Good interviews involve preparation

Ann Landers had great advice for small business marketing

For anyone looking to build an audience, interviews area great way to extend reach. Provided you give some thought to how you’ll orchestrate them before you go live.

These can be delivered as written, audio or video presentations based on what you’re most comfortable with (that’s primary) and what your audience is most likely to embrace. In fact, you can offer all three without much more effort with tools like Camtasia (audio editing – something you might consider doing for your video too) and Dragon (voice recognition transcription tool).

The thing is, the impression you make with your guest can be even more important than pleasing your audience. Choose the right people to feature and you can expand your reach substantially – so long as you don’t do dumb things to make them feel insignificant in your busy schedule. This applies as much to interviews done through written e-mail exchanges as it does to audio and video.

We’ve all watched or heard interviews where it becomes clear pretty quickly to host didn’t “read the book,” or even take a vew minutes to chat prior to hitting “record”. That’s not a smart way to excite your guest or your audience.

It’s not that hard to do your homework, especially with today’s put-it-all-out-there internet mentality. Give your guest the honor she deserves by spending some time getting clear about what moves her prior to turning on the mic. Respect your audiences’ time by tightening up what you deliver.

This is something that’s easy to do, but also easy not to. Why not put a little extra effort into ensuring what you offer makes you proud, your guest flattered and your audience charmed?

How to prepare for an interview

Ann Landers had great advice that applied to everything - including interviews Ideally, you’ll have an opportunity to dialog with your guest prior to the event (e-mail, phone, video call, etc.). Don’t make the mistake of starting this phase cold. If you’re asking someone to spend their time to help you, it’s important you demonstrate your appreciation for this by doing a little research prior to first contact.

Review their website. Google them (it’s amazing the surprising interests – and accolades given to your now more esteemed guest – you’ll find with a simple search). Have discussion themes and/or questions in mind before you reach out with your request for interview time.

Years ago, I hosted a radio show (five years, three different stations, same boss). Not having a radio background (my voice spurred the station manager to ask for a meeting, then he hired me), I didn’t know protocol. My approach was to allow as least as much time for talking to the guest prior to recording as we’d spend taping the show. I learned later, this was not the way it was usually done. At that point, it didn’t matter to me. It worked on so many levels.

When you show you care enough about your guest to understand them, they’ll not only give a better interview, but also be more compelled to share delightful tidbits, tell others about the show and repeat your name as a great resource. Your audience will sense rapport. The final product will be more brilliant – and timeless.

Don’t expect your guest to carry the conversation – that’s your job. Be careful, though, about being too verbose. People are tuning in to hear what your featured speaker has to offer. The artful interview is about being prepared enough to lead the conversation in a way that puts you in the background – even though you’re orchestrating what’s being delivered. That involves not only having a keen understanding on how to get your guest to reveal interesting things that others haven’t been able to draw out, but also recognizing what information will be most appreciated by your audience.

Your goal should be to make your guest shine with a polished presentation that has your readers/listeners/viewers wanting more. Preparation makes it easy (as so few do it right). Think about why you chose this guest and what you want the interview to accomplish before you ask for their time. They’ll be impressed with your attention and your audience will delight in what results.

Have you ever participated in a great interview as a guest or host? Please share in the comments below with your thoughts on what made it so special. Also, if you liked this article, look left and click on your favorite (few ;-)) social media icons. Thanks!

12 responses to “Good interviews involve preparation”

  1. Great post, Nanette! I had an online radio show for a couple of years. It was really fun. Although I didn’t spend as much time with them before as during the interview, I did do my research and try and at least read one or two of their books before speaking with them. I miss meeting the people, but I don’t miss how crazy it was lining up new guests each week!

  2. This is such good information. I am such a fan of Terry Gross, as well as Krista Tippett – they are so well prepared and they get so much detailed information out of guests that might not always be that interesting. I look forward to more from you – I would like to learn more technology and use it to interview other artists in my area.

  3. Wow! Great tips here, thanks. I don’t know that I am ready to be interviewing others right now. I guess it would depend on how much time was involved between preparation, interviewing, editing, and sharing it.

    Just two weeks ago, I turned in answers to a written interview for someone. I am excited to see how she edits it and decides to post it.

    • I look forward to hearing when this interview post goes live, Elda. Interviewing others can be a lot of fun. It’s a different kind of thought process than a typical post, so often the shift is refreshing while giving you some mind space for new ideas for standard posts.

  4. I love interviewing. I haven’t done it much these last few years but the two most important ones that stand out to me was Deng Ming-Dao, author of The Living I Ching and Xorin Balbes, author of Soul Space. I love interviewing authors as a way to connect more deeply with books that I love.

    • You picked some great ones to interview, Amy. It must have been exhilarating to learn from both these sages. Here’s to reaching high!

  5. Great post, Nanette! I listen to several podcasts where they interview either artists or small business owners on my commute to work. I can imagine the amount of time they dedicate to produce these great interviews. THanks for sharing this info

  6. Great post Nanette!What wonderful tips! I think it’s especially important to do the upfront work of research and preparation. I’ve never interviewed anyone and look forward to this new venue.

    • You’ll have a lot of fun with this, Nancy. As contrary to what most assume about artists (those in their right mind usually – are you left-handed too?), that preparation stuff for interviews (it’s more of a vision thing than an analytical task for creatives) comes naturally. That bit of preparation spurs creative insights that get exciting for all involved.