Asking the right interview question.
It’s an internal question that most people ask themselves when they’re starting their own podcast or Hangout On-Air.
“How do I fit questions into a 30 minute segment?”
“What do I ask my potential guest?”
“What do I do when the guest gets off topic?”
Let me give you a few interview tips that I have learned along the way when I’ve talked with rock stars, comedians and online authorities.
Interview Tip #1: Do Your Show Preparation a Week in Advance
The purpose behind show preparation isn’t necessarily to ask questions that the guest will anticipate you asking, rather you use the research as reference points during the interview.
There’s always a chance that your guest is going to mention something that references a piece of their own content. When they do this, you have an opportunity to capitalize on their thought if you have done your research. In these cases, you can say, “It’s funny you mention this because I noticed on your blog that you wrote about the parallels of the sun rising every day and consistency of living life. Can you elaborate more on this?”
Although there is an abundance of information that is out there about your guest, they may have detailed thoughts about a particular sub-topic. These sub-topics can open the door for a range of new questions that you are curious to ask.
Interview Tip #2: Break the Ice With Your Guest
The day has come and you have to figure out how to break the ice to your interview. You ask yourself, “How am I going to open this interview and with what type of question?”
The truth of the matter is that you, as the interviewer, will need to be completely aware of everything that is happening. Your awareness of every possible nuance before the interview can lead you into asking your ice-breaking question.
Maybe you had difficulties with getting your Hangout On-Air to work.
Maybe you had audio difficulties.
Perhaps your guest has a crying child in the background at the start of the interview.
Maybe the UPS man stops at your door and delivers a package just as you start.
Most of the times these imperfections provide the perfect segue-way to introducing your guest. Not only does it lighten the mood for your guest, but it can also provide some levity to your listeners or viewers on the final recording.
Of course, you can take a much easier route by having a canned question that you ask your guests every time you hold an interview…
“What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?” -Jared Easely
An inventor gives you the ability to record your dreams. He allows you to watch your dreams at any time, but there’s one rule: you have to watch your dreams with your family and close friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams with you. If you say ‘no’, you can’t use the machine. Would you do it? -Chuck Klosterman
Consistent canned questions are an excellent means to starting an interview as it provides consistency for your viewers/listeners every week.
Interview Tip #3: Listen to Everything Your Guest Has to Say
You have probably heard this a thousand times, but I’m sure that the concept cannot be stressed enough.
Active listening is one key to a successful interview. I promise you this, though: it comes with a bit of practice over time. I can’t tell you how many times I have not listened to an interviewee and lost control of the interview because I wasn’t listening.
Another way to put it: maintain your engagement with your guest. Your guest will appreciate it and so will your listeners.
Interview Tip #4: Smile At The Beginning Of Your Interview
This is an old voice over trick that I learned years ago. It proved to be true as was cutting my teeth in radio broadcasting too. Smiling can enhance, and change, the mood of your viewing/listening audience.
When we smile behind a microphone, it’s not because we are happy, but the physical action of appearing to be happy can change the dynamic of your performance.
Have you ever said to yourself, “I like this podcast/HOA but I just can’t stand how the host’s voice sounds.”?
A lot of this has to do with how a person is emoting their smile.
I know it sounds silly, but you can try this in a number of situations and you’ll notice that people are more drawn to you.
Interview Tip #4: Misdirect Your Questions On Purpose
Depending on the type of interview that you are conducting1 you will need to find a way to put some color into your interview.
One of the most valuable techniques I have used comes from the magician’s world. This technique is called “misdirection”.
Magicians use misdirection to shift the focus from one object to another for the sake of reframing the audience’s perception of the trick.
In the instance of asking questions during your interview, it’s completely fine to ask a question that is not directly related to your interviewees answer. You might think this is “shifting gears” during your interview, but I promise you it’s slightly different.
When you pose a misdirecting question, the intention is to come back full-circle to the originating topic. For the interviewer, you’re making an attempt to reframe a concept by tying another concept to the originating.
To simplify, don’t ask questions that everyone expects you to ask. Although you can still focus on the same topic, don’t be afraid to misdirect conversation on purpose to reach the end goal where people are absolutely fascinated by the answers your guests will give.
The are a couple of big “reveals” when you implement misdirection:
1.) Learning something about your interviewer that no one else has learned.2
2.) Having your audience experience the “ah-ha” moment when you, the interviewer, shed light on a different position of the topic.
Just as a magician does, there has to be a bit of planning that goes into your interview questions before you decide to misdirect.
Here’s an example of misdirection in magic:
Interview Tip #5: Be Yourself and Have Confidence
I understand that starting anything that has to do with a microphone can be nerve-wracking. Trust me, I know. Just yesterday I was telling someone how I had a case of anxiety when I got up on a stage in front of 5,000 people to announce the introduction of a band.
Even though I have performed this act more than I can count, I forgot the fundamental thing that allows me to maintain my composure in making any type of announcement on a microphone:
I don’t care if you speak in front of 10 people or 10,000. It doesn’t change the fact that you are who you are.
For a guy who still has a hard time working up the gumption to stand in front of a large crowd, I always seem to put confidence first before fear. Even if you are the authority in your field, people seem to give you the respect you deserve when you exude honest-to-God confidence.
Let this show in your interview.
In sum, these tips may seem simple but they are probably some of the most fundamental techniques that common interviewers use–depending on the style of interview. While content is what is important, the successful hosts realize that there are a number of factors that help them become a quality host. The aforementioned are the core behind your performance.
As with most things, these will take practice and, as you know, practice makes perfect.
- There are two types of interviews: 1.) Improptu and 2.) Bloggable. Impromptu interviews give you the freedom to ask just about anything where “Bloggable” interviews are centered around the topic of your interview. Perhaps your podcast/HOA interview is titled “Tasting Exotic Coffee and How to Pick the Best.” The main topic you will talk about is tasting exotic coffee and how you can pick the best, but your questions can dig deeper. Ask where the coffee comes from. Are there factories that process the coffee? Where do you learn more about exotic coffee? How does one involve themselves in exotic coffee tasting?” [↩]
- If you’ve heard your guest answer the same question over and over in other HOAs or podcasts, dig a little deeper and throw them a question that has never been asked before. You’d be surprised by some of the answers you get. [↩]