Interview Answers: Short and Sweet

Keep it short and on target.

If you are an author or passionate about a cause, you may have the privilege of interviewing with a radio or TV show or podcast about your book or project. This is a great opportunity, but dealing with interviews takes some effort and skill.

For one thing, you need to remember that it’s not just about you. The host of the show has many concerns they are dealing with in addition to interacting with you, not least of which is the length of time of the interview to fit in their format and length restrictions.

Then you also need to think about the audience and the best or most interesting way for them to hear an interview. One piece of advice I have given here before is to think about it as a tennis match, with succinct answers providing for a well-paced interchange and back-and-forth. You don’t need to tell everything you know about a topic in answer to one question. Give an answer and let the host ask you for more detail. Edit yourself and even though it may be tempting, don’t speak about what’s of interest to you but isn’t answering the question.

It’s generally most interesting to listen to exchanges that are crisp and not super lengthy. This is hard for some people, especially for people who are used to talking for a long time at a stretch, like a teacher or a minister — or a politician!

So, you want to say enough to be interesting but not so much that you spend the whole time on just one or two questions. On more than one occasion I have been onsite with a client, and they come back from an interview and say, “Gee, they only asked me three questions.” And to myself I think, uh-oh. They are most likely giving answers that are too long.

One of the reasons this is coming up now is that CPE, the Christian Product Expo, is coming up in August, and there will be some media there looking for authors to interview.  I’ll be coordinating some of that work to maximize opportunities for them.

But the other reason it came up is because a friend of mine who is a journalist contacted me about an interview that he did recently with an author that he found frustrating because it would require so much editing due to lengthy responses that it was almost unusable. He asked me to remind authors to keep their answers short.

To realize an interview may be rendered useless and never used because answers given were just too long, is pretty stunning to think about. What a waste of a wonderful opportunity.

As he explained that the author took more than seven minutes in reply to one question and nearly six minutes to respond to another, and mentioning the replies were rambling and repetitive, he then said this: “Interviews, as we know, are to be conversations or chats. Preachers shouldn’t use it as the opportunity to deliver a sermon and politicians shouldn’t use it for a filibuster. Let the interviewer ask questions. Especially for radio or television, lengthy answers muddy the message and if it’s taped, increase the chances they’ll get bumped or won’t be asked back. Also, people need a good publicist to do it right and show them how to stay on message.”

Some wise words from a professional.

Are you hoping to do interviews for your book? Are you prepared? Do you have publicity materials developed and ready?

If you want to talk further about learning about interviewing or preparing your materials, we’ll be happy to talk further and see how we might help.

In addition, we’re providing opportunities for authors to work with us at CPE in August and will be providing more information about that soon.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on May 17, 2024.
Joni Sullivan Baker
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