A media outlet has requested an interview with you. Congratulations!
I’ve been producing and conducting interviews for broadcast TV, streaming services, podcasts and articles for 14+ years.
Here are three tips you can follow to ensure the conversation is a success.
1. Do Your Homework
What is the reporter planning to ask you? Most of the time, the reporter will tell you which topics they want to discuss when they first request the interview.
However, if anything is unclear, speak up. It is perfectly fine to ask for a list of questions or topics in advance. In my experience, most news outlets won’t have a problem sharing that information early because knowledgeable guests make for better interviews.
Use this information to organize your thoughts and prepare your answers. If it’s an audio or on-camera interview, record yourself as practice. You can also have a friend or colleague rehearse with you.
There is an exception: If you are an elected official or a candidate running for political office, news outlets typically won’t provide specific questions in advance.
2. If You Stumble, Pause and Start Again
This next piece of advice is especially relevant for audio or TV interviews. If you stumble over your words or misspeak, take a pause.
Think about what you meant to say and restart your sentence from the beginning. Your answer will sound much more clear and will be easier to understand. I suggest doing this whether the interview is pre-taped or live.
If you’re struggling with what to say, it is always better to just stop talking until you figure it out. Adding in a bunch of filler words can be confusing for the listener.
I’ve edited hundreds of audio interviews over the years and it's very common for guests to draw out their words when they get stuck. For example, saying “and” as “aaaaand.”
Remember that for a pre-taped podcast or TV interview, the editors are not magicians. They can easily cut out a portion where you paused but there is generally nothing an editor can do to fix “aaaaand.”
3. Be Concise But Don’t Give Single-Sentence Answers, Either
The reporter wants you to elaborate on the topic. Never respond to a question with just “no” or “yes.” That type of response does not make for a good quote or soundbite.
However, get to the point and don’t drone on, either. As a general rule of thumb, aim to answer questions in 30 seconds to 1 minute. That span of time is enough to thoroughly, but efficiently, deliver your message.
This is especially important for television interviews. Most TV segments run about 1 minute, 30 seconds total. Concise, informational soundbites are golden and will make the reporter more likely to use you as a resource again in the future.
Of course, there are exceptions. If you’re appearing on an hour-long podcast, the host might be happy to hear 2- to 3-minute answers to specific questions. This ties back to my first point about being prepared. It’s ok to ask the host for guidance ahead of time.
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