7 Ways to give a great interview

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The other day, I got an email from a friend that said:

“I would love some guidance on getting interviewed. I’ve been interviewed several times on various radio shows and such. And I don’t think I do a very good job. I’m generally comfortable with public speaking and teaching. But if I don’t really connect with the interviewer, I’m stiff and weird when they ask questions. I bet many of your readers also struggle with this, so I thought it might be a good thing to address on your site.”

I am happy to oblige!

Here are my favorite tips, after having been interviewed hundreds of times:

  1. Get in your energy zone.
    Nothing is more deadly than listening to an interview with an expert who does not seem interested in what he or she is talking about. How can you tell? Lack of interest is conveyed in low volume, monotone and lack of inflection. By contrast, someone who is excited about what she does has life in her voice, steady volume and energy. How do you get in the energy zone?
    Bounce on a ball. Stand up and stretch. Do some pushups. Dance. Breathe and meditate.
  2. Smile when you talk.
    There is a reason why customer service representatives are given mirrors when they answer calls — it reminds them to smile, because when you smile, you sound friendlier and enunciate your words more clearly. Smiling may also remind you to have a sense of humor and be playful, even when talking about things like reducing the national deficit, or overcoming fear.
  3. Review your core messages.
    After Escape from Cubicle Nation came out, I did 50 radio interviews in the span of three weeks. I soon learned to hone in on my core messages, which included “Hating your job is not a business plan,” “We are all self-employed,” and “Everyone needs a High Council of Jedi Knights.” Knowing that these messages intrigued journalists and radio hosts ensured that the interview had great conversation.
  4. Answer questions in crisp segments, and pause before continuing.
    It is very awkward as an interviewer to have the interviewee spend twenty minutes answering one question, when you had hoped to cover ten questions in 30 minutes. To avoid this, provide your answer in a crisp segment, and take a deep breath before continuing on to the next point. This will give the interviewer a chance to interrupt if he wants. It will also give your audience a chance to digest the information.
  5. Give specific examples.
    I just interviewed Ramit Sethi for a master class on pricing for my Power Teaching students, and he did a brilliant job of giving a concrete example for each point he made. He said things like “Pricing is strategic. For example, if you go into Target, how much would you expect to pay for a scarf? Maybe $8 to $15, right? Now imagine you are going into Barney’s in New York. How much would a scarf cost? More like $150 to $1,000.” Using such a specific example engaged all of my senses when thinking about strategic pricing. I could smell the slightly stale popcorn at Target,  as well as the perfume the willowy supermodel sales person at Barney’s would be wearing when I walked in the door.
  6. Know your audience.
    Before doing your interview, read or listen to interviews done on the site. You will get a feel for the style of the interviewer, as well as the needs of the audience. Nothing is worse than spending the whole interview talking about strategies for recent college grads, only to find out that the key demographic listening to the program is AARP members.
  7. Stick your landing.
    Any of you who have been watching gymnastics at the Olympics know that no matter how great the routine, you must stick the landing! You want to have a very clear way to sign off the call and say goodbye, so you don’t get in that awkward pattern of:”Um, that’s it!”
    “That’s all I got!”
    “Uh, well, yeah, thanks!”Instead:

    “Thank you so much for the opportunity to connect with your listeners! I would love to stay in touch – please stop by (thenameofyoursite) and say hi!”

Put these tips into play, and you will develop great interview skills. The more you practice, the better you get. The better you get, the more calls you will get!

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9 Responses to “7 Ways to give a great interview”

  1. I loved the ease and simplicity of this posting. It rings very true and is easy to get and follow. Thank You.

  2. Jenna says:

    “someone who is excited about what she does has life in her voice, steady volume and energy… Bounce on a ball. Stand up and stretch. Do some pushups. Dance. Breathe and meditate.”

    Not only will these things help give you energy, but they will also help you break your interview nerves! I would definitely suggest doing these things before an interview – they’ve worked for me.

  3. I’m doing more and more interviews nowadays and still feel very awkward and self conscious about it. These tips help a lot, thanks!

  4. faisal says:

    Awesome tips. Sometimes playing it cool also helps, rather than thinking you know it all.

  5. Megan R says:

    Good question and great response Pam! Thank you for the concrete advice!

  6. This is just what i needed to hear! I have my first two radio interviews coming up in the next month: these tips are perfect preparation. Thanks Pam!

  7. Tom Treanor says:


    This is a great set of tips that I’ll be sharing on my FB page. I think #3 (core messages) is so important and #7 (stick the landing) is great too. I feel like most people do this same thing for their blog posts – they limp into the finish line with a bad ending which can ruin all that good work. Thanks for the tips and you gave a great interview when we talked for the Business Blogging Telesummit!

  8. I’ve never provided an information interview like this before but hope to do so in the future. You make some great points I never would have thought of so hopefully my first interview will be less bad now. Thanks for the tips!

  9. Sarah Yost says:

    Love this Pam! And you! These are really, really helpful. I am good on #1, pretty good on #2 and not so good on the rest. I now know exactly what to focus on. Thank you so much!