How to Prepare for Media Interviews Like a Pro - Podcasts, Radio, Print, and TelevisionAfter giving countless media interviews, learning a few things the hard way, and going through formal media training, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite tips to make your media appearances shine.

Use These Media Training Tips

Be available when the media calls – Things move quickly in the news world and most of the time reporters and producers are working on a deadline. With this in mind, make it easy for the media to reach you by providing your cell phone number and an email address that gets priority attention. I once missed a HUGE media opportunity when I stayed home with my sick kid and didn’t check voice mail until the next day. By then it was too late and they found someone else. Don’t let this happen to you!

Know your talking points – In the event that you are interviewed about your book, a new program you have launched, or anything else that is newsworthy, make sure you’re clear about what points you want to make. Without a clear plan, your answers could ramble and you risk making mistakes. Guests are expected to talk in sound bites—which essentially means that thoughtful answers should be conveyed swiftly. If the producer were to edit out bits of your interview for promotional purposes, they’d want to capture information and ideas in short quotes.

For radio and television, there is no editing and everything you say is recorded for all eternity. Consider this incentive to know your key messages, practice them, say them out loud in the car, have your kids interview you at the dinner table—and do whatever it takes to always be ready. Company CEOs and political candidates practice and prepare their messages and so should you!

Be ready for rapid fire – Television news programs move through segments at lightning speed. To get a better understanding of how this works, study the Today Show or Good Morning America. Guests are typically on for just a few minutes and questions move swiftly. Your answers should be brief and to the point. In fact, you should be speaking in sound bites so that each statement you make could stand on its own. This is where those talking points really come in handy. TV and radio show producers like guests who keep up with the pace, demonstrate their expertise, and show confidence. Preparation in advance will set you up for success.

Remember to smile – You don’t want to look miserable or tense on camera and if you’re on the radio, a smile will radiate through your voice.

Check your facial expressions – Try filming yourself while someone interviews you and study how your face looks. I recently watched back an interview I gave and learned the meaning of the term “resting bitch face!” Even after all these years and countless media interviews, I didn’t realize that what feels like concentration to me can look like anger to the audience. I was mortified. I’ve since committed to monitoring my expressions for every interview going forward.

Dress appropriately – If you’re on TV, it is best to wear solid, bright colors. Prints and patterns don’t translate well on TV. Also, when interviewing in person, whether with a reporter for the local paper or a major news channel, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. For women, makeup should be applied slightly heavier than usual since the lighting can wash you out.

Avoid selling – Landing a media interview is not a license to sell. It’s a give-more-than-take situation and you walk a fine line when promoting your book. Beware of coming off like you’re giving a sales pitch. Instead, work some examples into your talking points like, “In the book, I talk at length about XYZ.” Though you want to get the most from your media appearance, you also don’t want to give the producers—or the audience—the impression that you are just there to sell.

Be the ultimate interviewee – An interview with a print journalist isn’t as high-pressure as a live TV or radio interview, but it can hold just as much value. The journalist may have a set list of questions to ask you when he calls and then midway through the interview he could change things up if he decides to take a different slant for the story. Go with the flow while being professional and gracious. In some cases, you can actually help shape the story. Remember, you are the authority on the subject matter. If the reporter’s approach isn’t quite right, you can gently suggest covering the story
from a different angle, which could end up being a win-win situation for both of you.

Ask questions – You have the right to ask when the story is going to run and for a copy of the article or video clip for your website. You should know that some media outlets will either charge you to reprint the story on your own site or forbid you from publishing it altogether. If that is the case, you can still mention your appearance and link to the story if it’s available online.

Make a lasting impression – When you give a good interview, you increase your odds of being interviewed by the same outlet again in the future. To really be memorable, send a thank-you note after the interview. Not enough people take this crucial step, which will help you be a memorable contributor. You can also touch base with the producer or reporter again months down the road to remind them that you are available for interviews. Better yet, send along another interesting story pitch and a reminder about your previous appearance. Make their jobs easier by becoming a trusted, go-to source and you will build media relationships that can be leveraged again and again.

Be an In-Demand Guest for Radio and Podcasts

Being invited as a guest on a radio show or podcast is an honor and if you want to dazzle the audience and the host, there are some simple guidelines you can follow to ensure your interview is a success.

Let the host lead – Your job as a guest is to make the host look good. That means following the host’s lead at all times. Avoid talking over your host. Be patient and wait for questions. Never offend or talk down to the host. Instead, be gracious and professional at all times.

Talk in sound bites –To get an idea about how this works, listen to interviews on popular podcasts or radio programs. As a guest, your answers to interview questions should be brief and to the point. To shine as a radio guest, be mindful of time. Avoid going on and on in interviews and instead keep your answers to a few sentences or less unless the question warrants a longer response. There is often more leeway on podcasts, especially if you’re the featured guest for thirty minutes or more, but you should still make sure you’re sticking to the topic at hand and keeping pace with the host.

Tell stories – When asked questions by your host, make the interview more interesting by giving thoughtful examples and real-life stories. You can do this by sharing stories from your own experiences or examples from your book. Storytelling can captivate an audience and contribute to an excellent interview. Plan the stories you want to share prior to your interview so that you come across polished and prepared.

Pace yourself – Talking too fast can be overwhelming for listeners and talking too slow can hurt the pace of the interview. Pay attention to your pace.

Have a conversation – The best interviews are the ones that aren’t forced. Talk to the host as if you’re talking to a friend. That rapport and camaraderie can translate into an excellent and entertaining interview for listeners.

Never, never, never sell – As a guest, your job is to entertain and inform the audience. The show is not there so that you can give a commercial; otherwise you would be paying for placement. If you make the interview all about your book, you’ll never be asked back. Worse, you will turn off the audience.

Be prepared for the close – Oftentimes the host will ask where the audience can learn more about you. This is your chance to give your website address along with a call to action. For example, you might offer listeners a special bonus if they log onto your website and sign up for your mailing list or share a special coupon code valid that day only.

It’s a good idea to run promotion ideas by the host or producer ahead of time. For example, you might want to give away a special report to all listeners who sign up for your email list. If that’s the case, make sure to ask first so you don’t cross any lines. You might also partner with the show to do some kind of book giveaway to listeners. This gives the host added incentive to promote your book and makes it fun for the audience.

Practice – If you’re just getting started with radio interviews, enlist a friend to do some mock interviews with you. Nothing removes fear like preparation. This will also help you sound like a seasoned pro when it’s time to do the real thing.

Take a deep breath – Your first few interviews may seem a little scary, but with practice it will get much easier. The audience can’t see you; so you can sit at your desk with notes all around you (place your sample interview questions with answers front and center). Nobody will be the wiser.

Remember to treat interviews like a conversation. Take a deep breath and have fun with it. Don’t forget to prepare beforehand. If you’ve prepared interview questions and answers, you’ve won half the battle. When it’s all over, you’ll realize that you were more prepared than you thought.

Bonus tip – Have a glass of water with a straw nearby (minus the ice since it can make noise) during interviews since your mouth will get dry when doing a lot of talking.

Get Equipment for At-Home Interviews

  • Web camera – Logitech is a popular choice
  • Flexible tripod to adjust camera angle
  • A separate tripod for interviews on your phone
  • Good lighting – a selfie light or simple desk lamp pointed at your face
  • Microphone – Blue Yeti or Audio Technica
  • iPhone with cordless earbuds can be an alternative to the above
  • Thoughtful background, even if it’s just a curtain

EXERCISE: Prepare Interview Questions and Answers 

Make a list of interview questions you expect to be asked. Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer. What does the audience want to know? What do you hope to be asked? What questions are you often asked by readers, clients, peers, etc.?

Next, write out how you will answer each question. Remember to speak in sound bites and make your answers memorable.

Read your answers out loud and practice them over and over again until your key points are committed to memory. This is what the pros (and politicians) do and will ensure you are polished and succinct when in the media hot seat. Being well-prepared can also removed a lot of the nerves you may be feeling.

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