(Hint: these tips are super helpful for communicating with everyone in your life whether you’re interviewing them or not.)
I’ve been interviewing people I love and find intriguing for Glimpse TV since 2010. I also completed over 50 interviews for the Money Love Story series that I launched prior to my book coming out in 2013. Plus, I’ve been interviewed a boatload of times since I started Katenorthrup.com in 2010.
There have been times after an interview where I’ve felt energized and like the conversation was a gift.
And there have been other times when an interview left me feeling exhausted and annoyed (though I’m always grateful for the experience and the exposure).
So, what’s the difference between a great interview and a so-so interview?
In no particular order, here are my recommendations for conducting a great interview that will leave not only the interviewee feeling awesome and honored but also serve the audience and make you feel like you nailed it.
1. Don’t ask the person you’re interviewing to tell people a little bit about themselves. It makes it sound like you don’t know anything about them and that you haven’t bothered to do any background research. Introduce them with some key highlights from their background that you find particularly poignant and then ask them more specific questions about their story if you want them to expand upon what you said.
2. Only interview people you find genuinely interesting. It’s obvious when someone conducting an interview doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the topic or person they’re talking to. The conversation is dull, and it’s boring to the interviewer, interviewee, and audience.
3. Don’t ask people to recite or comment on very specific parts of their work (like chapter or page numbers) unless you’ve prepared them by reminding them what that chapter or page number was about. Just because someone wrote a book doesn’t mean they’ve memorized it. Help them help you.
4. Ask questions you genuinely want to know the answers to. Chances are good that if you’re curious about something, other people are, too. Even if the question isn’t directly related to the topic the person you’re interviewing is known for, go for it. Well-rounded questions paint the picture of a whole human. We all fall in love with people who come across as three-dimensional.
5. Everyone is a human being and has a life outside of work. When I read Barbara Walters’ book How to Talk With Practically Anybody About Practically Anything, I learned that no matter who you’re talking to, whether it be a head of state or a stay-at-home mom, we all have passions and struggles. Finding out what makes people tick and how we can be of service to them creates genuine connection. Ask your guest about their kids, their hobbies, what shows they’re binge-watching, how they trained their dog, or anything else you find intriguing about them. (Hint: check out their social media accounts for ideas ahead of time if you don’t know them that well.)
6. Don’t be afraid to keep it real.
You’re a human being talking to a human being. Be goofy. Be honest. Ask things you’re nervous to ask. If you’re a huge fan, be a fan girl or fan boy (without gushing). Be uncool.
7. Ask questions they likely haven’t been asked before. I once was interviewed for a podcast where instead of asking me all the same money questions I’d been asked a bunch of times before, the host asked me questions about sex. While I didn’t write a book on sex, she’d done her homework and knew that the second chakra is about money, sex, and power, so she knew it was all related. The interview was so fun, and an hour flew by like it was five minutes. Plus, she was such a good interviewer I felt like we were best friends by the end of it. She wasn’t afraid to go into unfamiliar territory and color outside the lines. It was good for her. It was good for me. It was good for the interview.
8. Be willing to veer off from your script. The best interviews I’ve ever conducted or received have left some wiggle room for the magic that happens when two people are engaged in a conversation about a topic that lights them up. Feel free to plan your questions, but be willing to ask something that comes to you in the moment rather than simply going down the list. This will make it feel like a conversation instead of an interview and will be way more interesting for everyone.
9. Master your logistics:
- Be on time for your interview appointment (being particularly mindful of time zone conversions).
- Confirm your appointment or have your assistant do so and be sure your guest knows if you’ll be calling them, Skyping them, etc., and that you have the correct contact information.
- Don’t send a million emails to your guest.
- Don’t ask your guest for question suggestions. If you want to interview them, hopefully you can find the energy to figure out what you’d like to know about them.
- Test your technology ahead of time.
- Respect the interviewee’s schedule.
- Make it easy for your interviewee to share the interview once it’s posted by sending them an email with an easy copy and paste Tweet, Facebook post, blog/newsletter blurb, and/or Instagram post with a pre-shrunken link.
- Do not hound your guest to share your interview. Simply request that they do so if they feel inclined in an unattached, making-it-easy-for-them kind of way.
- May you take these tips and run with them to spread the word about all the incredible people doing incredible things on this incredible planet!
OVER TO YOU:
What are some of your most favorite interviews? What are the elements that make them so good? Share your tips in the comments below – I would love to hear them, and I know other readers would as well!