Mastering the Art of the Interview
A few weeks ago, my friend Hollie, who is a radio broadcaster at KNCO radio 830 AM, asked me if I’d like to fill in as host for the Monday afternoon show, “On The Town–Tell Me Something Good,” which is broadcast from various locations—mostly restaurants and coffee shops. Who wouldn’t want to interview members of the community about positive activities and events taking place around town—and receive a free lunch in exchange? As someone who spends way too much time in front of her computer, the idea of getting out and talking to people is really appealing. Three weeks ago I officially went into training, and last week I conducted my first on-air interview.
Although I am not trained as a radio broadcaster, I do understand the art of the interview. During the two plus decades I spent producing corporate videos, the first step was always information gathering, talking to a wide range of employees—from factory workers to CEOs. A big part of my job was interviewing non-professional talent—making them comfortable in front of the camera, and asking the right open-ended questions. The answers would reveal pertinent facts and information that could later be edited into a training or promotional program. While I prepared in advance for these interviews, there was no pressure to get it right the first time. It didn’t matter that a CEO might require four or five takes before his statement was the way it needed to be, or that a particular question didn’t prompt the ideal response. In the final edit, everything flowed and looked flawless.
“Tell me Something Good” is a live thirty minute show, something that really hit home moments before conducting my first interview. I didn’t exactly panic, but I was worried. What if I couldn’t think of the right question? Forgot my guests’ names? Didn’t remember when to take a station break? Hollie has been doing the show for so long that she doesn’t do any prep. She books the guests, chats a few minutes before the show begins, jots down a few notes and talks like she’s known them forever. She explained her method, “Just be curious and let the questions come to you.”
Unfortunately, I won’t be booking my own guests until July, so in the meantime, I’ll be following Hollie’s method and hoping for the best. But when I’m doing the show on my own, I’ll want a strategy that makes me feel more secure. It also occurred to me that there might be others—especially article writers and bloggers—who also need to master the art of the interview. So, I did a little research to see if I could come up with a simple approach that would guarantee success.
Here is my 5-step plan for mastering the art of the interview:
- Know the guest. Pick someone who is articulate and knowledgeable and passionate about their subject.
- Learn about the topic ahead of time. Be able to answer basic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.
- Prepare questions in advance. Ask the guest to provide a list of questions they would like to answer.
- Have relevant information on one sheet of paper. Use this information to fill air space and right before station breaks.
- Have fun. Keep it light and go with the flow. Let it be okay to make a mistake.
Listen to my first KNCO radio broadcast.