With an affectionate call out to The Smothers Brothers’ The Streets of Laredo
“… if you get an outfit you can be a cowboy too”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fYCvA-G9Iw Cue to 1:50.. significant lyrics from 2:34-3:00
We are being flooded by 2 busy players in the audio news and information industry. There’s a seeming limitless, dizzying swirl of podcasts.. and the radio and audio streaming industry is crafting more creative half hour and hour-long programs. These include the compelling, edited Radiolab on NPR, as well as other well-researched, single theme reports or programs that weave together soundbites from professional experts and journalists.
With a nod to the above, the media skills that still work best for ‘traditional audio interviews’ are now being challenged- and supplementary instructions are in order. Folks being interviewed now need to be prepared for participation in pre-recorded audio interviews that will be cut and edited to create a comprehensive magazine-like narrative on a single theme. It could address violence in the US, cyber security, the global supply chain, acoustic rock… obviously any one of an infinite number of subjects.
Being chosen to be an interviewee in these often-fascinating programs requires a slightly different, anticipatory skill set.
Here are some tips to bear in mind:
Remember: we can’t see you! If you’d like to print out some important concise answers or facts that you’d like to remember- you can still do so. Here’s a reminder: https://www.stevensmediaconsulting.com/blog_37_Media_Training_Reboot_PT1.html https://www.stevensmediaconsulting.com/blog_38_Media_Training_Reboot_PT2.html
You might also organize your ‘Media Points’ under subject titles logical to you, so you can ‘swipe them’ easily as an ‘eye grab’.
Only use your notes as reminders!
Never read anything aloud! I prefer paper to wrangling index cards- but remember that moving paper makes noise, so I’d spread out the sheets on a flat surface.
Don’t kill natural reactions or little sidebars; this is not an exam, and they contribute to the soul of the process. Eg. “(laughingly) I was afraid you were going to ask me that!”.. or perhaps adding a quick, personal comment elucidating a point. Trust me: live or non-edited interviews are easier since they have a more natural, reciprocal human narrative. Eg. you may still be interrupted during your answer with a question or comment- which is great. But you can’t comment on the host’s introduction, nor on something said by someone else, because you won’t be privy to either. This is disappointing.
Your best mindset is to enter the process as if it’s live. Edited doesn’t mean allowing do-overs. It refers more to the process of editing a list of recorded interview answers into a cohesive storyline after the interviews are completed. The overriding likelihood is that your interview will be one among at least several others. My clients often mistakenly give a sigh of relief when they are advised their interview will be taped- but I find this knowledge seems to kill some natural adrenalin with the erroneous thinking that ‘I can always do it again’. This is not necessarily the case!
Bear in mind that ‘speaking naturally’ isn’t always a perfectly smooth enterprise. If you have any little natural missteps that you can spontaneously and comfortably fix or correct as you are speaking: do so and finish your thought- just as you would in a natural conversation. If your interviewer thinks you need a re-do, she/he will tell you.
However, If you’ve realized you have a much better answer, or upon completion you realize you presented wrong information- then sure- share this with your interviewer and ask if you can give them a fresh answer.
Remember: they want their audio program to be as wildly interesting and successful as you do. You are a team.
If you don’t know the answer to a question: it is a sign of intelligence and confidence to share that you don’t know.. you’re not sure.. ‘you’re afraid you can’t answer that’ (I love that one for its ambiguity).. or however you might personally put it. But be prepared to fill the time with another point that you think is significant, or interesting to you. You don’t have to stop the interview. You can say something along the lines of ‘it’s important for me to emphasize that.. ‘ or a big misconception about xx is’ .. or ‘here’s something important to know about xx’ . I refer to these introductions as ‘Superlative Flags’.
** With reference to the above- If you have one extremely important, favorite point to share: bring it up at any juncture within your interview! I’d bring it up earlier on to assure you get it in. This is based on the tenet that you know what’s most important to address within a given topic, and they may not. You are the expert!
** Often the producer will send you questions to anticipate- and your host asks you unexpected ones. It’s best to hang loose and expect these kinds of things in interviews; they can happen for a multiple of reasons. If you’re not crazy about their question: you can answer it briefly and introduce information that you feel is more significant- ideally within the context of their question or of the overall arc of the interview.
Given that we’re solely dependent on audio: giving examples as part of your answers helps us conceptualize your information even more. I highly recommend this.
Using metaphors or similes for listeners also helps make information more concrete, given the lack of video.
If your answer is a brief anecdote- make sure to spell out the point, or the takeaway, at the end.
Do you have any ‘nat sound’ you can offer to send them? This can be ‘natural’ ambient sound pertinent to your discussion, or you might have your own audio soundbite from an important protagonist that you can send them.
Is there an organization, a publication or book you might refer the listeners to?
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My parting words of encouragement.. or solace: If you feel you didn’t get your main point across, take comfort in knowing that your other comments and information are still fascinating and helpful to us.
Mantra: we don’t know what we’re missing.
Good luck. Have fun! Enjoy your time to shine.