I’m rarely on the other side of the microphone during an interview, and I like it that way. Still, a few times over the years a writer has asked me to chat with them about something I have worked on or had some knowledge of. I’ve been good, and I have been not so good.
Anyone who isn’t a natural, off-the-cuff speaker can get tongue-tied or say something they didn’t really mean to say during an interview. Preparation for and understanding the interview process can help you get your point across clearly, while also giving a good story.
Know what you want to say. Write down two or three key points that you want to make on the topic being discussed. Let the interviewer know that this is information that you consider vital to understanding the subject. Ideally the interviewer will come to you without any pre-conceived ideas of the story, but it’s possible that a previous interview subject, or research done in advance of the interview, has influenced them.
Know who’s reading. Tailor your answers to your audience. You wouldn’t talk to a customer as if he was an employee or an employee as if she was a customer. They have different interests. If you are unfamiliar with the publication you are being interviewed for, ask who the readers are.
Relax. The interviewer is not your enemy. Everyone wants the story resulting from the interview to be good, so approach the interview as if you are talking to a new, curious acquaintance. A good interviewer will guide you through the process.
Make it real. Give details that bring your subject to life. If you are instituting a new business strategy, explain what the employee or customer will experience as a result. Even better, offer a specific employee or customer story that illustrates your point.
Stop when you have finished. A standard interviewing tactic is keeping quiet. Most of us want to fill up that awkward silence, and start babbling away. Don’t start filling up that dead air with words. Just ask if there’s anything else the interviewer needs to know, and take it from there.