Guest Post by Steve Orr
You get a call from a reporter who wants to interview you about your small business’s latest offering. A TV producer wants you for a segment on a trend in your industry. Or a podcast host wants to talk about your journey as a small business entrepreneur. Consider these potential scenarios as opportunities rather than nuisances. Interviews are free publicity. They’re also a chance to share your expertise, passion and to talk positively about your business, too.
But you must do your homework before any such appearance. One of the biggest mistakes is believing preparation will ruin your spontaneity or authenticity. Trust me, it won’t. Another mistake is trying to say too much about too many things. A third is taking too long to answer a question.
So, here are three key steps to meet the audience’s needs and get your message(s) across:
Begin by asking yourself two questions from the audience’s point of view. Why is this significant? And why should I care? For example, if the audience is most interested in how your product will save time and money don’t spend the bulk of an interview dissecting its design specifications.
Then focus on the three most important points you want your audience to remember. More than that and your points likely won’t stick. Consider the three points as your headlines.
The next step is to add some meat to those headlines. How? Use stories, anecdotes, facts, studies, surveys or meaningful data. Information like that will support and illustrate your major points. Think of it as providing highlights.
If possible, during an interview, weave your major points into your answers at least three times. But use different information—whether it’s another story or piece of data—to keep things fresh. Keep in mind that audiences need to hear the same point multiple times to remember it.
Another bit of advice as you focus on your messages: Avoid jargon and explain complex terms. Think in terms of vivid and descriptive language, such as analogies, similes and metaphors. Short and punchy sentences, too.
To quote Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
It’s a two-fold preparation process.
First, is the show-centric preparation. That means you need to ask some questions. Such as:
- Who is the target audience and what are their needs, desires and pain points?
- What is the article, TV segment or podcast episode’s topic(s)?
- Can I receive the questions in advance (don’t be surprised if the answer is no)?
- How long is the interview?
- Where will the interview take place? TV or podcast host’s studio? Zoom, a special recording app, your phone? Will it be live or recorded?
Listen to past episodes of podcast host’s show. Pay special attention to the host’s interviewing style. Is it friendly, lighthearted or skeptical? Are the episodes a deep dive into one area or more wide-ranging?
Check out a reporter’s articles, LinkedIn profile, tweets…anything that will shed light on who’s interviewing you. It could help you establish rapport.
Second, is the you-centric preparation. Start with having a thorough knowledge of the latest news and trends in your industry. It goes without saying that you need to know your own business thoroughly.
Be clear about the objective of your interview. Are you there to inform, promote or persuade?
It can be helpful to prepare a list of expected questions. But also anticipate the unexpected, whether it’s a difficult question about your business or a hypothetical question about what tree you’d be.
Your goal is to be authentic, knowledgeable and entertaining. And if you’re in front of a microphone that includes how you sound.
Breathe from your diaphragm (or belly), which will help you relax and sound more natural. Try to have a smile on your face, which will help put a smile in your voice. It’ll help you sound more friendly and approachable.
Never speak in a monotone. Vary your tone and pitch. You can add energy and emotion through voice inflection. Vary your pacing and pause before and after a key point, giving the audience a moment to digest the information.
Many of us talk with our hands. So, gesturing with your hands can help add life to your words. Don’t worry that no one may see your gestures. Doing what comes naturally to you will help you sound natural.
Finally, conduct mock interviews with a trusted colleague, friend or significant other. Time yourself using a stopwatch. Your answers don’t need to be longer than 30 to 60 seconds. Tape yourself and critique your answers.
If you’re like most people you don’t like to see yourself on camera or hear yourself on tape. Get over it. Practice, practice, practice is more than the punchline to the joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall. It’ll make you a more effective, concise and confident guest. And that can only help your business!
About the Author
Steve Orr is the founder of Steve Orr Media, which helps clients become stellar speakers or engaging podcasters.