Hopefully your plan is to make enough of a splash with your speaking career that someone will eventually want to interview you. Best case scenario – a lot of someones’ will want to talk to you and spread the word of your existence far and wide. But there’s an art and science to giving a good interview. Some people can do it instinctively, while others, well, let’s just say it can be a painful experience to watch and listen to.
Here are five tips to make sure that interviews you give are memorable for all the right reasons.
1. Know Your Core Message. You absolutely must whittle and hone your core message down to about three to five basic ideas. Make it your goal to get the message out no matter what the question is. Politicians are a master of this technique. Observe them in action and listen to how little attention they actually pay to the particular question. Consider an interview as a battle of opposing goals. The interviewee wants to get you to say something sensational or controversial, because that’s good for ratings. You might decide to give him or her a little of what they want but only so much that it doesn’t interfere with your primary goal of rendering the message.
2. Speaking in Sound Bites. Does point number one leave you speaking in sound bites? Well, yes it does sometimes, and if you’re uncomfortable with that, you probably shouldn’t be giving interviews. The reality of the media world is this. Either you or the reporter are going to give a summary of your message. Wouldn’t you rather it be you? The caveat to this sound bite approach is if you give a long form interview with plenty of time to speak in depth. Opportunities like this are rare unless you’re a Really Big Deal and the person sitting across the table has a name like Larry King or Charlie Rose. Most interviews last a matter of seconds or minutes at best. You have to be proactive in getting the message out quickly or the opportunity will be lost.
3. Bridging. A few paragraphs back we mentioned the proclivity of politicians to ignore the question. What they tend to do is actually a technique called bridging. You don’t want to evade a question or ignore it completely. That turns an audience off. What you can do is at least acknowledge that the question was asked, and perhaps even address the issue directly or very briefly, but then use it to bridge the conversation to a topic of your choosing. Reporters expect this and will be dogged in their determination to get you to answer the original question. Be just as determined to politely get out your message regardless of what they ask.
4. How to Deal with Hostility. In this age of New Media, so many voices competing for limited airspace and bandwidth have caused some hosts to adopt a more sensational approach. They see their job as that of provoking you do do or say something outrageous. Don’t fall for this silliness. You have absolute control over how you respond to a hostile question. Do it correctly and your esteem will soar in the eyes of the viewing audience, while the interviewer looks like a jack ass. Your approach to hostility during an interview should be to ignore the personality, stick to the facts, and get your message out. If this sounds suspiciously like the advice given in the first three steps, now you’re beginning to get it! It really doesn’t matter what sort of gyrations the host goes through to get under your skin. He will only be successful at that if you let him. Simply re-frame the negative question with a positive spin and get your message out.
5. Question the Questioner. In our opinion, this technique could be used much more frequently and effectively than it is. If the interviewer has asked a lengthy, blowhard question, turn it back on him. Ask him to rephrase it. If what he just said is literally nonsensical or incomprehensible, it’s not against the law to ask, “Why do you ask?” or “What do you mean by that?”
Always keep the Big Picture in mind when it comes to giving interviews. Well handled interviews can be a great boost to your public speaking business, but if you give poor interviews, it would probably be better to not talk to the media at all. Remember that you don’t have an obligation to speak to a talking head and should only do so if some personal benefit can be derived.
The Speaking of Wealth Team
(Flickr / paloma.cl)