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How to Prepare to Do a Great Interview

A great interview on TV or radio can set you apart, get you noticed, and can even change the course of your life and that of your business or organization.

A bad one can do all of the above, but in a very negative way. It can actually make you look unprepared, stupid, and inept. That can impact your reputation and your bottom line. So with that in mind, how do you pull this off well? Here are some quick tips.

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK...IN ADVANCE...LIKE NOW
    You're not always sure WHEN you'll be interviewed, so it will benefit you immensely to work on your messages as soon as you can. Did I say immediately? If getting "that call" sends you into instant paralyzing panic, that's not good. Given what is potentially at stake, you can't put this off until the forever "next week." Figure out the 5 or 6 vital things you must get across and work on making them laser-focused and clear.

  2. HONE YOUR MESSAGES...MAKE THEM INTO SOUNDBITES
    You can do this on your computer, but I feel there is something more earthy and closer to you and your work when you actually write these messages down. Don't be too critical on yourself at first. You may need a paragraph for each of your messages. Just don't leave them that way. You have to be able to eventually slice them down to 15-seconds or less. It's a tougher assignment than you think. If the reporter or host gives you more time, then elaborate, but only then. You need to have your best stuff right off the top, and it must be clear, concise, and powerful.

  3. ANTICIPATE HOSTILE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE
    Pray you don't get any of these, but also face reality. You probably will get some of these and you better be prepared in advance. You want to be ready to be as smooth with these responses as you are with your central messages. How? Get outside yourself for a few minutes and take a look as if you were an aggressive reporter. Come up now with all the questions you NEVER want to get asked. The nightmare questions. Then do a different kind of messaging so that you have a ready answer for all of at least your top 10.

  4. BRIDGE YOUR WAY BACK TO YOUR MESSAGES
    Remember this is YOUR interview. It only is the reporter's interview when you let that happen. Your interview is not really a question and answer session. It only feels like one. It is rather a platform for you to say what YOU want to communicate, and with all cool politeness, you must treat it that way---for your benefit. When you "bridge" you simply use the reporter's question to give a brief, one sentence answer and then transition right into your message. (And by the way, don't say..."as I said before...." Treat each message as a stand-alone being said for the first time.)

  5. DON'T BE INTIMIDATED. REMEMBER YOU ARE THE EXPERT
    Most interviews are not hostile, but a few can be. You must "fly above it." Never get sucked into the reporter's demeanor or anger. Some reporters will try to "bait" you with inflammatory words. Don't repeat them. Stick with your messages. I won't flat-out say IGNORE the question, but take it with a grain of salt, answer calmly and quickly, and bridge back to your messages. Before you go on the air, remember... you know more about your subject than almost anyone else in your area. You are the expert. Be polite, but don't be intimidated.

These suggestions aren't everything, but hopefully a good start. Even if you can master just these areas, you will be far ahead of most of the people who are interviewed, and your chances of doing well are multiplied.

--Neal Browne, Expert Media Coach

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