How Interviewing People Puts You On The Radar
Interviewing people who have something to contribute to your industry or sector can put you on the map and extend your understanding of the marketplace you operate in.
With everything that is happening at the moment, perhaps now is the time to amp up your interviewing skills. It could be for your podcast. It could be for your live Zoom session you’d like to do.
To many, interviewing, whether it’s at a live event or podcast, is new territory. The only way to get comfortable with it, and indeed most things you haven’t done before, is to just go ahead and do it.
This article looks at how you can interview people so that everyone benefits. Your audience learns, your guest feels valued and you make considerable gains too.
There are so many goals you can achieve through interviewing. Interviews are useful for your overall brand-building efforts – giving you a shop window to promote yourself from.
You get to chat with people you admire from around the world, enhancing your own credibility and you learn too. However, to get to that place takes time, practice and effort. But no one said it would be easy, right?
Why Should You Take My Word For It?
Interviewing someone naturally starts off being, and feeling, difficult. Too many people think they have to perform on a par with a BBC presenter from the off or think that there’s one right way of doing it.
I first started interviewing people across a variety of platforms back in 2015, initially live, on stage, at a short-lived event called Once Upon A Time. The biggest lesson from that experience was that preparation was key, and that doing it even once helped make the next time easier.
Have a look here, I wasn’t that good…
Five years later, interviewing others has become something that feels a whole lot more comfortable.
As I’ve become more relaxed I’ve noticed that both podcast and lunch club are better fun for all concerned – me, the guest I’m interviewing and the audience.
To get to the stage where you feel comfortable you have to first accept that you’re starting out as a novice, feeling understandable trepidation.
In looking back at my early efforts it’s only now that I understand what didn’t work. Let’s start off by making sure you don’t fall into the traps I fell into.
What Make A Bad Interview?
Here are a few of the probably many, mistakes I made. You’ll probably recognise some of these as a listener.
People talking at each other. This is when you have two people – interviewer and interviewee – with no real connection, no back and forth or flow, trying to outdo each other in terms of what they know. GUILTY
The interview goes on for too long. No one is really that important to justify a single unedited interview that meanders into an hour or more. GUILTY
Becoming star struck. It can be all too easy to be in awe of your guest if it’s someone you’ve admired and respected for years. Gushing and hanging on their every word doesn’t make for a good listen. GUILTY
Lack of direction. You need to guide your listener through the conversation. When talk wanders, or worse, when the gripes and ego of the host take centre stage, no one wins. GUILTY
We all know you’re reading from notes! Making conversation flow in an interview situation is hard work, thorough preparation helps but it’s always obvious when an interviewer has a list of questions and works from the top down, losing any sense of it being a natural, easy-on-the-ear conversation in the process. GUILTY
How To Make Interviews A Positive Experience For Everyone
This section, in contrast to that above which was more about you, the interviewer, is all about your guest and your audience.
Here’s what five years of interviewing has taught me:
Do your homework.
There have to be strong reasons for approaching your guests in the first place. After all, at school, you didn’t pick people for your team that you knew nothing about! Before you step forward to request an interview you have to be clear on the value they add to your audience.
Be thoughtful in planning your approach.
Following on from doing your homework and having clear reasons for approaching people, your requesting an interview has to strike the right note. I reached out to people who had agreed to be interviewed by me and asked them why they’d agreed to it. The consensus was that I approached them in a way that felt open and sincere, have a read here.
Send the guest questions 48 hours before the interview.
I always make sure that guests for the YATM Podcast and Lunch Club have questions in good time. This is so they have a feel for the structure of the conversation and whilst we probably won’t get to cover every question, it shows the scope of where we may go. Even more importantly, they know from this that I won’t be going into areas they’re not prepared for. You have to make sure your guest knows that you are on their side. Remember, they may be a bit nervous too.
Give a good intro.
No one wants a monochrome welcome delivered in monotone. Find what suits your style and reflects your personality. For me, a somewhat over-excited start serves as an ice breaker. Emphasising how good it is to have them speaking to you in a fun and upbeat way, feels like a high five followed by a fist bump.
Give your guest space.
You don’t have to fill every moment. One thing I’ve learned to get better with over the years is to be comfortable with silence. My struggle with silence was due to nerves but, in listening back to myself I soon realised that quiet moments and pauses are natural and have their purpose – drawing breath, letting the previous point sink in, gathering thoughts. Constantly interjecting, reminding the listener you’re there with “aha, yeah” “yeah” “mmm” distracts from what’s being said.
See your role as that of a guide.
To justify the sense that you’re worthy of being a presenter, you can fall into the trap of talking too much. Instead, view yourself as a guide, helping shape the direction of the conversation so it gives maximum value to your audience.
Get straight to the point.
This has been one of my weak points over the years. Be direct rather than taking a while to get to the heart of the matter. It’s confusing for your guest and disorienting for your audience when you get to something in a roundabout way.
Write short notes/questions.
I always find that the shorter the note on my pad, the easier it is to ask. For instance, at a YATM Lunch Club, if I have a long sentence rather than a note it’s harder to take in once the conversation is into full flow. Keeping notes and questions concise, no more than prompts, will act in your favour.
Stay in your lane.
Don’t head into unchartered waters or go into areas that are of no interest to anyone other than you, such as your own business issues, political views, or anything unrelated to the topic you are discussing.
Be clear with times and places.
If you are speaking to someone on your podcast, make sure you are clear about time zones, always putting their time zone first. Also, make sure you’re clear about the platform, whether it’s Skype, Zoom or even face-to-face? Getting these smaller, housekeeping points out of the way early makes things easier when it comes to doing the interview and helps reinforce the idea that you’re experienced and prepared.
Have a central theme.
The world doesn’t need another business podcast that talks to ‘entrepreneurs.’ What there is always room for however, is a show with a hook. Everything has to come back to an overall central theme that connects the guest with the show, with you. For instance, the YATM Podcast serves people who are building a space and audience via their own narrative. Guests come from a variety of backgrounds, sectors and experiences, but all are chosen for their relevance to YATM’s mission.
Be fun and don’t be too prescriptive.
No one wants to listen to a flat interview devoid of personality or spirit. A good interview is when you and your guest both feel relaxed and at ease with each other (you do this first and foremost by showing an interest). As David Meerman Scott (a YATM Podcast guest, listen here) says in Fanocracy, ‘unyielding professionalism can obscure our genuine connections.’
The longer you stay committed to a format or number of formats where you’re interviewing others, the better you’ll become at it.
Set the tone for your conversation before you press record or hand them the microphone by having a pre-chat (off-air or backstage) ensuring you’re both ready, prepared and relaxed. Creating a good vibe in the warm-up means guests will be more likely to jump right in once you get started and will also be far more likely to help promote the end result.
If improving your interview skills is something you want to develop, the best place to start is simply going out, finding the people your audience wants to hear from, scheduling those interviews and recording. You’ll be surprised by the number of people out there ready to help you.