You're on in 3...2...1: The Art of the Interview
A friend who worked in television for many years was interviewing a guest for his station’s morning newscast. The interview began with the host doing the standard “softball” intro: “Mona Smothers from the local chapter of Feed the Snakes joins us this morning. How’re you doing?” Ordinarily, a greeting like that would have elicited a response like, “Great, I’m excited to be here to talk about our fundraiser next week.” The guest’s reply instead was, “It’s early.” Followed by silence. While the host deftly transitioned into the rest of the interview, her initial response, and subsequent awkward responses, made for a long three minutes of air time.
Unfortunately, this scenario repeats itself daily on TV, in print and other media. Business people who would never walk into a meeting or teleconference without preparation (the stuff of nightmares or Adam Sandler movies) try to wing it when presented with an interview opportunity. The reasoning seems to be that since they’re so accustomed to talking about what they do, the words will flow as in normal conversation. Except an interview isn’t normal conversation.
So how does one properly prep for interviews? It boils down to a few basic techniques:
Time is tight. Whether you’re interviewed for a blog, print or broadcast channel, the time frame will be very short—for example, most television interviews are over in three minutes. Make the most of that time by putting together concise bullet points of what you want to say. It helps to look at your interview as an expanded version of your elevator speech. When the bell rings and the doors open, you’re done.
Train and train again. Take the bullet points you’ve drawn up, enlist a team member or buddy to play the interviewer, and practice. Several times. Use an app on your mobile device to record your rehearsal, play it back for critique, rinse, repeat. There is no substitute for rehearsal.
It’s you, only different. With an interview, you’re building a version of yourself that is calm, concise and cordial. Stick to your topic, but not so rigidly that an unanticipated question derails your thoughts. Be flexible enough to respond appropriately and focused enough to return to your bullet points in short order.
If you’re absolutely falling apart at the idea of having your words seen or heard by a mass audience, and rehearsal doesn’t help, think about a team member in your company who can do it instead. Who do you work with that’s naturally gregarious and trustworthy? You may be the “official” information officer, but titles mean nothing if your interview crashes in real time.
An interview can be a big adventure and a big chance to connect. Plan your talking points, work your plan and use your interview to put a big piece of your business’s marketing puzzle into place.