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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Carol Wyer on TV & Radio Interviews

Carol Wyer, author of Laughter Lines and Mini Skirts shares here experience on radio & television interviews.

Radio Gaga...or... How to make a good impression during interview.

So, you’ve realised your ambition. Your novel is not only published and selling well but you have managed to get yourself some publicity. The local television station is going to interview you and this is your big opportunity to get some credibility as an author. Well, don’t do what I did.

My first interview was with a BBC radio station on a prime lunchtime slot. I genned up on all answers to the questions that I thought I would be asked. I learned my ‘script’ parrot fashion and, just in case I had a case of amnesia, I jotted down salient bullet points on a notepad. Confident I would come across as an intelligent and enthusiastic author; I caught the train and headed north.
Hustled into a darkened room and now seated in front of an earnest disc jockey, I found myself unable to see my precious crib notes. This panicked me. I forgot my script I had learned. I waffled. I ‘uhmed’. I ‘aahed’. I laughed a lot for no good reason. I began to sound like a complete idiot every time he asked a question; I gabbled at 90 miles an hour. I hardly paused for breath until I was thrown a question I hadn’t expected, then nerves got the better of me, and I sat with my mouth opening and shutting until he rescued the situation and I was escorted back out into the light. Of course, once outside the studio I had lucid and intelligent comments to make. I spent the entire journey home thinking up witty and quite frankly hilarious responses. But, of course, by then it was far too late.

Since that dreadful day; I still cringe at the thought of it, I have been interviewed quite a few more times. Should you find yourself in a similar position, here are a few tips which I hope will help you promote both you and your work and prevent you from experiencing a similar situation.

Television Interview Techniques
Before the Interview
Ø      Familiarize yourself with the station, the show format and the reporter.

Ø      If possible, watch the show online or on TV prior.

Ø      Determine if the interview will be taped or live. A taped interview may be edited for length. 

Ø      Arrive early.  Get acclimated.  Meet the reporter and any other guests involved in your segment.

Ø      Review ground rules.  Restate the allotted time and subject matter with the reporter.

Ø      Prepare reporter with interview ‘bullet points’ to follow and discuss.   

Ø      Ask the reporter what their first question might be, and how will they lead off? 

Ø      Dress how you want to be perceived but remember to be yourself. 

During the all Television Interviews 
Ø      Relax.  Breathe. 

Ø      Think and speak in headlines, then support them with examples.

Ø      Keep your answers brief (30 sec max).

Ø      Avoid ‘uh’s’ and ‘umm’s’.

Ø      Flag your message points with signal words -- "The main issue is..."

Ø      Feel free to pause.  Silence is NOT deadly.  Smile to signify the end of your answer.

Ø      Remember who you’re speaking to – who is the show’s audience?  

Ø      Don’t talk down to your audience, simplify any complex messages. 

Ø      If the audience feels they know you, they will trust you. 

Ø      Summarize.  At the end of the interview, restate your key messages.

Ø      Try to match the tone and rhythm of the host or interviewer (unless s/he turns negative).

Ø      Maintain eye contact with the reporter. 

Ø      Assume the camera is on you at all times. 

After The Interview

Ø      Thank the reporter for the opportunity.

Ø      Be alert for the casual question after the interview is presumably over.

Remember - The Perfect Answer is approximately 40 seconds long

In fact, another great tip when being interviewed is to weave in not only the name of your book and/or website but also to say the name of the person interviewing you.  Go ahead and compliment them on their question too – as long as you can pull it off without sounding too much like a suck-up. 

Q – “So tell me Carol, what inspired you to write about getting older?”

A – “You know Sue, that’s a great question.  The idea of Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines was conceived as I watched my son drive away from home for the final time…” 

You managed to weave in a compliment, their name and the name of your book in less than 5 seconds. Reporters like it when you say their name and really like it when you recognize their intelligence.  So go ahead and play their game! 

Blocking and Bridging

The most common mistake committed in interviews is to become so fixated on the questions that you lose sight of your own agenda points and become a passive respondent.  Don’t feel obliged to answer every question specifically. The most effective spokespeople listen for the bigger issue behind each question, and address that issue as they choose.  This is done through the technique of “blocking and bridging.”

Use the art of blocking and bridging to stay on track with your own message points and to taking control of the interview.  Typically in a non-argumentative, friendly interview environment an appropriately positioned answer will lead the reporter in the direction which you’d like to go. 

Recently I was asked during an interview on American radio how British humour differs from American humour. I could have droned on at length about the subject but the question actually allowed me to give examples of the humour in my own book and blog and how that might appeal to an American audience.

Reporters are there to gather facts and sound bites and ultimately share your story with their audience.  A reporter just wants to file a great story using your uniquely crafted colourful messages; it’s a win-win. 

Sample Blocking and Bridging Phrases

You make a great point, although…

I’m really glad you brought that up… in fact…

I think what you’re really asking is…

Let me tell you what we’re hearing from the people we’re talking to…

What’s important to remember however is…

What most people don’t understand is …

The most important issue we’re dealing with is…

Yes, that is a critical issue, but I think the bigger point is ….

I can’t discuss that issue specifically, but I can tell you…

Let me put that in perspective…

Let’s deal with the facts at hand…

I think the real issue here is…

Good luck with your interviews. I still get in a sweat every time I have one but, as the saying goes; ‘practice makes perfect’. Get a friend/partner/relative to mock interview you using these techniques before your big day and you, unlike me, won’t make a fool out of yourself.

Ten Take-a-Way Tips

1.                  Relax 

2.                  Have a 20/2/20/2 message prepared
Be able to tell your message in 20 seconds, 2 minutes, 20 minutes and/or 2 hours

3.                  Know your media medium

4.                  Speak in sound bites

5.                  Stick to the subject

6.                  Bridge and weave

7.                  Simplify

8.                  Stay positive and remain calm 

9.                  Pause (which may allow you to either breathe and/or re-direct)

10.             Remember - you’re never off the record

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  1. Lots of great tips there, Carol, although I find when I prepare things in advance I come over very stilted and can't get away from the script. That's why I do most things off the top of my head and fly by the seat of my pants. I'm much more natural that way. However, that approach does have its risks, and I don't have a clue how I would have answered the American versus humour question. Good job I don't write humour.

  2. Great post, Carol, lots of tips that can be applied to any interview! Thanks, Susan

  3. Very generous advice, Carol. Notice how we're all including your name here!! Never been on TV, but I must say I have been caught on the hop a few times, called up by the local radio whenever there is a Gypsy issue in the locality. I had to think as I spoke!! But in an ideal world it is always best to anticipate questions and be prepared. Thanks for this - good tips.