March 2023 Interview Tip: It’s His Show
Interview tips and stories from normally nice Christian journalists who interview authors.
Over my years of working with authors and Christian journalists, I’ve gained some insights from the journalists, and I think of those as tales from the front lines. In coming months, I’ll be sharing some of those, as they provide some insights and tips on doing your best at being interviewed.
Or put another way, what NOT to do when being interviewed.
Here’s the first one.
It’s been so long ago now I don’t even remember if it was voice mail or email, but the nice Christian journalist was truly annoyed. I’d never seen this side of him, so I called him as soon as I could.
He had interviewed an author I was working with, and even in his anger he was quick to say the author had a great story and the interview had gone well.
But he had some tips for me to pass along because the author had unknowingly made a major faux pas, and to be fair, it’s not one that had ever occurred to me I needed to caution authors about.
Here’s what happened.
Time was running out, the interview was live, and the closing music started.
Because on this show, like many, as the end nears, some background music starts, and the host does his “outro” or ending to close the show. Often show hosts have a few scripted sentences they repeat every show and it becomes an important part of the show brand.
But this time, the author ignored all the cues I suspect were given about time running out, and kept talking, all the way through the final moments of the live show. The host never got to sign off, and the author never understood what they did.
The show host was understandably frustrated, because after all, it is his show and it should end the way he wants it to.
To be fair, because of some technical issues in the radio station that day, the host didn’t have a way to silence the guest’s microphone.
Because, he explained, he would have.
That is a severe action, doesn’t ever reflect well on the guest, but you’ve probably heard interviews or call in shows where that has occurred.
So for him to say he would have cut off the guest’s mic, that was serious.
What should have happened?
The author should have been listening to the host and letting him take the lead.
The biggest take away from this, and it applies in many other situations, is to always remember it’s not your show. It’s the host’s. Many Christian interviewers are humble, gentle people, but they are also professionals who have standards to uphold to produce a quality interview and show. That’s part of their ministry and service to God. They take it seriously. So while they are going to be very nice to you, and might fool you into thinking it’s all very casual, it’s not.
They want you to be relaxed and casual because you do a better interview that way. But they are in charge.
They will be asking you questions. Give them just a couple of sentences in response, and let them ask something else.
And they may give you clues during the interview that you need to try to pay attention to.
For one thing, they may interrupt you and cut off those extra important details you were adding in some story. Let them. That’s a clue. If it happens a second time, not good. Make sure you are paying attention and shortening your answers.
Also, they’ll be watching the clock and how much time remains. This will be just about impossible for you to keep track of as you respond about your passion subject, and that’s OK. But let them guide you. And LISTEN.
When they say things like,
“I wish we had more time to talk about this, but in just a few seconds can you tell us what the most important…” That’s a clue (it’s more like an instruction) to summarize or choose one thing to mention or whatever. That’s not an invitation to a monologue.
“As we wrap up, we have time for just one more thing. Could you tell us….”
“We have just 10 seconds. Is there anything else you want to add?”
Then react accordingly.
You let them set the pace, take the lead, and generally–assuming it’s a friendly not adversarial interview–you don’t interrupt them, and you don’t correct them.
Another way to think of it might be: you want to make them look good.
Think of a public setting where you are with, say, your boss or CEO, or your father in law, or some celebrity or local official doing you a favor by speaking at your event.
You let them shine, you let them look good.
This benefits you, too, of course.
In an interview situation, if they love you and the interview, they will help boost you and your book or cause.
If it was a taped interview and you have annoyed them, they may never run the interview.
There are more tales from the front lines to come.