How to Give a Radio/TV Interview
So you’ve agreed to do an interview for a radio or television program, and you’ve done all the preparation prior to the interview. Now for your big moment – giving the interview.
In truth, this can sometimes be a daunting experience, but it is something that practice makes perfect with. If you don’t have a lot of experience being interviewed on radio/television shows, you should practice with friends before the interview. After following the steps in our related article Preparing for a Radio or Television Interview you’ll know the sorts of questions (maybe even the exact questions) the interviewer will ask you, and you can then practice answering them with a friend pretending to be the interviewer.
If it is a radio interview, record yourself giving the answers and play back the recording. Don’t worry that your voice sounds strange or different – everyone hears themselves differently to how other people do (due to bone conduction transferring sounds directly from our vocal cords to our ears). Instead, listen for any unnecessary things you might not be aware you are doing – obvious things like saying ‘ummm’ or ‘aaah’, or less obvious things like over-using a figure of speech, or using jargon terms that ordinary people unfamiliar with prepping might not understand.
If it is a television interview, it is helpful to videotape yourself so you can also look at how you are visually presenting yourself. Are you looking calm, relaxed, and smiling, or are you nervous and twitching? Also evaluate the audio the same as above for radio shows.
When listening/watching a recorded playback of yourself, you’ll notice things you’d never realized you were saying or doing.
Giving a TV/Radio Interview
The biggest thing in being interviewed for radio or television is to keep your answers short, clear, and understandable. Avoid jargon. Give simple ‘headline’ type answers to questions; if the interviewer wishes, they can then ask you for more explanation. Don’t give only monosyllabic grunts, of course; you want to be brief, direct, and relevant rather than terse.
Practice at home, with a friend being the interviewer. You’ll get a sense for how much talking the interviewer does and how much talking you as the subject can do, and try to in general, keep your answers to about 15 seconds at a time, and 30 seconds as an absolute maximum. If you can’t explain something in 15 seconds, you’re risking losing the interest of the audience and risking being interrupted by the interviewer (in a live presentation) or being edited out (in a pre-recorded situation). More to the point, perhaps, if you’re edging up to 30 seconds, your explanation is too complicated – you need to ‘dumb it down’ and simplify it.
Be relaxed and friendly, and call the interviewer by their first name on occasion – certainly at the start and end of the segment, and maybe once in the middle.
When answering questions, be thoughtful and positive and friendly and smiling – a physical smile helps your voice to sound friendly, too, even on the radio. Don’t use jargon. Don’t talk about ‘WTSHTF’ or other prepper slang.
Good and Bad Interviewers
There are so many different radio and television programs these days, plus amateur podcasts and all sort of other content providers, that the level of professionalism and training you can expect of your interviewer has massively decreased.
Of course, you understand and expect the person interviewing you will know next to nothing about prepping. That’s no surprise. But the really disappointing thing is that sometimes these people know very little about how to interview well, either.
A good interviewer allows the person they are interviewing to be the focus of the piece, and the interviewer slips into the background, acting more as the ‘mirror’ of the audience, asking questions of the interviewed person such as the audience might want to know the answers to as well, and, on occasion, asking for clarification and following up on the answers given. It goes without saying that most of the time, the talking will be done by the interviewee, rather than by the interviewer.
A bad interviewer will do most of the talking themselves, and will base the interview on their own opinions and thoughts and views. They may be rude, they may argue, they may interrupt. It is – in their eyes – all about them and their relationship with their audience; you as an interviewee are merely a conduit for them to sound off about their own opinions and views. In such cases, you’re either there to provide quick validation, or to be a stalking horse to be attacked and put down.
If you have a chance to listen to past programs by the person who wishes to interview you, it is possible to quickly identify if the person is a good or bad interviewer.
If you have a bad interviewer, you can either decide not to participate, or – if you do participate – you’ll want to phrase your answers more directly to the interviewer rather than to the audience as a whole, and you’ll need to expect to be interrupted and not to have a chance to fully say everything you want.
You get around this in part by saying the most important things first.
If a bad interviewer is also someone who has the same ideas and opinions as you, that is a good thing, but if they have an opposite set of opinions, then be prepared to be given a hard time, and you know for sure you’ll not have the last word on the topic.
One more thing to appreciate about all interviewers, good or bad. Assuming it is not a brand new show which you are appearing on the inaugural episode of, the interviewer(s) and presenter(s) have built up a relationship with the audience. The audience will predominantly like the interviewer – if they don’t like the interviewer, they won’t be watching or listening.
So if you get into an argument with the interviewer, most of the audience will immediately side with the interviewer rather than with you. Plus, the interviewer is way more experienced at such things than you are, and you’ll almost certainly be the loser.
Answering Difficult and Unfair Questions
You don’t have to slavishly answer every question exactly as it is asked (as witness just about any interview with any politician!). And if you think questions are unfair, by all means say so. ‘Well, Joe (or whatever the interviewer is called), that’s not really a very (fair/relevant/important) question. The real issue that is most important to your audience is xxxxx….’ and after saying that, ask yourself whatever question it is you want to then answer.
For example, an interviewer says ‘So why do you think it is necessary to have such a huge arsenal of assault rifles in your basement?’. You could answer ‘Well, Joe, that’s not really the most important question. The real issue is what anyone can do, and whether the government could help us, if a solar flare destroyed the nation’s power supply….’ (or something else that doesn’t imply violence). You could go on to say ‘Of course the government could help in the event of a localized loss of power. But what if power is off all over the country? What then? That’s one of the worries I have, particularly when leading astronomers say there is one chance in eight of such a massive solar flare killing our entire power grid in the next decade.’
What can the reporter do next? He can’t easily argue against what leading astronomers say. He could of course circle back to the gun issue and say ‘So that’s why you have guns – in case of a solar flare destroying our power grid? But, even so, why do you have so many? Isn’t one enough?’
You could then answer ‘You are correct, there is indeed a grave danger of a solar flare destroying the power grid. I don’t know what would happen in such a case – would society survive? But I do know that many times in the past, even small disruptions to normal life have seen outbreaks of rioting and looting. I’m not going to become a looter myself, but I do want to be able to defend myself, my family, and my loved ones.’
This is a good answer, because first you put words in the reporter’s mouth, and secondly you avoid answering the question about ‘so many guns’ and instead phrase things in terms of being a loving caring family man seeking to defend himself and his family from rioters and looters.
In the very unlikely event the reporter keeps on at you about the number of guns you have (and hopefully you’ve refused to tell him how many you have in the first place) you could have an exchange like this :
Reporter : But, surely you only need one gun in such a case? Why do you have so many more than one? Isn’t that being extreme?
You : Of course I can only use one gun. But what if it fails or jams? Plus, my wife and adult children would also join in defending our family against looters. Maybe the neighbors will come and help to mutually protect us all against attacks from looters. In any such terrible situation, I’d rather have more than I need than too few.
Your answer here has defused the situation still more. You only want one gun yourself, and a backup gun in case of failure. That doesn’t sound too extreme, does it. Then you talk about your wife and adult children joining in to defend your family, and maybe your neighbors too. So the audience is now thinking either ‘I have’ or ‘I am’ a wife/child/neighbor and they are identifying with you and your situation.
Compare this answer to a hypothetical answer someone else might say :
Someone else : I need a lot of guns, because I want to use different guns against different attackers. I have sniper rifles for long distance, assault rifles for closer killing, and shotguns for up close and personal. I have extra guns and ammo around my house in strategic locations so I can’t be surprised.
Doesn’t that sound aggressive and offensive? Plus it clashes with some pre-conceived notions – do people really need a lot of guns? The word ‘attacker’ is more ambivalent than the word ‘looter’, the word ‘sniper rifle’ sounds very nasty, as does ‘assault rifle’ (a term you should never use) and ‘up close and personal’ sounds way too aggressive and blood thirsty. As for having guns and ammunition all around your house, many people think guns should always be locked up in a safe.
While the second response has a measure of tactical sense associated with it for some situations, there is very seldom an excuse for using a ‘sniper rifle’ for picking people off at a distance, is there! Much better to answer the way we recommend.
The Most Important Rule
Never lose your temper. Never show any sign of being upset or cross or riled. Smile, be friendly, by all means be sad, but never be angry or cross or mean-minded.
And avoid saying something like ‘Well, if that’s the way you feel, I’ll tell you one thing for sure – when doomsday comes and you arrive begging at my door for food, I’ll order you off my property and shoot you where you stand if you don’t leave’. Instead say something like ‘I’m truly sorry – for your sake, and the sake of the people in your life who rely on you – that you feel that way. But if I’m proven right, and something terrible does happen to us, come looking for me, and if I can help, of course I will.’
What’s that you say? There’s no way in the world you’d help that person after they so unfairly interviewed you on their show? Well, that’s as may be, but you didn’t have to swear an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth prior to going onto the show, did you?
We’re not suggesting you should lie about anything at all, but remember two things. The first is that you’re not in a court of law and you didn’t swear an oath of truthfulness. The second is that you’re there to put your point of view across as best you can in the limited time available to you, and if that requires you to, ahem, oversimplify some things or skip over other aspects, so be it.
Don’t outright lie, of course, but do ‘put your best foot forward’.
Before and After the Interview
Before the interview, try to be as helpful as you can to the interviewer, and give them as much background material and additional help as possible. Give them some good lines to use in the interview. If you help them to look good, then they will reciprocate and help you to look almost as good.
Offer to put them in touch with other people – both others who might support your point of view and also, if they wish it, people who might disagree with you too.
After the interview, of course thank them for your chance to participate, and then offer to help them with any future related pieces. Tell them you’re happy to provide background material and assistance for which you’d not require attribution, and you’re also happy to be interviewed in the future too if they need to add interview segments.
Give them phone numbers and email addresses where you can be readily reached, 24/7, and tell them you’re always happy to help out, at short notice, any time they need your participation.
If you ‘get into their Rolodex’ as a useful helpful resource, and as someone who isn’t just looking for free personal publicity, but instead as someone who can help in general, they are likely to call on you in the future, and to become more favorably accepting of your perspective on prepping.
You need to remember that the people who are interviewing you have different priorities and objectives to you. Their priority is to interest, amuse, and entertain their audience, and secondarily, perhaps to make themselves look great. They may be willing to make you and what you represent look foolish or stupid as part of achieving their objectives.
You are absolutely not in control of any part of the process other than what you say and how you say it. But that’s not to suggest you should passively give up. You should concentrate on being able to deliver very short, simple, clear and positive answers to the questions you’re likely to be asked. You want to help the audience, who will be passively uninvolved and uncommitted to prepping, to become interested in the subject, to understand a bit of what it is about, and to realize that prepping is good and that preppers are good normal sensible people.
Good luck. Let us know if we can assist.