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How to Get More From Interview Opportunities

One way many small business owners can promote their businesses is through interviews with local media and press to build exposure. The idea of being interviewed is exciting. It allows you to talk about something you’re passionate about (your business!) and build authority by showing off your expertise.

Like I said, the idea is exciting. The actual interview can be terrifying, especially for small business owners who aren’t used to hopping into the spotlight. But the experience doesn’t have to be scary. In additional to being a great way to attract new leads, it can also be fun!

As a small business owner, you need to learn how to get more from interview opportunities so that you can better promote your business and benefit from each interview you do. Here are some tips that have helped me benefit from interview opportunities in the past.

Research the interviewer: Assuming the interview is set up beforehand, you should know the name of the person you’ll be speaking with. Take some time to do a bit of research and find out who this person is. What other publications do they write for? What types of stories do they like? Who have they interviewed in the past? By finding out a bit more about the person you’ll be speaking with, you can show up feeling like you know the person. Chatting with friends is a lot easier than chatting with strangers.

Find what’s interesting about their question: Not all interviewers are good at interviewing. That means sometimes you have to find the interesting angle to the question they’re asking, even if that angle doesn’t totally answer their question. The point of an interview is to give the publication something interesting that they can use. Often I’m asked how my company Outspoken Media came to be [1]. While I could run down a long story about how I met my business partners Rhea and Rae years ago and how I became tired of working for someone else, I don’t. Instead, I talk about the recession that affected everyone and how three gutsy women decided to launch a company in the middle of it–because that’s what’s interesting about us. Don’t be afraid to take an interviewer’s question and run with it if there’s a good story. Which brings us to…

Be a storyteller: When you’re being interviewed, look for instances where you can include short stories about your business or yourself as a business owner. Social media has served as a good reminder that people connect over stories. We connect when we can relate to someone and when we see a piece of ourselves in their tale. These are the strings that people will hold on to. Become a storyteller.

Be succinct: Whether the interview is for radio, newspaper or some form of online media, remember that the interviewer only has a limited amount of space. That means you need to make your answers fit within that slot. That means paying attention to the questions and making sure not to ramble, not to get sidetracked on unrelated tangents, and not to tell the long story when the shorter one will suffice. The long version is perfect for your mom. Have the succint version ready for reporters when they ask.

Prepare sound bytes: Because I have a habit of getting really nervous in interviews, I like to have sound bytes prepared for things I want to say. Whether it’s a product I want to mention, something my company is up to or just a few predetermined answers to questions I know they’ll ask, I always have a few responses stored up. Having these in my back pocket allows me to quickly get out my main message and ensures that I touch on everything I want to say during the interview. If there are three things you want to mention about your company during the interview, make sure you have them in your head. Part of getting the most out of your interview is setting yourself up to succeed before it even starts.

Make it a conversation: If you feel yourself getting overly nervous, stop. Stop thinking about this as an interview and think of it as a conversation with someone who’s interested in what you do. Imagine you’re in a coffee shop and someone leaned over to ask you about what you do, how long you’ve been doing it and what you’re interested in. If that happened in real life, you’d probably have a hard time containing your excitement while responding. This interview is really the same thing. It’s just you talking to someone about a topic that you love. So make it a conversation. You’ll be more relaxed, the person who’s interviewing you will be more relaxed, and you’ll remember all the cool things you want to say.

Those are some tips that have helped me to deliver better interviews. What words of wisdom do you live by?