A good way to gauge your interview prowess is by mastering the ability to steer a conversation to only the topics that you want to discuss. Just because a radio or TV host asks you a question does NOT mean that you must answer it. Sure, it’s polite to respond to someone’s question. But, if the host starts down a verbal rabbit trail, you’re not obligated to follow and waste time from talking about your main points.
Occasionally, you may interact with a host who acts condescending or openly disagrees with your opinion. But, don’t let him or her bully you. Instead, sidestep the argument and redirect the question to a subject that you want to discuss. Think of an interview like steering a car. The host may ask the questions, but you’re the one driving the direction of the conversation. For example, here are three responses you can use when a host asks you something antagonistic or irrelevant:
- “Yes, that’s an interesting issue. But, I’ve found an even bigger issue is…”
- “I’ll be glad to answer that question. But, first, let me say something about…”
- “You bring up a good question. But, before I leave, I really want to emphasize this point to today’s listeners…”
Remember, you’re the expert, the host is not. Therefore, it makes sense for you to control the flow of information to the audience, rather than a host who probably isn’t nearly as familiar with your topic.
Try this exercise. Next time you’re channel surfing on TV, tune-in to CNN or FOXNews. When an interview segment occurs, watch carefully how politicians or corporate executives control the interview. These people can take almost any question and steer their answer to the point they want to make. Sometimes, it gets annoying, because they rarely say anything with substance. But, they learned how to stay focused on their agenda, which is your same goal as an author. With a little practice, you can develop a similar ability to keep the conversation focused on your book’s message.
Let me clarify that I’m not advocating manipulation or impolite behavior on the air. However, I am stating the fact that getting on national TV or radio is hard for anyone to do. So, don’t take it lightly. You probably won’t get a second chance to be on the show. If you fumble an interview because you weren’t prepared or felt intimidated by the situation, then it’s a disservice to your audience, your publisher, and your book sales. Only you can make an interview successful.
For more tips on how to acquire and maximize media interviews, read Chapters 6 – 7 in How to Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.