I gave an interview yesterday on camera and, man, was I rusty! At least it felt that way. Everyone else in the room said it was fine, but we’ll see. Hopefully I’ll benefit from a little editing.
The experience — my first live interview in over a year — got me thinking about how delivering a compelling interview is a kind of art, and one that requires practice.
Whether you’re being interviewed on camera, at a radio studio, over the phone, or via email, it’s your opportunity to showcase yourself, your talents, and your recent work. Obviously you want to make the most of it. Here are a few things I wish I’d been practicing over the past few weeks.
5 ways to give a great author interview
1. Embrace the fact that it’s all about you.
You’re not just the guest; you’re also the subject and star of the show for however many minutes you’ve been afforded. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want to try to outshine the host (after all, it takes many stars to make a constellation), but it’s ok to come out strong, display some big personality, and deliver confident answers. Remember: you’re the absolute authority on YOU.
2. Practice your soundbites and stories ahead of time.
In the days leading up to an interview — when you’re driving around town, when you’re muting the TV during a commercial break, or when you’re taking the dog for a walk — practice asking yourself questions. Throw yourself a few curveballs. Craft some interesting answers, and make sure you’re including all the important information in a succinct way. Then recite your answer aloud.
Why out-loud? Because when you’re nervous your heart beats faster and your breath flutters. Then your voice shakes. Then you’re sunk. Practicing out-loud ahead of time will help you avoid some butterflies.
Also, it’s important to remember that you’re not going to have time to squeeze in everything you want to say; so be ready to adapt your practiced answers on the fly.
3. Avoid one word answers — even if it’s a yes or no question.
The point of the interview is for you to tell your story. So tell it!
If the interviewer asks you Were you nervous to put out your 2nd novel?, don’t just say yep. Give them the grit and drama, the struggle to overcome, the breakthroughs and brilliance!
4. Don’t be long-winded.
On the other hand, you want the interview to seem like a conversation. Don’t bloviate — and don’t make the interviewer have to constantly interrupt you. Give them a chance to respond or ask another question.
It’s even ok to discuss this beforehand with the interviewer. Ask them how many questions they’d like to ask. Divide that by the total time for the interview, and then you’ll even have an average timeframe to shoot for with each answer.
5. Bring it back around to you.
Sometimes interviewers can get off-topic. Who knows why!
If they do get off topic, roll with it for a bit. Be good humored about it. But if they go too long without asking you a question that you feel is relevant to your writing life or career, find a way to guide the discussion back on course. After all, you only have so many minutes to get the word out, so you wanna use every one of those minutes wisely.
Like anything, practice is the key to success. The more you practice, the better your interviews will be. The better your interviews, the more new opportunities will open up. And if you’re rusty (like I was), just shake it off — and aim to do a little better next time.
How do you prepare for interviews? What do you focus on during the interview to make it interesting? Let us know in the comments section below.