Friday, April 22, 2011

Thrive Live: 5 Tips to Crush a Live Interview

Few things inspire panic like the prospect of a live interview. I love them. There is no interaction with a journalist that offers the opportunity that comes with going live.

What a journalist offers with a live interview is unedited time between you and your audience. This is something that is very hard to pass up. If the opportunity to do a live interview comes your way, say “yes” and follow the five tips below to help you thrive live.

Use focus phrases to lead the audience
Focus phrases help direct the audience’s attention to a key point. For example, a focus phrase like “The most important thing I can say is...” or “Our primary concern is...” or “We are committed to...” can do wonders for making you a memorable guest. Those phrases can also help you focus on delivering the right message at the right time. Planning your focus phrases means you also have to plan your messages. Preparation is key to success. 

Give complete answers
Many interviewers ask yes or no questions. While you can respond that way if you choose, a better way to go is to answer on your terms. For example, you’re doing a quarterly earnings interview and you are asked, “Are you pleased with these results?” You could simply answer yes or no, but there’s not much in that for your audience, you or the interviewer. Some options to consider are: “What we’re pleased with is…” or “Yes, particularly in our tablet sales for the quarter…” or “We need to improve our performance to deliver better results and how we’re going to do that is…”

Answer or respond to every question
People assume that media training means teaching someone to dodge questions. Good trainers teach the exact opposite. Answer or respond to every question because that’s what you agreed to when you said “yes” to doing the interview. You do get to answer or respond to the questions on your terms. Even interviews on controversial topics go better if you are respectful enough to the interviewer to be responsive to their questions.

Don’t repeat the negative words
People instinctively "mirror" back words during conversation to signal their understanding of what has been asked. In a live interview, this natural instinct works against you. For example, an interviewer asks, “How dangerous is your chemical plant?” It’s instinctive to respond, “Our plant is not dangerous…” as you begin your answer. A negative word uttered by a reporter and mirrored back by you becomes your word. A better way to respond to the same question would be: “Our plant is safe…”
Use your time wisely
A typical live interview will last roughly two to five minutes. Keep your responses concise; about 30 to 45 seconds long. Responses that drone on will lose the audience and force the host to interrupt. This takes practice. Remember to prepare. 

Follow these tips and when the red light blinks to life, you have a much higher chance of connecting with the audiences that are important to you and your organization.

Bill Salvin


  1. This is excellent. Especially the advice to execs to understand and seize the unique opportunity for an unfiltered and un-edited response. Getting them thinking of messages is vital. As a counselor, I like the term "focus phrase" - paired with a factual message, you have a memorable, credible media presence, not just a sound bite. This article is a keeper!

  2. Thanks, Robert. Planning the message and giving execs some focus phrases to guide their path helps them focus on something other than the fact that they're on live TV. Thanks for reading.