Preparing for an interview

Preparing for an interview

An interview is a conversation between two people with different aims. You're the specialist. You have the detailed information. You will know more about the subject than the reporter. And you are there because you have something you want to say.

The interviewer's job is to enable you to present the information, explain it fully and in some instances justify your position. The interviewer is looking for a topic that will interest their audience.

There is also a third person involved, the listener. Each programme has its target audience and it's their attention you want.

Preparing for the interview

When you are approached for a radio or television interview, ask the reporter what areas they want to cover and let them know if there is a particular point that you wish to cover. Remember, you have the information they want. Collect in your mind the main points you wish to put over.

Local radio stations may want to do a "down-the-line" interview over the telephone. Find out exactly what the reporter wants to know before you agree to go live or be recorded.

If you are called out of the blue for comment on one matter or another, you may need to gather your thoughts before replying. It is quite typical for media teams to take down the question and call the reporter back after doing the research. This is harder to do if you're contacted directly by name in a live environment, but don't be afraid to take your time to gather your thoughts if the subject is sensitive and you need to buy some time.

If you're being interviewed on a sensitive subject, plan ahead for what other questions you might be asked and prepare responses for those too.

You should ask for the duration of the interview in advance, and what programme it is for. If you don't know the programme, ask the interviewer what sort of audience the show has so you can adjust your language accordingly. If you don't think that show is appropriate for you, do not be afraid to turn the interview down.

The interview itself

Switch off your mobile phone. If the reporter is visiting you, try to avoid distracting background noise, but often the real environment you're in will be exactly what they're after.

You will have in advance prepared your answers to the questions you are expecting, but you can expect some variation and so if a strange question comes at you out of the blue, don't be afraid to pause before giving an answer.

Try to have one point that you particularly wish to emphasis and try to make it in your first answer. Acknowledging the existence of an opposite view will make you appear more human and help your credibility.

Remember both you and the interviewer have control over what is said. Try to answer all their questions but use the opportunity to develop the points that you want to make. You should not feel too restricted by the actual questions asked.

If you are being interviewed in studio, or on location in front of a television camera, always maintain good eye contact with your interviewer. If you are speaking from a remote TV studio, look straight to camera.
Answer briefly, succinctly and with enthusiasm. Avoid jargon and acronyms.

Dress appropriately. The way you look and the impression you give often carries equal weight to what you're actually saying! Professionalism, personal experience, authority and a sense of humour come over well.

Remember you are not just aiming at a "one-off" interview. Always keep in the back of your mind that you may want to be invited back at another time.

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Page last updated: 20th November 2020 1:11 PM
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