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Interviewing mistakes and how to avoid them

 

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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The very first interview I ever did in my radio career was with Will Smith.

Yep, that’s right, at the ripe old age of 20 I sat down across from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, by myself, and attempted to ask him questions, while trying not to die of a heart attack.

Unbelievably, to this day it still remains one of my favourite interviews.

Part of the reason was he was delightful to me, but knowing what I know now, I realise that was probably because he thought I was a lost child who’d accidentally wandered into his hotel suite.

For a lot of interview subjects, particularly celebrities, there can be a real sense of distrust when they’re being interviewed. More often than not they have no idea what you’re going to ask them and in this click bait obsessed world, it’s easy to assume someone will try to trip you up or twist your words to get more eyes or ears on their interview. As a result, it’s more common for interview subjects to shut down than open up. To have a good interview it’s important the subject feels comfortable and clearly, there’s nothing less intimidating than a nervous 20-year-old who seems slightly confused about how she ended up sitting across from Will Smith

The other reason it went well, apart from him taking pity on me, was that I was so flippin’ prepared I could have told him things about himself he didn’t even know. ¬†When I sat down opposite him he clearly wasn’t expecting much but when he realised I’d seriously done my homework, he opened up and we had a great chat. So much so that when I was walking out of the room his publicist grabbed me and said “He hasn’t laughed like that in a single interview today.” I was chuffed and from that moment on I’ve walked into every interview knowing the benefit of being prepared and of surprising my guest (in a good way).

Since then I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews with celebrities, politicians and everyone in between and while there’s always more to learn, I now have a good idea of what to do to get the best out of an interview subject.

I recently wrote an article about this for Problogger.net and wanted to share it in case you were thinking of adding interviews to your podcast or blog and wanted some tips to get started on the right foot.

Interview mistakes and how to avoid them

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