By Chris Hewitt, CEO of Berkeley PR
We have all heard the good, the bad and the plain ugly interviews through television and radio. Remember the Meg Ryan interview on Parkinson? A bad interviewee not only gives a bad impression of themselves, but also of the journalist.
So what makes someone a good interviewee? Ultimately it is someone who is articulate, has something engaging to tell the audience and who is skilled in the art of conversation.
As an interviewee how do you achieve this? It is not simply a case of practice makes perfect (although this helps), but there are methods that can be employed to assist.
Know your medium
Radio and TV are very different mediums and it is important that you appreciate the differences. With television, viewers are conscious of your body language, attire and voice along with content. In radio, the shift changes. Here you are judged on the clarity, tone and accent of your voice as well as content.
How many times have you made a call without researching fully and then been asked something out of the blue that you weren’t expecting? Always expect the unexpected.
A good way to prepare is to be armed with a list of bullet points outlining the key arguments. If you cannot answer a question, be honest and don’t be tempted to make up views on the spot. This should not diminish the viewers perception of you; if you believe and know your subject matter, and good interviewees do, the passion and enthusiasm will shine through.
Talk to the journalist
Good interviewees make the most of their time with the journalist beforehand, asking questions and judging what is likely to be asked. With live interviews, there is always likely to be an element of the unforeseen, but with preparation and by staying calm, you can take this in your stride.
When you are asked a question you are unsure of, pause to collate your thoughts rather than using verbal fillers such as “umm”, “you know” and “like”. Keep calm and provide a considered answer.
Connect with your audience
As an interviewee for television or radio you need to speak in terms that everyone can understand, without jargon. To ensure that you are communicating your message well, you need to tell your story in an abridged and chronological order.
Anecdotes are another good interview technique; they bring a human element to what could potentially be a clinical story. This will help you connect better with the audience. Humour, when well timed and in good taste (or in bad taste depending on the show and the audience), is a way of achieving this.
Interviews need to be interesting and engaging. This is accomplished by good preparation, practice and an enthusiasm and knowledge of a subject. If you build a rapport with the journalist you can both make the most out of the interview and provide useful and informative comment while raising your profile in a positive way.
Top tips on being a good interviewee:
1. Be prepared and know your topic inside out
2. Be confident, friendly and enthusiastic
3. Stay relaxed and talk clearly
4. Use plain English – not jargon
5. Talk to the journalist before the interview to gauge what they are likely to ask you.
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