Interview Like a Pro

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on November 1, 2018

“Never pass up an opportunity to shut up!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given this advice  (perhaps in kinder words) to anchors and reporters when helping them improve their interviewing skills.  This advice can apply to voiceover folks as well when you’re in any kind of situation where you’re trying to get information, say from an author or PR agent.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in an interview is to try and show off how much you know in your questions. The interview is not about you. It’s about your interviewee. Put your ego aside and ask direct, simple questions that will get the best answer out of your interviewee.

And what should you do once you’ve asked this direct question? You got it, shut up!

Another piece of advice I often give about a good interview is that the questions should be like jabs in boxing. They should be forceful and direct and hit the exact spot so they will get the best answer from the other person.

Have you ever noticed how a Q & A is printed online or in a magazine?  The questions are in bold and the answers are in regular type.  Plus, the questions are usually short.  Remembering this can help you avoid another big mistake that many broadcasters make when doing interviews, which is trailing off at the end of a question.

And there’s another reason why printed questions are in bold.  They need to be read, that’s why!  They offer the skeleton structure for the Q & A.

If your questions are weak and your voice trails off at the ends of sentences, they aren’t doing their job of holding the interview together.  In a printed Q & A do you see the ink getting paler and paler as it comes to the end of the question?  Then don’t let your voice do that.  I tell my clients to make the last word of their question as strong as the first word.

So next time you’re doing a Q & A, keep the questions simple and direct, and make sure your voice is strong as you ask your questions.  That’s the winning combination!

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