9 tips for conducting an amazing interview that leaves you and your guest feeling like the total rock stars that you are.

Vintage and antique chair with white wall background
(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.

interview

Realness is irresistible. (Tweet it!)

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!

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22 comments

  • Beth

    Perhaps as a corollary to #4, let the interviewee complete their answer. Interviewers who interrupt to tell their own stories (under the guise of “we’re having a conversation”) are irritating! Your listeners may be missing the best part of the response!

    • So true Beth! You can almost feel the interviewers desperation to have the spotlight back in some interviews can’t you?! :)
      Great list Kate – thanks so much for sharing.

  • “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.” This really baffles me! It’s happened to me before, and I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to send them the questions I wanted to be asked. I feel like it’s up to the interviewer to research the guest and to prepare the questions.

  • This was so helpful,even though I have worked in the media for more than Eight years ,My favorite point is to do research and be able to come to them with what you know about them rather than ask them to tell.I agree with you that it makes your guest feel so special that you took ,out the time to research them.Mean while what would you advice me to do ,even as i Begin my journey outside my 9-5 job,one aspect of my business is to interview people who are successfully following their passion and making a life that they want out of it to encourage others to take that leap.

  • Great interview tips kate xx thanks for sharing :) Prita

  • Barbara

    Amazeballs Kate – absolutely spot on tips for the best interviews ever. Loved it.

  • Kate,

    Your blog post is so timely because I am doing interviews over the next couple of weeks. Thank you for your tips and insight!

    With gratitude,
    Robin

  • I loved this whole article. I agree with doing your homework ahead of time and gathering your own questions. I would most likely add at the end of our email, “Is there anything you would love to talk about so I can be sure to include it in the questions?”
    This isn’t asking them to write their own questions but to possible stir in them something the truly love that I may not ask otherwise.
    Also send them the questions ahead of time so they can prepare themselves.

    • I agree with Ashley. It’s hard to be interviewed by the media only to find that they’ve taken one part of a reply and used it out of context. I like getting questions ahead of time. I also like having a chance to respond in writing so that I know the quote will be accurate.

  • Kate, as always, you are so very wise. All I can say about this article is “right on, my friend!” Thank you for the terrific tips!

  • So timely Kate! I just conducted my 3rd interview ever this morning for a podcast series I’m hosting. While I’m loving trying a new medium, these tips will help my interviewee be more engaged and relaxed. And I have learned that Laughter is key to creating realness. Awesomesauce! Thanks! Becky

  • Of course you would send this right when I start doing interviews :) Perfection. Plus it will make next Tues extra great, I hope! ;-)

  • Shayne

    Bang on Kate!!!!

  • So well said – you’re such a great writer, Kate! And reading this makes me realize that the interviews that are enjoyable and seem so natural to watch are thoughtfully put together. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love! Love! Love! Kate!

  • These tips are so helpful – and I love that you replied to Bob Burg’s comment. It made me think ‘who is he?’…and now I’ve watched the video about the book, read the first chapter and got the book on order! I guess that’s the value added / Go-Giver principle in action right there. Love your work Kate – thanks x

  • Kate,
    thank you for writing yet another great article. This gives me the courage and info to start doing my own interview series for kickass solopreneur women to share how they keep healthy and happy while running their online businesses. I love receiving your emails.

  • I like how you suggested asking questions only that you genuinely want to know the answers to. I am interviewing a candidate this afternoon for the first time. Thank you for these great interview tips!

  • I wish I had read these before I started my podcast! I see where I’ve been lazy which is uncomfortable to see.

    I also just recently stopped doing interviews when asked – i.e., when it wasn’t my passion driving me toward the person.

    And, I’ve also been the interviewee and asked about specific excerpts of my book that I did NOT have memorized! OMG! I had to ask the interviewer to refresh my memory. It was properly “refreshed” but it was uncomfortable for a couple seconds! Ha ha!

    Thanks for all of this, Kate!

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