3 Ways to Avoid Giving a Cringe-Worthy Interview

3 Ways to Avoid Giving a Cringe-Worthy Interview


By Michael Locklear

Have you ever seen an interview that made you cringe? Sometimes the person being interviewed looks like a deer in headlights, or they may not know how to respond to tough questions. These are gaffes that can also be setbacks for your brand or your book. Bombing an interview can be a nightmare for authors and entrepreneurs who are working to become an expert in their field.

I’ve been a TV reporter for a decade, and I’ve conducted thousands of interviews. Here at Guide My Brand, we offer one-on-one media coaching to our clients to make sure they’re well-prepared and well-positioned. We’ll help you be prepared, give you tips for how to handle uncertainty and coach you on providing crisp answers. 

Here Are 3 Ways to Make Your Next Interview Go Smoothly:

  • Don’t talk for too long.

Some people go on and on, giving very thorough answers to questions. That may work in some formats, but if you’re on TV or a podcast, you’ll usually want to keep it short and relevant!

It’s helpful to find out in advance how long the interview will be. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the outlet. Look at previous guests and their answers. How long were those responses, and did they feel natural? If you’re unsure, ask the interviewer beforehand.

You could give all the information you have on the topic in three minutes, but it’s often better to break it up instead. Allow the interviewer to jump in and guide the conversation. It’s more engaging and interesting for the audience, too.

Sometimes, 30 to 60 seconds per answer will work. If it’s a longer interview, your answers may even be a few minutes long. Also, if it’s not a live interview, you’ll have more flexibility because of the editing. 

ALSO READ: How to Do Your Hair & Makeup When You Get Featured on TV

  • Brainstorm a list of possible questions in advance.

Anticipate what you may be asked, from standard informational questions to tougher ones. The team at Guide My Brand sometimes does mock interviews with clients to help build confidence.

Write down a list of possible questions. You can also write down some possible answers in a few bullet points, but it’s probably not a good idea to memorize responses word for word. (When you lose your place, you’ll probably freeze!)

I also like to do this in other contexts, like before a job interview. What will my potential employer ask? Where are some weaknesses in my resume, and how can I best frame them? Do I have some go-to personal stories to demonstrate specific points? 

All of this prep work will make you a more polished, succinct speaker.

  • Recognize it’s all right to say “I don’t know.”

Don’t make up an answer if you don’t know! It’s best to acknowledge that you don’t know and then pivot. You can also offer to find out the answer after the interview, which is especially useful if it’s not live.

When I was reporting, some anchors liked to jump in with spontaneous questions on live TV, like: “We’re hearing about a book that the suspected killer wrote. What can you tell us about that?”

This was a new aspect to a breaking news story, and I was focused on other areas. My response: “I haven’t had a chance to take a closer look at that book, but what we do know is…”

You can do something similar. Maybe you lead a growing startup with a lot of deals in the works, and you’re asked about a specific aspect of one program. Try: “I’m not sure offhand – I can find out – But this will give student-athletes more opportunities to…”

You’re acknowledging that you heard the question, but the fact that you don’t know is quickly glossed over, and then you refocus attention where you want it.

A skilled interviewer may follow up in the interview or afterward to get the information if they believe it’s important.

These are just a few ways to improve your next interview. Focus on being prepared and communicating clearly.

Book a Discovery Call if you’d like to level-up your interviews and your publicity!

Vicky Lynch
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