How to be a Great Interviewee
As the popularity of blogging, vlogging, and podcasting continue to rise, more authors are implementing different broadcasting methods. These platforms are powerful places to boost your author marketing and great ways to engage a lot of readers in a brief space of time. Because of this, it’s essential to learn how to be a great interviewee.
But a lot of writers are natural introverts, and even extroverts can get a little jittery at the idea of being quizzed about their work. The last thing you need is to settle in front of a microphone and freeze. The Lord has given you a message, be it fiction or nonfiction. If there’s an opportunity to broaden its scope, then don’t let a few nerves get in the way.
Following a few simple techniques should make things go swimmingly. And if you need help getting booked as a guest, you’ll find some great tips in this CIPA article on how to be a sought-after media guest.
Do your research
This should be a no-brainer, but make sure you know who is doing the interview. By that, I mean where the interview will run and who will conduct it. If it’s a radio station or podcast, make sure you’ve listened to them, especially during the time of day your piece will go to air. You need to get an overall feel for the output and make sure the tone fits with your message.
If you’re guesting on a blog or vlog, read and watch to develop a sense of the overall content and target audience. This means you can make sure what your offering appeals to the consumers, and you can even tailor your answers accordingly. For instance, if you have a younger demographic, you might use examples from recent pop culture versus something from a different decade.
This is the fun part (I think). Ask a chatty family member or friend to question you. Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone so that on the day of the interview, you’re comfortable and confident you can handle yourself. The questions from your friend don’t have to match what you’ll be getting for real (although if you get an advanced list of what’s going to be asked, for sure use it).
You don’t have to do this seventeen times, but practicing once or twice will give you added confidence and help you relax into the conversation on the expected day. If you’re finding it tricky, then run through some questions with a couple of different people until you feel more at ease with chatting about your work.
Speaking of which, this isn’t an interrogation (unless you’ve got a message that’s opposed to the ideology of the place you’re being featured, and that’s an entirely different blog post).
This should be a conversation. A friendly one. In twenty years of radio news, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews. For some reason, as soon as there’s a microphone, I’ve seen many people become tongue-tied. Even some previously skilled conversationalists.
Remember, it’s the job of the interviewer to make this sound good. Their job. Yours is to answer questions in an engaging and informative way. So, take a breath and relax. You have had conversations before. This is just another one.
Know your stuff
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. You can always ask for questions ahead of time, but few true journalists will give them. You are more likely to have success if you ask for a general idea of what sort of questions you’ll be answering.
This can help you prepare key messages you’d like to get across. You can even prepare a notecard with various facts you want to have at hand. If you have specific thoughts or ideas you want to share, then for sure jot them down and have them handy during your interview (radio/podcasts). The writing will help you commit them to memory and help the words flow without sounding overly rehearsed.
Don’t know too much
At the same time, don’t script everything. If you do, your answers will feel stilted and awkward. Notecards are truly your best friend here. Bullet points on different topics will allow you to glance at information but use it naturally.
This is where that listening research or website checking comes in handy. It’s entirely possible for you to learn something about your interviewer that you can then use to engage them. For instance, perhaps you share a hobby, or they grew up in the same state as you. You could use that information during the conversation to help build the dynamic between you and the other person.
Or, if you’re being interviewed by an organization further away, find something relatable to bring in early on. This will draw listeners in and show you’ve taken the time to be well prepared.
Finally, some practical tips. Make sure you’ve used the restroom beforehand. Have a bottle of water in hand because nerves make us get a dry mouth and it’s hard to chat when your lips are adhered to your teeth.
Avoid dairy for an hour beforehand. Dairy makes us salivate. Never great to spit on your host. And don’t chug any soda before either. Trust me. Those little bubbles will choose a critical moment to escape. I’ve done that, live on air. And again, learn from my error. Belching isn’t fun when you’re trying to sound credible.
And another solid idea is to wear something that makes you feel good about yourself. When we feel happy, we are naturally more optimistic, and the words will come easily and naturally. Then you’ll be able to relax, and the interview will benefit as conversation flows.
We aren’t always comfortable talking up our work, especially when there are folks watching or listening, but remember, this is just a conversation and an opportunity to get the work the Lord has given you to a wider audience. Now, go crush it!
About the Author
Debb Hackett is a writer and broadcaster with twenty years of experience in commercial radio, and with the BBC. Debb is a wife and mom and currently makes her home in England with her military husband and two daughters. She writes for military wives and contemporary romance. You can learn more at https://debbhackett.com