How Authors Can Deal with Surprises During Interviews


Years ago I wrote my very first book shortly after leaving the world of broadcasting and launching my own PR firm for authors. The book was all about how to navigate the rough waters of transitioning from working for someone else to working for yourself.

I landed my first interview where I was the guest. Having been in radio, I have done more on-air interviews than I can count, but as the interviewer, not the interviewee. It was an experience I will never ever forget.

It was a live radio show and I had gone into the studio to do an in-person interview. The host was a well-known broadcaster in that city, and was very nice and pleasant when we met during the two-minute commercial break before we went live. He took those few minutes to make me feel welcome and comfortable before the interview began. By the time the commercial set was over and we were back on live, that’s when the proverbial mud hit the fan.

The host read my bio, introduced me, asked one question and then never said another word.

This was a live, ten-minute interview and the host never said another word to me. He just looked at me, amused, and motioned for me to continue. Needless to say, it didn’t go all that well. Having someone not speak back to you in an interview carries a lot of pressure and is unnerving.

I bring this story up as an introduction to surprises.

Now, the good news is that I have never encountered a situation like that again, thankfully, and neither have any of my clients, but anyone who has ever been on a campaign to promote their book will tell you that surprises do happen. They can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can employ to navigate unexpected situations with composure and professionalism.

Here are some important tips:

Stay Calm: I know first hand that it isn’t always easy (see story above), but it is essential to remain calm and composed, even if you’re caught off guard. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to stay focused and present in the moment.

Active Listening: Pay close attention to what the surprise entails. Listen and watch very carefully so you are able to grasp the situation quickly and respond appropriately. It is possible to be able to absorb what is happening quickly and even make a joke about it.

Maintain Professionalism: Regardless of the surprise, maintain your professionalism throughout the interview. Remember how you respond will be observed by the audience.

Adapt and Be Flexible: Be adaptable and flexible in your approach. Adjust your interview style and questioning based on the surprise element introduced. Embrace the change and find ways to incorporate the unexpected into the conversation smoothly.

Take a Pause if Needed: If you feel overwhelmed or need a moment to gather your thoughts, don’t hesitate to take a brief pause.

Ask Relevant Questions: Once you’ve grasped the nature of the surprise, ask relevant questions to explore the new information. This demonstrates your ability to think on your feet and adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

Your Host Might be a Jerk: Unfortunately it happens. How you play this can make a huge impact on you, the host, and the audience. An intense, passionate reaction can be a catalyst to help you sell your message and convince people of the importance of it, or it can hurt you and your credibility by making you look like you have no emotional intelligence. You will have to make this decision in the moment when you are faced with it. Just remember to keep your cool.

You Weren’t Expecting that Question: When media training authors, one of my first questions is, “Are there any questions that you do not want to be asked?” Those are the first questions we develop answers to in case they come up in the future. It’s not enough to hope you aren’t asked about something. If you’re concerned, work on creating a great response.

Bottom Line

Unexpected surprises can add excitement and spontaneity to an interview. By staying composed, adapting to change, and maintaining professionalism, you can successfully navigate on-air surprises and deliver a compelling interview experience.

To your success!


P.S. Speaking of surprises, here are some on-camera surprises for various news and weather anchors across the country.






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