Be a Great Interview

If you work for a nonprofit, sooner or later you are going to be in front of the camera.  Either the news will ask  you for a comment at an event, or you or one of your corporate partners will want you to explain your cause for a video.  The last thing you want to do is to be nervous, or worse yet, walk in dreading  the interview.  It just so happens that I had an amazing interview this past week; it was an interview where both of us shared stories like we were best friends — a true conversation.  So, I thought it might be a good time to share my top five tips with my nonprofit video friends.  So, keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to set up your own interview practice time with a friend or co-worker.


1.  Memorizing = Disaster

Don’t ask for your questions ahead of time and do not attempt to write out responses to questions that you believe might be asked.  Memorization will turn you into the most unfeeling robot, and since an interview is shot as a close-up,  it will be apparent that the words are rehearsed and not from the heart. Trust that you know the answers, and if you don’t, there is nothing to worry about, as your interviewer only wants what you do know in the video anyway.  No worries!

2.  Be the Caring Mother/Father

It’s very easy to go into professional mode with four syllable words and statistics, but you will find that people tune out when they hear that kind of language.  Think of the famous people you have heard speak — wasn’t it the personal tidbits that really made you smile or pay attention?  No matter what the cause, try to discuss it as if you were a parent (or best friend if you don’t have kids).  Yes, this is even true when discussing financials.  This approach will keep your tone as an “equal” rather than a “superior” with your audience.

3. Your Emotions are a Strength

I had an Executive Director sharing his  frustration of knowing that early childhood education is scientifically proven, yet still not fully utilized.  His voice grew stronger and he sat up higher in his seat with clenched hands — you knew it really bothered him.  I would have given him a donation right then and there, because I knew he wasn’t giving me a pitch.  Whether you show joy, frustration, sadness, humor or even outright anger, these are the things that your audience believes as they are undeniably you.  Don’t be scared to reveal how you really feel about your issue.

4.  Short and Sweet Wins

If you watch the news, you will find that comments are just a sentence and the audio is trailed off making it obvious that the person spoke quite a bit longer.  That is your cue that short sound bytes win.  Try to always think of your answers being one or two sentences long.  Not only is this easier for those doing the editing, but it also helps you to sound clear and confident.  Usually if you go longer you will end up repeating the same message with different words anyway, and it won’t be as good as your first sentence.  So just be a minimalist.

5. Answer in a Complete Sentence

Most often, the interviewer will not be in the finished video or news clip, which means the audience will never hear the question that you answered.  That’s fine, but the real problem is that we all speak in fragments throughout the day.  For instance, I may say, “vanilla”.  We don’t know if I’m describing boring real estate or a flavor of ice cream.  So, it is very important to speak in a complete sentence when answering.  This can be done by including the question in the answer, such as, “My favorite ice cream is vanilla” .  Or, you can create your own statement like, “I adore vanilla ice cream”.

That’s it for the tips, now put them into practice.  You want your constituents to be engaged, so let them witness you as someone that is visually, verbally and emotionally engaged.  And if you get nervous, just ask the interviewer to take a break for a minute and ask how their day has been.  Not only will you stop your mind from dangerous replays, you will also show your interviewer that you value them.  Enjoy your time together.