Interview Questions and Talking Points

When it comes to promoting your book, you need to create pieces dedicated to your marketing and publicity efforts. Recently we’ve discussed creating the book’s press release, your bio, and the interview topics sheet. Today we’re taking a look at the need and importance of developing interview questions and talking points.

What are they exactly?

Interview questions and talking points basically say in bullet points what an interview with you is going to be about. As much as you may not want to hear this, most hosts and producers do not have time to read your book, but they will look over succinct and well-written materials. Your job is to make that easy for them.

What’s the difference between interview questions and talking points?

It may seem obvious, but interview questions are questions, and talking points are statements of the topics you can and will discuss during an interview.

You are the one to decide what the most important key messages are for your book. This then needs to be reflected in all the materials you put together, including the interview questions and talking points that you share with producers and hosts.

A sheet of interview questions should be anywhere between 8 and 15 questions and your talking points should number 4 or 5.

When it comes to preparing interview questions, ask yourself the following

What do I most want to be asked in an interview?

This is your opportunity to outline how the interview is going to flow. There are some interviewers who will do what I call an “informed interview.” They will actually read your book and put their own questions together, but the vast majority of hosts will simply go through the list of questions you provide. Be sure to put thought into this so that you cover all the important aspects of your book.

Occasionally a podcast host will prepare a list of questions for you ahead of time. This allows you to thoughtfully consider your answers prior to the actual interview, although if the host has skipped an important key message, it’s up to you to suggest additional questions.

Does each question allow me to discuss one of my key messages?

Prior to creating any of your press materials, you need to know your key messages from your book. We’ve talked about this before, so assuming you’re familiar with this idea, you want each of the questions on your interview question sheet to lead to one of your key messages.

Am I including at least one question aimed at each group I am targeting?

For example, if you have a leadership book you might have a question that is directed toward CEOs, another directed at small business and entrepreneurs, and yet another specifically for women. It depends on your book and who you are targeting, but you want to have specific questions aimed at each group.

Other thoughts to keep in mind

It’s not about the book

The interview is usually not about your book per se, although it could be, and if that’s the case, that’s fantastic. Most interviews, however, are going to involve your expertise.

Let the host do the promoting

The host will mention the book title in the introduction, the conclusion and there will often be a link to your book in the show notes. Although, while very unusual, if the host doesn’t mention the title, then you must find a way to add it to the conversation.

Avoid this at all costs

Avoid saying “in my book” during an interview. Some hosts are hypersensitive to this and will end an interview immediately when they hear those words. The reason is that you’re basically telling the audience that they have to buy your book to get the whole scoop. Some people get annoyed by that. Of course, we want them to buy your book, and the best way to ensure that happens is to give away so much information that the listener thinks, “Wow! All that information in an interview. Imagine how much more must be in the book!”

Add some spice

Sometimes you can say the book title during the interview rather than “in my book,” but use it sparingly or it will sound really strange and self-promotional. For example, rather than saying, “In my book,” say, “In The Innovation Ultimatum there are 6 different technologies coming together and maturing at the same time….”

Interview questions vs talking points

While interview questions say specifically what questions to ask, talking points are general areas you will address during an interview. For example, in Jay Shetty’s new book, Think Like a Monk, which is coming out September 8 (a little plug, btw), talking points include:

    • Why negativity is contagious
    • How to stop overthinking
    • Why comparison kills love
    • How to use your fear
    • How you can learn from everyone you meet

Talking points are often what producers will ask for when setting up an interview with you. They want to know the main points you’re going to bring up in an interview. Sometimes they create graphics from these points, so be sure they’re clear and if they bring to mind an image, so much the better.

How to create talking points

Take your key messages. Consolidate them down to just a sentence and create a sound bite from each of them. I’ve got more on how to create soundbites here.

Lead with the best

Lead with the most important key message or talking point in case the interview gets cut short for some reason. At the end of the interview, if you’re asked for any last words of wisdom or the very overused question, “Is there anything here I haven’t asked you yet?” then this is where you can bring up a new key point, or repeat that top, key message for emphasis. It then becomes the last “take away” from the interview.

Develop a framework

A framework is a story or words that take you from one talking point easily and naturally into the next one so that it flows. When I do media training with clients, we spend a fair amount of time on this skill that I call bridging. Bridging is elegance in action and is a wonderful skill to develop.

Bottom line

You are in charge of the interview, even though no media person will ever say that to you. But I will. You determine a great deal from your key messages and the media materials you develop. The way you bridge from one key message leading the host to ask the next obvious question is another way you take charge. For more advanced media training techniques, sometimes a host will ask you a question that seems completely out of the blue. Learning to bridge that back to what you want to talk about –without offending anyone — is an art and it does not happen naturally. It is a developed skill.

But it all starts with the Interview questions and talking points that you create to convey to hosts and producers what it is you have to give to their audiences.

To your success!


P.S. When you hear someone do a truly effective, interesting, compelling interview, they have either had lots of experience or they did some media training. Oftentimes they’ve done both. Having a fun and informative interview doesn’t come naturally. It takes time and effort. If you’d like some help, drop me a note here.






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