If you've ever listened to the radio for any length of time, particularly speech radio, then you'll have heard an interview that will make you cringe.
I'm going to talk about such an interview in this article. Listen to the interview from BBC Radio 4 on Friday 24th August.
So - the interview is with Patricia Yates from Visit Britain. She's accomplished at what she does and has a good, listenable voice. I'm saying this because I don't want her, or anyone else, to think that I'm targeting her - I'm not. I'm just using her interview to illustrate a few points about prepping for an interview.
As the title of this article suggests, it all goes wrong with the first answer. We don't know what's happening where Patricia is, but something significant enough to make her claim that 11 BILLION people stay at home in the UK! She seemed unsure before she even gave that figure and corrects herself as soon as she says it. However, she goes on to say some more figures - none of which answer the question that she was asked!
Then, the interview just seems to get away from her. She doesn't always answer the questions that are being asked, and the presenter is doing his best to not make this any more stressful that it clearly already is for the guest. There are some unscrupulous interviewers who would have gleefully jumped on her early nerves and used them to make her look foolish. Not so on the Today Programme!
What this all shows us is the importance of 1) Prep and 2) Rehearsal. She would have know what the subject of the interview was, so could have easily prepped and rehearsed an interview beforehand. None of the questions put to Patricia were particularly difficult, and everything fell well within her remit at Visit Britain. So - why is this one such a difficult listen?
Well, firstly - we all want the interviews to go well. We don't mind hearing interviews that are a little prickly, hostile or confrontational - if there's a good reason for it. But very few of us want to hear an awkward interview - when the guest is clearly struggling with the mere fact of being asked questions on the radio; and that's what was happening here.
Of course, there is always the chance that Patricia Yates just had a major brain freeze and found that everything she has prepped for had just fallen out of her head. It could be that she was a last minute replacement for another guest, or that she was just fed bad information.
Whatever it was, I cannot imagine that she finished the interview and thought "Yes, that was a good one!".
Could she have prevented it? Possibly.
Going back to the prep and rehearsal aspects that I talked about earlier - the first answer is one that you want to make sure you get absolutely right. If you know that the interview is going to be about the rise in popularity of "staycations" in the UK, then there are only a couple of options as to what the first question is going to be:
- How many people are "staycationing" in the UK this year?
- Is it not cheaper to go abroad?
- Why should people think about staying in the UK for their holiday?
All three of those questions were asked, in one form or another, and none of them were properly answered. If Patricia Yates had prepped and rehearsed the answers, she would have felt more assured with what she was saying - rather than going for the scattergun 'stats and generalities' approach.
If you're being asked to be a guest on an interview that is connected to your job, then you should be ready to go at pretty much a moments notice; it's your job after all. That just wasn't the case here.
It's good that she admitted that she had gotten the figure wrong at the beginning, but she should have just take a second or so to gather herself and start again. Many people think that that isn't possible - but it is. A second's gap is enough to reset your brain, regroup and begin again.
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