I’ve interviewed hundreds of people in the past 20 years.
I’ve had some tremendous experiences when I sit down with people and ask them to share their stories. I’ve also had some real stinkers.
I believe the best interviews are face-to-face conversations when two people are sitting across from each other and chatting. There’s an art to interviewing.
Over the years, I’ve seen a number of live interviews played out in churches. It usually occurs when a pastor or a minister has someone on the stage with him to share some information, a story or a testimony.
Frankly, when I see a public interview getting ready to take place at a church, I get a little nervous.
Because I’ve seen too many interviewers (the people asking the questions) take some wrong turns. They’re not prepared, they lose focus or they ask questions that make everyone cringe.
The live interview can be a wonderful tool to have in your church marketing strategy. I encourage you to use it because it can be very effective. Here are some tips to conduct a proper live interview at church.
1. Do your research. Know the person. Know the story you want her to tell. Know basic biographical details like how many kids she has and what she does for a living. And PLEASE pronounce her name correctly.
Here’s an example of someone who didn’t do her research
2. Know your questions in advance. If you don’t know what you’re going to ask, you’re going to fumble. As the interviewer, it’s okay to have some prompts and questions written down and on the stage with you.
3. Take some time to prepare with the interviewee. This is church marketing, not journalism. You are asking the person to share her story at your church. It’s OK to share a few of the questions beforehand so you both know how this will play out. This puts the interviewee at ease. If at all possible, don’t allow the interviewee to have a written script of answers. You don’t want her whipping out a sheet of paper and reading from it.
4. Give a brief but informative introduction. Introduce your subject and address why the person is there and what qualifies her to speak on the given subject. Please don’t read the person’s resume. If this is required, do what you can to keep this brief, hitting only the highlights.
5. Ask open-ended questions. You want to allow the person to speak, so don’t bog down an interview with questions that will give you one-word answers. And avoid yes/no questions.
Bad interview question: Are you saved?
Good interview question: Tell us how Jesus is working in your life.
6. Keep the interview focused. Time is limited and people are known to go on tangents. Keep the small talk to a minimum and ask what needs to be asked. One of the worst things that can happen is to walk away from a live, public interview and realize that you failed to ask the right questions. You certainly don’t want your audience to walk away thinking that as well.
7. Listen to the answers as they’re given. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, during a live interview, there are two people who are experiencing a lot of pressure — you and the person you’re interviewing. Oftentimes, you’ll ask a question and then immediately start thinking ahead to your next question. It’s a little embarrassing for your follow-up question to ask for information that was revealed just a few moments before. (Several years ago, I saw this happen to a Republican presidential nominee during a public roundtable meeting at a university. It was bad.)
8. It’s OK to break away from your set of questions. Good interviews will bring out great stories. Sometimes those stories — which might have been unknown to you before the interview — can have a mighty impact on your congregation or your audience. It’s OK to go with it and say: “Take a minute or two to tell us more about that.” Be able to bring it back, though.
9. Avoid editorializing. You’re there to guide a discussion and draw out information from the interviewee. The purpose of an interview is to hear from the person you’re speaking to; you’re not conducting the interview to share your stories and your opinions. You see this often when two people who’ve known each other for a long time sit down for an “interview.” The next thing you know, the audience is hearing a bunch of inside jokes and stories. In my opinion, some of the worst interviewers are athletes who interview other athletes and singers who interview other singers.
10. Give the interviewee a few minutes to close out the conversation. At the end of nearly every one-on-one interview I’ve conducted, I’ve asked the interviewee if there was anything else she’d like to address. Sometimes you get the best information in those following minutes. Sometimes she’s dying to say something, but you haven’t asked her the right question to draw it out. This is her time.
Share your interview tips and stories in the comments section below.
Do you need a speaker for an upcoming event? Eric Eckert, owner of Hands and Feet Marketing, has 15 years of professional experience in journalism, marketing, public relations and communications. Eric has been a featured speaker for church groups, social and service club meetings, writers’ workshops, professional association meetings, and classroom lectures. Learn more about Eric and book him for your next meeting or conference.