Interview Interruptus

Some years ago as it became clear that as media platforms were transforming into multimedia platforms, authors had to transform as well. It isn’t enough for authors to pitch to media great ideas about a book or to share their tips and information with an audience. Not only do authors have to be proficient at delivering their key messages, they have to be able to do so in a variety of ways, with a variety of different media and in numerous differing formats, hence the term multimedia. 

Getting some experience under your belt in front of a microphone, in front of a camera, and on various online platforms including Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and others is not only a nice thing to do, it’s expected. If you tell a media outlet that you don’t use Skype or FaceTime, for example, there is a tendency now for that to be taken as a snub or an indication that you are inexperienced. Therefore, in order to even begin pitching media, we have to make sure the author is ready for the various possibilities that will likely  present themselves.

 

This Savvy Sunday is part of a series on presentations. Previously we went over some points of presentation etiquette. Today, I want to dive into an important skill that many overlook and others simply never think about, yet it is so painfully obvious when they do so that it is cringeworthy. The interesting thing is that when someone is really good at this particular skill, no one really notices, but we totally notice when someone is bad at it. 

The skill I am referring to is listening and paying attention. In other words, not interrupting, particularly when doing an interview. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? It’s the very thing your mother taught you to never do — don’t interrupt — yet many people do it all the time. Once again, mom was right. The good news, however, is that with some simple awareness and training, it can become a great strength. 

In the middle of an interview or just in day-to-day life dealing with others, people usually interrupt when they’re emotional. Whether it’s excitement, passion, frustration, anger, or whatever, the interruption is caused by an emotional reaction to what is being said. It can be in response to a difference in opinion or viewpoint, or it can be an unconscious bad habit. 

Even celebrities who should know better fall into this pattern, including Rachel Ray. She was on one of the major network morning television shows about a week ago promoting her new book, Rachel Ray 50, and much of the interview was four minutes of her and the hosts interrupting one another. This can happen when everyone is the star. (I was planning to link to the interview here, but it hasn’t been uploaded by the network so you’ll have to trust me on this.) 

There are plenty of other examples of “interview interruptus.” The View is notorious for this behavior, although perhaps it’s intentional, considering the culture of the show. So if you plan to do any media, aside from an appearance on The View, being adept at listening until the interviewer is finished before responding is important, even though it’s hard to do at times. 

Let’s go into some specific examples in various media situations.

 

In-person interviews

When we’re speaking to someone, we signal nonverbally what we are thinking. If you’re using a platform where you can still see your host, even if it’s an audio interview or you’re doing an in-studio radio interview, you have the luxury of those non-verbal communication skills to help you know when it’s your turn to speak.  When doing an interview, if you’re speaking and the host is coming up on a commercial break, he or she will send you some kind of signal to wrap up your current thought. Sometimes it’s an auditory signal via music, but often it’s the look on the host’s face, or you get a “wrap it up” signal with a finger. (No, not the bird, but maybe a moving finger that we all know means “hurry up.”) With interviews that are on screen using Skype, Zoom, live stream, television, or whatever, you have the luxury of those non verbal messages.

 

Podcast and radio interviews

While some radio and podcast interviews are in person or with a camera, many are conducted via Skype audio or via the phone, with the latter known as a “phoner.” When you’re doing an interview this way, you don’t have the luxury of those nonverbal communication cues. Your only indication of how things are going is through the host, so there is a tendency to listen to the energy and the tone of the host’s voice to judge how things are going. That makes perfect sense, but keep in mind that it can be deceiving and sometimes you simply have to believe in yourself enough to know that you’re doing a good job, even when the host seems distracted.  

As an aside with regard to radio and podcast interviews, sometimes you may detect a slight edge in the host’s voice and be tempted to think it’s because of you, when in reality any number of other things could be going on in the studio. Perhaps all the computers have gone down in the studio, and while the host, engineers, and producers are scrambling to get things fixed, they’re hoping and praying you’ll just keep talking. Or, the host may be distracted by something like a breaking news story, or they just found out the next guest has cancelled and they’re scrambling to figure out what to do. They can’t give you the ooohs and ahhhs and uh-huhs that tell you everything is okay, so you have to resist the urge to think things are not going well or that you’re doing something wrong. Unless the host stops you for some reason, you’ll want to act as if everything is fine and power through. You certainly don’t want to ask, particularly if the interview is live. 

Another possibility is that you have a host who is a bit of a curmudgeon. In this case,  keep in mind that the person you’re really speaking to is the listener, so keep your wits about you and get your message out to the person that really matters. 

Once again regarding interruptions, because you don’t have any non-verbal cues to play off of, you must be very careful during these interviews not to step on the words of your host. Make sure they have finished their thought or question before you jump in. In fact, just a slight pause after the host has finished their question or statement and then responding allows the listener to know we’ve  transitioned from the host to the guest. There is nothing as irritating as listening to two people continuously interrupting one another during an interview. In fact,it is a great way to get listeners to tune out or click away.

 

As I said at the beginning of this week’s Savvy Sunday News, the skill of listening and not interrupting your host doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is when you hear it happening during an interview. I challenge you to listen carefully to any interviews you might consume this week, be it podcast, radio, or any other platform. 

 

To your success!

Joanne

 

P.S. I had the pleasure of doing another podcast interview recently called Self Care for Extremely Busy Women with Suzanne Falter. We discuss fear or nervousness when presenting in top-tier media or when speaking and what to do about it. The interview begins with me here at 8:40 into the recording. 

 

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