Beating the Interview Jitters

If your business takes off, or is particularly innovative in its approach or product offering, you may attract the attention of your local media, or even the nationals. While some people may relish the opportunity to grab their 15 minutes of fame, for others, being in front of a microphone or Dictaphone is the equivalent of being put into a pit filled with hundreds of spiders.

The thing people fear the most is that they won’t do themselves justice, or that they will be misrepresented. They will try to allay their fears by planning every word in advance. They know they are being exposed to a wide audience and are worried about being caught on the hop.The irony is that the more people try to control the course of an interviews, the more likely it is that their worst fears will come to pass.

There are a number of traps that you may fall into. For fear that you won’t have enough time, you may give one-line answers to questions posed by the journalist. This means that the journalist doesn’t have enough material to showcase the best aspects of your business. Or you may be so full of talk, again out of nerves, that the qualities that make your business tick become submerged in a torrent of words.

It might seem like a good idea to ask for a full list of questions in advance of the interview, but that can backfire. If you script everything you say, the interview will sound stilted. It can be scary to relinquish control of an interview to a journalist, but they do know what they are doing and it’s not going to be in their interest to misrepresent you. The journalist needs the freedom to ask you a comprehensive range of questions in order to bring out the aspects of your business or project which make it interesting to listeners and readers.And besides, you are already an expert on your business. The journalist is unlikely to be asking you questions that aren’t already included your business plan, annual report or brochure.

The key ingredient of a successful interview is to be yourself. This may seem like trite advice, but it is you that the journalist is interested in. They wouldn’t be approaching you unless they felt you had something interesting to say. Imagine that you are waxing lyrical about your business to a potential contact at a networking event, or to your best friend in a cafe or pub. During those encounters, you probably sound natural, witty and passionate. This is the kind of interviewee journalists love and the kind of interview you can be if you trust yourself.

If the thought of being exposed to a large audience brings you out in a sweat, remember that the audience is never as large as you think it is. In fact, particularly during radio interviews, you’re talking to just one person. One person in a studio, one person in the car. One person listening to you with half an ear while they break up a fight between the kids and iron a shirt. All you need to do is address your remarks to the person immediately in front of you. This creates an immediate, intimate feel and lets the audience feel that they know you and your business.

There are ways that you can prepare for an interview without sounding scripted. If you know you have an interview coming up, write down the points you would like to get across, your goals, what you’re offering, likely outcomes. This will help you pinpoint what you’d like the interview to achieve. You can ask the journalist for a general indication of the areas they will be covering. Even if you haven’t been scheduled for an interview, you may be rung for an immediate quote, so it’s always good to have your info to hand.

Interviews offer you a chance to show off and to talk about the things you most love doing. They are a great form of free publicity and will generate buzz about your business or product. At the very least, they offer a diversion from the daily business grind. With the right preparation and a common-sense approach, they should be an enjoyable experience.

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