Anyone can give a good interview — here’s how.
There are those who are naturally glib. Whether they’re at the office party or in front of a camera, speaking their minds comes easily. But for others, the idea of having to give an interview, and a good one at that, can be daunting to some, terrifying to others. However, anyone can give a good interview. All it takes is some practice and a few tips and techniques.
1. Do your homework
Research the publication, show, or website and who will be interviewing you. What are the reporter’s expertise and style? If you are being interviewed for radio or television, ask about the setup. Is the interview live or recorded? Will you be sitting next to the host or in a studio? Will someone give you time cues so you know when to wrap it up?
2. Be Yourself
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. You’ll look awkward and make your audience uncomfortable. If you’re a reserved person so be it. You can still give an intelligent, concise answer to a question. To give a good interview you don’t have to be a clown, you just have to be interesting.
3. Slow Down
There are many benefits to speaking slowly while being interviewed. People can understand you and follow your train of thought; you appear confident, and it gives you more time to think and organize your ideas.
4. Ignore the camera
The camera often scares people, causing them to freeze up, stumble over words and hold back. When giving an interview, make sure you’re very familiar with your subject matter. When you know your stuff backwards and forwards, you won’t even notice the recorder.
5. Understand what the interviewer wants
An interviewer is looking for a compelling explanation of the topic, something interesting to tell her readers and quotes from the interviewee to make the story effective and strong. Provide these things and you will have given a good interview.
Don’t ask for the questions in advance. Most reporters looking for a good interview won’t give them to you. It’s not that they’re trying to trick you, but rather they just want fresh, unrehearsed answers. However, even without the questions, you can still think about what you’re likely to be asked and prepare answers. Practice being interviewed by a friend or family member.
7. Pay attention
Don’t let the journalist put words in your mouth. During an interview, if the reporter makes a statement then says, “Don’t you agree?” be careful how you respond. If you don’t disagree the statement might end up in print attributed to you.
8. You are always on the record
It’s fine to make chit-chat before the interview starts but remember that unless you explicitly tell the reporter something is off the record, she may use it. This is also extremely important to keep in mind if you are doing a television or radio interview. Never assume the mike isn’t on.
9. Ditch the talking points
Be yourself! If there are specific points you want to make, memorize those little factoids but don’t sound scripted. I often practice in front of my husband or friends so I’m comfortable with my topic. Personal anecdotes help too. I love to tell of the time when I gave a national radio interview, all the while hoping that my twin babies in the next room would be sufficiently entertained by Elmo until I was off the air.
10. Don’t Play the Expert (If You’re Not)
Know your stuff inside and out but if you’re stumped by a question, admit that you’d like to check before you answer. Then gracefully steer the interview to something you do want to discuss. I always like to say – “That’s a great question. What I can tell you is this…” Unless you are a politician, CEO, or celebrity, most interviews will be pretty friendly. There is no reason to pretend you have all the answers if you don’t.
11. Focus on the Interview
If you are doing a telephone interview from home now’s not the time to put away groceries. Find a quiet space so you can concentrate. Turn off your call waiting if possible and make sure you have a hard line available instead of your cell.