Here are two tips that I use to make interviews fun, informative, and engaging.
One of my favorite things to do is interview guests, hear their story, and hopefully get them to talk and not be afraid.
The first thing I do, if it’s the first time I’ve interviewed the guest, is tell him or her that this is going to be fun—just look at me and don’t pay any attention to the camera. Relax and feel comfortable—we are just going to have an enjoyable conversation.
The second thing I do is choose a good topic. As an interviewer, I know that there is always a topic you are going to discuss and that topic, 99 percent of the time, is one your guest is passionate about, so, after introducing the guest to my audience, I’ll get right into that topic: “So, Lindsey, you’re the Head Coach of the women’s volleyball team at Southeastern University; how did you get involved in the sport?” Once your guests start talking about their passion, it’s amazing how relaxed they become and how they love to talk about the topic.
During the conversation, if you listen and pay attention, what your guest is saying will provide you with gold nuggets for follow-up questions you can ask. For example: “So, as you observe the player formation of the other team, does that affect your team’s scoring strategy; volleyball is much more than randomly hitting the ball over the net, isn’t it?” The best questions are educational and provide the interviewee an opportunity to give more in-depth information: “Great question, Hank! Yes, how the other team aligns itself is very important to our game strategy. Here’s why….” A question like that will lead to more in-depth conversation and generate other questions and additional conversation that will make the interview fly by.
I had the honor of interviewing Desmond Clark before his induction into the 2017 Polk County Sports Hall of Fame. Des played for the Chicago Bears in the 2007 Super Bowl against Indianapolis (unfortunately the Bears lost). The first topic we talked about was Des’s passion for helping kids who are less fortunate. Des talked about the challenges and obstacles he faced in his youth, and how he overcame them to become an NFL football player. He was very humble and sincere in sharing a story that not many people knew about, but it was important to him and, by listening, we learned a lot more of the Desmond Clark story. And of course I had to ask the question: “What was it like playing in the Super Bowl and running out on the field with all the screaming fans and hoop-la?” Des replied, “It was overwhelming! Unbelievable!” “What was it like after the kickoff and your first contact?” “I focused on the game and blocked out all the surroundings and screaming fans and played the game.” Great stuff; how many times do you get to chat with someone who played in the Super Bowl? By the way, Des donated the shoes he wore in the Super Bowl to the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame. (That I designed and built…just a little plug.)
“Hank, I love the people in Lakeland who have been so great to me and extended such love and hospitality, Carol and Barney Barnett [owners of Publix] Andy Bean and Brad Bryant [PGA champions], and the city of Lakeland. I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to come here and help these kids; it’s the first date I put on my calendar every year.”
One of my all-time favorite interviews is one that I’ve had the privilege of doing for the past 13 years with Charles Barkley. Charles comes to Lakeland every year to play in the Barkley, Bean, Bryant & Friends Celebrity Golf Event to raise money for The First Tee of Lakeland, an international golf program “where youth and teens build strong character values of integrity, sportsmanship, responsibility, respect and confidence” through golf. It’s not a big tournament—300 or so people attend—which makes it more amazing.
The reason Charles is gracious enough to do an interview with me each year is that I’m nice, I don’t ask National Enquirer questions, and he trusts me. I talk about the Charles Barkley we all need to know, the man who is so generous to these kids and has such a passion for young people: “Hank, I love the people in Lakeland who have been so great to me and extended such love and hospitality, Carol and Barney Barnett [owners of Publix] Andy Bean and Brad Bryant [PGA champions], and the city of Lakeland. I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to come here and help these kids; it’s the first date I put on my calendar every year.” This is the Charles Barkley that not a lot of people get to see; we’re friends, which is one of the things that makes this interview so special.
So, the ingredients of a great interview are simple: be friendly and do your homework, and you’ll have a fun and informative interview—every time!