Say, “What I really want to say . . .” or “What people need to know is . . . “
- Make effective use of your brief time. TV interviews typically run 5 to 7 minutes. Practice keeping your answers 30 seconds to 1 minute–both to hold audience attention and to cover more ground.
- Tell stories. Your personal story is always more compelling than stats or something abstract. Stories, stories, stories. Keep them personal and, if need be, don’t be afraid to get emotional.