Preparation is even more important when facing an interview than it is when you have to give a speech. Although it's possible to toss off an impromptu speech that isn't half bad, it's extremely difficult to go into an interview unprepared and avoid saying something you will regret later. Here are some of the basics to which professional spokespeople always attend before going "live":
Watch or listen to the shows on which you're going to appear. Get to know the interviewer's style, the length of the segments, and the mix of guests.
Think of the questions you might face ahead of time—both supportive and antagonistic. Practice your answers to both types.
Create a list of appropriate questions and send it, along with whatever supporting materials might be necessary, to the interviewer well ahead of time. And always bring an extra set with you. But be prepared for a session in which the interviewer has not read anything you sent. Not all interviewers will be well prepared, but you should always be.
Certain people make great guests and others just seem to fizzle. The successful ones tend to have learned well the following rules of interviewing:
Be enthusiastic. Bring some passion for your subject to the interview; you're there for a reason, and it's to communicate. Without some passion and conviction on your part, you'll bore the interviewer and the audience as well.
Don't give yes or no answers. This is one time when you should not be succinct. Answers need to be amplified for the sake of the interviewer, who is trying to create an interesting show or article. Also, you won't even begin to get your objective across if you depend on the interviewer to ask the perfect question; sometimes you have to lead him or her to that question by amplifying a point from a previous one.
Personalize your language; pretend you are speaking to a friend, and avoid technical words or other jargon. Make the interview an extended conversation, not a stiff recitation of facts.
Don't bring facts about your competitors or other extraneous information into the conversation. Most interviews are brief, and you should stick to your own story as best you can.
Use you. You are there because presumably you have information deemed to be of interest to the general public. Let them know it. Involve them by using the word you as often as possible.
If the interviewer makes an error or says something you feel is incorrect or not true, correct it right away so misconceptions don't linger. If you don't correct a misstatement or charge that you feel is untrue, it is tantamount to agreement, so state your disagreement pleasantly and immediately.
Always say something, no matter how tough the question. The infamous "No comment" is equivalent to a guilty plea.
Write a thank-you note afterward. It is a gracious touch most guests ignore and can pave the way to a return visit.
Three types of media interviews prevail today: television, radio, and print (newspapers and magazines). Each has fine points that go beyond the basics given above.