10 Interview Tips

Stephanie Brown used to work here in the library.  Now she works at the University of Pennsylvania Press in the marketing department.  She often interviews authors and publishes those interviews as a Podcast.

She recently published a post on her blog that aims to help academics (although really, these tips can apply to just about anyone) prepare for and give an audio or video interview.  I thought they were so useful I wanted to repost them here in our blog, since we see so many people in the Digital Media Lab who use our equipment to interview other people.

Just because you know a lot about a topic doesn’t mean that you’re comfortable speaking publicly or conveying information in a way that works for modern television, radio, and web interviews. As she puts it, most of the people she interviews are “more comfortable poring over archives than pouring their guts out for the cameras and microphones.”

Also, and Stephanie doesn’t go into this, but there are certain circumstances where an interview can have an adversarial quality to it, where the journalist/interviewer is trying to pry a juicy piece of information or soundbite away from an interviewee who doesn’t want to give it. Using Stephanie’s tips to help yourself prepare for an interview can keep you from falling into the trap of saying things you might not otherwise want recorded on film.

If you’re an interviewer, considering passing this post along to the person you’re interviewing.  My guess is you’ll end up with a much better final result.

Here’s Stephanie’s first tip, to give you a feel for the kind of thing she’s talking about:

1. Do Your Homework.
Write a two-sentence statement about the central argument or subject of your book or research and practice saying it out loud. Really keep it down to two essential sentences. Okay. Three. Next, jot down three to five key talking points that support your main idea. Say these statements out loud, then revise them for clarity.

You may have done this exercise for other purposes, but this time make sure to aim for an audience of intelligent people outside of your field. If you have problems keeping your statements brief and clear, set some parameters. Use a timer. Learn what can you say about your work in less than five minutes, three minutes, 30 seconds, 10 seconds.

Professional journalists probably won’t give you a complete list of questions before an interview. Yet, you can prepare by learning as much as you can about the reporter or producer’s style. Feel free to ask him questions about the process. Will the program be edited? Is it a call-in show? How long will the interview really take? Is the program a satire? Watching or listening to earlier episodes of the program will give you a good idea of what to expect. Pay attention to how much time the host gives the guest to answer each question. It’s probably less time than you think.

Rehearse your talking points with a supportive, non-judgmental friend or colleague. Record yourself and play it back. Cringe, improve, repeat.

Read her post for the other 9!  http://stephaniebrownwrites.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/10-tv-and-radio-interview-tips-for-academics/

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