tips for giving a stellar interview

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Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Because I enjoy eating and living indoors, I have a day job.

I’m a Communication Specialist for a regional health system, and part of my job involves media relations. Most weeks, that means interacting with reporters from local television, radio and print media. Recently, we received inquiries from reporters with NPR, Cosmo and The Huffington Post, but that was an exceptional week!

What does all this have to do with you, my little parfait? Well, because I arrange interviews, I also help to prepare the interviewees, many of whom are new to the experience and naturally nervous. Since there may be interviews in your future, I thought why not share these tips with you?

TV interview

  • Practice with a friend. Video your interview. Look for what you’re doing
    Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

    Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

    well and do more of that!

  • Look at the interviewer, not the camera.
  • Bring a copy of your book with you. Don’t assume the interviewer will have one.
  • Don’t wear checks or stripes. Simple solids are your best. Wearing a vibrant green, blue or red is terrific.
  • To give yourself a chance to make any necessary wardrobe adjustments, practice sitting down in the clothes you plan to wear–is it easy to sit or do you have to adjust your jacket a lot or fiddle with your skirt because it rides up? Are there unfortunate gaps between buttons, or does your collar or tie go all wonky? I’d rather have someone tell me “before” I got to the studio than notice this after the interview airs, wouldn’t you?
  • If possible, arrive a bit early so that you won’t feel rushed. This gives the crew time to attach your mic and run through anything they’d like you to know or expect before it’s your turn.
  • See tips for radio interviews.

Radio interview

  • Smile as you speak.
  • Have a mirror in front of you so you’ll have “someone” visible to talk to. It will remind you to grin.
  • Be sure you know how long the interview will be, so you can pace yourself.
  • Ask if you can send questions ahead of time. The interviewer may really appreciate it, and you’ll know what to anticipate and how to prepare.
  • If you can’t send questions ahead, it’s absolutely okay to ask the interviewer the direction of the interview (is it more about your book, about you, about your writing journey, about advice, about your favorite panini–you just never know).
  • Prepare yourself a cheat sheet with answers to anticipated questions, but DO NOT write out every word. Make it more a “grocery list” of prompts. If you create a word for word script, you’ll be too tempted to just read it and you’ll come off sounding stiff even when we all know you are super cool.
  • Have a cup of water handy. (A bottle takes too much time to open.)
  • Thank the interviewer.

Phone interview

  • Have a mirror in front of you so you’ll have “someone” visible to talk to. It will remind you to grin.
  • Use a landline, if available, so you don’t have to worry about your call being dropped mid conversation.
  • Try to be relaxed and conversational. Listeners will respond to your personality, not your perfect diction.
  • See tips for a radio interview.

For any type of interview

It’s easy to get flustered. If you really get stuck, you can always say the information is available on your web site. But as a bit of reassurance, make yourself a cheat sheet with basic information so if your mind goes blank, all you have to do is read–

  • The title(s) of your book(s)
  • Web site name and address
  • How readers can can contact you
  • Where your books are available
  • Details about the event or signing you’re promoting (date, time, place, etc.)
  • A good friend also suggested creating a list of reasons why your book would be appreciated or useful to your audience. Examples–When I do school visits, I meet children who are fearful of XYZ, and the characters in my book show them, it’s possible to be afraid and still be brave/it’s normal to have doubts/it’s okay to ask for help, etc.

And finally . . . 

It’s not uncommon for an interviewer to wrap up an interview with a question like, “Is there anything else you’d like to say?”

Think about using this as an opportunity to promote someone else’s book. David Sedaris does this every time he goes on tour for his own newest book. Isn’t that a beautiful, generous gesture? It’s a delightful chance to pay it forward for an author or illustrator who has been especially supportive of you.

Now, if you have an agent, publicist or your publisher’s marketing team advising you, please listen to them and learn. Use my suggestions when/if they seem useful to you.

Most of all, no matter how an interview turns out, remember you, my little blueberry scone, are still one of the coolest, most talented people on ten toes.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

6 responses »

  1. Another blog post full of great ideas! I read this with particular interest because often, when I hear scientists interviewed, the interview fails to bring out the cool aspects of the discovery and ends up sounding too technical or awkward. The one point I’d add is: be prepared for the interviewer not to “get it.” Have a list of reasons why people will like your book (or why the scientific discovery is important). If you plan ahead, it won’t sound like bragging.

    Like

  2. Thanks Vicky! Very helpful. I love the tip about smiling – you can always tell if someone is smiling while they are speaking, even if you can’t see them.

    Like

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