Interviews. They can be enlightening and entertaining. But all too often they're thoroughly irritating for everyone involved. I know about this from personal experience. After producing radio shows for a number of years, I've heard more bad interviews than I'd like to count. So, in an effort to improve the situation for everyone, I've put together a list of thoughts and recommendations specifically tailored for authors being interviewed on radio:
• Prepare and submit 6-8 specific talking points for the interview. These should be the core ideas of your book or article. For the record, talking points are not the same as "suggested interview questions" publishers typically provide. Instead, submit bulleted talking points that concisely convey unique ideas or concepts from your book. They should be as short as possible. No more than one sentence is necessary. Ideally, talking points should tease ideas, but not completely give them away. They should compel the interviewer to WANT to ask their own questions, rather than robotically read questions that have been provided.
• Keep your responses to interview questions to about 1 minute in length. A little less would be even better. Think of it as a conversation over coffee with a friend. If you dominated the conversation by droning on and on, your friend wouldn't invite you to have coffee with them again. If you do that to us, we probably won't invite you back either. Treat the interview like a conversation, and you'll sound great.
• Don't respond to every interview question with "That's a great question!" This is a verbal crutch that often lacks sincerity, and always lacks creativity. The interviewer doesn't need your encouragement. The best interviewees understand that no transition phrase is needed after being asked a question. Simply launch right into your answer and you'll sound much more competent.
• Don't mention the title of your book during the interview. You wrote a book. Congratulations. Now stop incessantly wrenching-in the title of your book into every answer. The more you say things like, "In my new book, ____", the more you sound like you're the host of a cheesy infomercial. Let the interviewer mention your book at strategic points in the interview. Prove your book is good by talking about the IDEAS in it, not by saying the title over, and over, and...
• Don't mention chapter titles or chapter numbers from your book either. This also makes you sound like you're hosting an infomercial. Plus, no one listening can see your book or reference a particular chapter. Let your ideas dominate the conversation. There's no need to mention chapters by name or number.
• The interviewer likely didn't read your book. Don’t be shocked by this. On some programs, two to three authors are interviewed per day. That means it's not humanly possible for a host to read the books that will be featured on a particular program. So, don't EVER ask on-air whether an interviewer has read your book. Expect that they didn't.
• Yield to the interviewer. The interviewer is in charge – you aren’t. That means you need to yield to them throughout the interview whether you like it or not. Don't make on-air suggestions, such as taking listener calls. Don’t tell the interviewer on-air what you want to talk about "after the break". Don't ignore a question and respond to a different one that you'd rather answer. Get the point? Always let the interviewer lead.
• Provide at least one viable backup number for the interview. Why? Because if you accidentally miss the interview you'll embarrass yourself and the radio station. You'll also force the host to say something on-air to explain why you're not there. No matter how you slice it - it's not going to look good for you. And if you miss an interview you probably won’t ever be invited back on the show again. I don’t care who you are, how ‘important’ you may be, or how many books you’ve sold. You MUST provide a viable backup number!
• Get yourself to a landline phone if at all possible. No matter how good your cell phone signal is, your call will likely have hiccups and momentary drops. This makes you sound like an amateur. If you can't find a landline phone, look for a place with strong cell service and stay put for the duration of the interview.
• Get to a quiet place for the interview. There's nothing more distracting for the host or a listener than hearing background noises. Car horns, loud music, and other people talking should be avoided at all costs.
• Be conscious of how you're holding the phone during the interview. If you smash your mouth against the receiver, you'll sound distorted. If you hold it up by your nose, we'll hear you breathing loudly. If you're yelling (like so many people do when they're talking on the phone), you'll distort your voice as well. There's no one-size-fits-all solution here, as everyone's voice and speaking style are different. Just take time to think through it so you can sound as good as possible.
• Have fun! Even if this is the fiftieth interview you'd done on the subject, it's the first time most of the listeners are hearing about it. Find a way to get yourself re-engaged in the topic. Providing the talking points I mentioned earlier can help with this, because you won’t hear the same set of questions in every interview. Remember - If you don't sound interested in what you're talking about, the odds are that no one else involved will be interested either.
What would YOU add or subtract from this list?