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How to Interview an Industry Expert

Are you doing expert interviews as part of your content mix? If not you should be. 

Interviewing industry experts is a tremendous opportunity to develop your career and project yourself as a valuable information resource. That’s because interviews:

  • provide super-rich content for your audience;
  • provide significant exposure for you;
  • demonstrate your professional accomplishments;
  • create opportunities to connect with experts;
  • and help to broaden your professional network.

So how do you go about the interviewing process?

Planning for an Interview

  • First, always keep a list of experts and interesting personalities in your industry;
  • When the time is right send an email request asking for an interview;
  • Explain to the expert what benefit he of she will gain from the interview e.g. if your blog has an international audience, then they will gain added exposure in foreign countries;
  • Whether they accept or reject your request, be polite and friendly and thank them for their consideration;
  • Decide whether you’re going to do a face-to-face, video (side-by-side), telephone or written interview;
  • Set up a convenient time and date taking into consideration different time zones if applicable;
  • Plan your questions carefully – show that you ‘know your stuff’ by doing your research about the interviewee, his career and professional accomplishments;
  • When preparing your questions think about your audience – what do they want to hear? Ask the questions that will interest your audience not your interviewee;
  • 10 questions are usually more than enough, sometimes even less will do;
  • The most important questions should be asked first in case you run out of time;
  • Study other interviewers but develop your own style;
  • Rehearse, rehearse and reahearse again;
  • Some interviewers provide their guest with a copy of  the questions beforehand. I prefer not to – I think it makes for a more spontaneous and ‘real’ conversation. Try both and see what works for you. But if the interviewee asks for the questions, by all means indulge them.

Before the Interview

  • Set up before time to ensure the equipment is working as it should (check sound, video, lighting etc) – I think it’s better to have someone else handle the technology if you’re not experienced in this area;
  • Relax and chat with the interviewee in order to break the ice and build rapport with them;
  • Even if it’s your first interview, project confidence at all times – remember you’re in control and it’s your job to lead the way;
  • If you’re nervous, it will show in your voice or tone so it’s very important that you believe in yourself (if it helps to pray or meditate before hand, go ahead and do so).

During the Interview

  • At all times, keep in mind who your audience is and direct the interview in a way that will provide most value to them;
  • Engage your interviewee with the most interesting questions – I find it helpful to start off by asking them to tell a story (about themselves, their career or life accomplishments) that my audience would find particularly fascinating;
  • Be very courteous and friendly at all times – remember if the interviewee enjoys himself, the interview experience will be very successful;
  • Even with a telephone interview, smile – it helps you to relax and maintain confidence throughout the interview (this is projected through your voice and tone);
  • Don’t be afraid of ‘pregnant pauses’ or long moments of silence – sometimes these are unforeseen ‘gifts’ in an interview that prompt the interviewee to share something deeply personal and significant – something that you couldn’t have anticipated;
  • Adopt a conversational tone – don’t just read word-for-word from your script. The script should only be used as a guide.
  • Sometimes during an interview, unexpected things happen e.g. a dog barks in the background, the doorbell rings, or a child bursts into the room. Don’t panic or get nervous. Depending on the nature of the interruption, you could use that opportunity to ask an interesting question e.g. “How do you handle distractions that come with working from home?” – Your audience will love that you’re capable of turning a situation to your advantage;
  • Never ‘lead’ the interviewee – always ask questions that allow him or her the freedom to speak freely and introduce a different angle;
  • Never lose track of the time – be mindful of your guest and stick to the time that you agreed upon. If you have to exclude some questions, then so be it;
  • Before closing, ask your interviewee if they have any final thoughts that they would like to share with your audience. This demonstrates courtesy, and also gives your guest the opportunity to add something that was not covered in the interview.
  • Thank the interviewee for taking the time to do the interview, remind the audience where they may find him and his work (Twitter handle, website etc) and also thank your audience for tuning in to your interview.
  • After the interview is over, make sure that the recording is edited and cleaned up to ensure a professional final product.

Quick Tip: Expert interviews are not always easy to come by. The best time to ask for an interview is when the expert has done something for which they need all the publicity they can get e.g. they’ve published a new book, they’re organizing a big event, or they’ve made a significant contribution to the industry. During these times, they’re more likely to agree to do an interview because the benefit to them is obvious.

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Comments

  1. Ryan Steinolfson says:

    Great suggestions. I agree I don’t like to send the interviewee the questions ahead of time as I think I get a much more spontaneous interview.

    • Absolutely Ryan. I did it once and the interview was such a flop that I didn’t bother to publish it. Since then, I’ve relied on the spontaneous, “Pierce Morgan’ style 🙂

  2. Ryan Steinolfson says:

    Great suggestions. I agree I don’t like to send the interviewee the questions ahead of time as I think I get a much more spontaneous interview.

    • Absolutely Ryan. I did it once and the interview was such a flop that I didn’t bother to publish it. Since then, I’ve relied on the spontaneous, “Pierce Morgan’ style 🙂

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