Bad habits are hard to break. I write this as an acquaintance of mine would rather stay married to his alcohol than to his wife. It is sad to watch people self-sabotage but it happens all the time. The start of a new year also brings out resolutions for dieting, getting in shape, reading the Bible, or spending time with kids or grandkids.
I go to the YMCA in my town and the first two months of the year is inevitably the same; new people planning a new start and looking lost. We even have a name for them, resoluters. They are well-meaning and have every intention of sticking with their new goals. But you and I know what really happens. They almost always go back to their old habits. The old feels familiar. It’s less work.
As an author, you will likely do interviews, for print, on radio, television or podcasts. Perhaps you have habits that you have developed for communicating. Maybe your habits have even worked in the past or work well for you today. It is always good to look at ourselves and learn what we can so we can get better. That’s the idea, right?
I scheduled an author on a radio show and then followed up afterwards to see how it went. The host said, “I told him [the guest] that he answered the questions without me. He acknowledged that he gets passionate about the story and needs to learn to break his comments so that questions can be made.” The host’s comments reminded me we can fall into habits that are not so productive for good interviews so here are a few reminders.
Don’t talk too much. Follow the lead of the host and then go with it. While I would argue that passion is an important part of any interview, talking too much hurts your message.
Don’t talk too little. Some people give one or two word answers. This is even worse than talking too much. It’s okay to elaborate. It’s expected.
Don’t talk over the host. No one likes it when you interrupt or talk over the host. We have all seen the talking heads arguing on TV and it understandably makes us cringe.
Don’t talk over music breaks. This is a common mistake and I hear it all the time. A guest doesn’t realize they are supposed to wrap up their thoughts when the bumper music begins.
Don’t fail to connect with the host and the audience. How do you do this? By being personable, upbeat, gracious, and finding creative ways to be relevant to their needs as well as your own.
Lastly, change is always difficult. From my observation most of the important changes we make in life come as a result of crisis, a bad diagnosis, warning or loss. Maybe it takes losing a marriage before some people look inside themselves and take responsibility. One of your jobs as an interviewee is to help your audience make changes – see God differently, embrace changes in their own life or relationships, or simply remember a story that relates an important truth. The story of the Prodigal Son is a good reminder that most of us don’t make changes until we are at rock bottom.