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8 Tips: The art of being interviewed

Amy DeLouiserealpeoplerealcameraYou’re stepping up to the microphone for a podcast interview, or the cameras are about to roll on a video interview. What do you do to make your case? How do you promote your personal brand without coming off as too egotistical? How should you prepare? What should you wear? Not everyone is an interview natural, but as someone who works on the other side of the camera and microphone as an interviewer, I’d like to share a few strategies and tips that will make you more comfortable and more effective.

  1. Record Yourself
    We all have access to an amazing tool right in our pockets: an audio and video recording device called a smart phone! Mine even records 4K! Take the opportunity to use this tool and see how you sound and look. If you are recording video, the first thing you will probably notice is that you don’t seem as pleasant as think you are on camera. None of us smiles as much as we need to for video. Take a look at a cooking show or a newscast with the sound off. Look how often the host or anchor is smiling. Give it a try. Smiling—even while being recorded for audio only—will change the tone of your voice and give the interviewer an engaging partner for this duet.
  2. Plan Ahead
    Memorizing answers is always the death knell for an interview. As an interviewer, I often dodge sending all my questions in advance for just this reason. That said, if you have some key talking points about your work or your book, you’ll want to review them in advance. You can even try recording a few answers in your practice takes as noted above.  Even if the interviewer doesn’t quite ask the right question, by having your key answers at hand, you’ll be able to adjust and still deliver your most important answers.
  3. Tell Stories
    People remember stories much more than a list of facts. So if you are talking about your new book on Physics, it will be a much more interesting interview if you tell that crazy story of how you first got started in the field. Or the real-world situation you recently observed about a truck trying to come to a stop that perfectly describes the conservation of momentum, which can lead you to explain your philosophy of text-book writing in the sciences.  Have a few stories ready, even if you only get to use one or two.  You can even help your interviewer by telling them to “ask me about the truck incident”. Believe me, if they’re on deadline, they’ll be grateful for the help.
  4. Brand Yourself
    Everyone has a brand. Not everyone is good at sharing it. Practice your “elevator pitch”: a few short sentences that describe you and your work. It’s great to include your credentials. It’s even better to include some personal qualities that set you apart. For example, I’m a video producer-director who specializes in short form branded content storytelling. There are thousands of other people who do what I do. So while that is part of my elevator pitch, I also tell people that I’m someone who knows how to draw out the best from real people in front of the camera. That’s a slightly more memorable take on my career focus.
  5. Provide Added Content for Your Community
    When you’re doing a book interview, it’s great to have supplemental content you can point to as well as the book itself. Because ultimately, you are building a community who will hopefully buy more than this one book. Your additional content might be a blog with lots of solutions to common problems for teachers of physics. It might be supplemental exercises or templates that can be downloaded from your website. It might be a series of short video how-to’s you created. Whatever additional content you can refer to in the interview bolsters your standing as an expert, and sends the listeners/viewers to your branded content for more interactions with you.
  6. Cross Promote on Social Media
    If you have an interview coming up, be sure to post about it to your Twitter stream, your Facebook page, your Linked In page, your blog, etc. Hopefully you are already using a social media management tool like Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social to manage your social posts, so it won’t be difficult to schedule this in advance. You’ll also want to schedule a link to the final video, wherever it may live.
  7. Wear Solids, No Silk, Colors
    Silk ties and blouses make for bad audio if you have a lavalier microphone clipped to your tie or shirt. There is just something about this fabric that makes for scratchy sounds, no matter what we do. If you are on camera, try to wear solids—a jacket and shirt without a herringbone or cross-hatch pattern, a tie that’s not too busy, or a nice solid jewel-tone jacket for women. All black and all white do not work well for camera. Always bring a few back-up options—more than one tie for men, more than one jacket or top for women. I once had to send a production assistant to someone’s dry cleaner to pick up another suit because the ones she brought to the set—despite my request for no black—were all black. We have fantastically advanced digital cameras now, with incredible sensors. That said, lighting techniques and the skill of the camera person are still part of the equation. You control neither. So stay safe with your clothing options.
  8. Enjoy Yourself!
    I know this is the hardest advice to take, especially for us natural introverts. But try to have a good time during your interview. Refer to your interviewer by their first name a few times during your answers. It will force you to be more conversational. It always helps to have a phone conversation in advance with your interviewer, and chat about a few personal things. This will give you both a little bit of a relationship to build upon. Try to be as natural as you can be, and most of all, have a little fun!

Amy DeLouise is an award-winning video director-producer and author of The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press/Routledge).

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Textbook & Academic Authors Association. Read more about TAA guest posts here.