Just in case you don't have time or inclination to listen to this week's Diary of a Shameless Self-Promoter:
Ever catch yourself bored to death in your own interview of a CEO or book author you thought would be interesting? Ever meet with an interview guest to discover she's just a pompous blowhard spouting corporate jargon? Or worse, that you can't remember what she just said two minutes ago?
I'll soon be giving a seminar on Interviews that ROCK: Getting the Most out of Your Guests at the New Media Expo later this month. In my research and anecdote-collecting, I came across five common pitfalls that every interviewer, whether an independent business owner, podcaster or PR professional, invariably runs across:
- Your guest is dull as dirt. It happens sometimes--we choose a dud of an interview subject. Could be that he's just not media-trained or microphone-shy, but the best you can do is get the heck out. End the interview and edit the content to something useful.
- Your guest is a pompous blowhard. Sometimes a talkative guest just loves the sound of his own voice and won't stay on the topic that your listeners or readers want to hear about. In episode 34 of her Trafcom News Podcast, Donna Pappacosta suggests something like, "This is really interesting, but I don't want to take up too much of your valuable time. So could we get back to the topic of XXX?"
- You space out and discover you weren't paying attention. This also happens more than we non-media-trained types care to admit. It's late; we're tired; we know it's a good interview and are checking sound levels... and then hear that crushing silence that means the guest is done speaking and we have no idea what she just said. Of course, the best thing to do is to pay attention to begin with--active note-taking can help with being fully engaged for the entire interview. But if you do space out, try this, "Oh, that was so interesting that I lost track of my next question! Let me check... To switch topics a bit, can you tell us about... ?"
- The guest uses jargon you don't understand.CorporateSpeak--you know what I mean. "Pushing the envelope" and "thinking outside the box" and "shifting paradigms" and "achieving critical mass with core competencies." What the heck do those really mean? If you don't know, your listeners or readers won't, either. Solution? Just ask. And if you don't understand the answer, ask again. And again. Ask to be spoken to as if the guest were explaining it to a small child--or his mother.
- The guest is on a cell phone, and you can't hear her clearly. For a good list of reasons why doing any interview over a cell phone is a bad idea, see Leesa Barnes' post on this. Just don't do it. Insist he or she use a land line. If she isn't near one, reschedule for when she can be. Your podcast will be a million times easier to edit, and you won't pull your hair out trying to understand your guest!