The flipside: what to do when the host isn't prepared
Next thing you know, you’re sitting across from the host while the producer counts down until the show is live and on air. Then the unthinkable happens—the host stares ahead like a deer caught in the headlights. She stumbles over words, forgets what questions to ask and doesn’t have a clue what you or your book is all about. You feel as if your dream has been shattered.
Unfortunately, interviewers can be off their game from time-to-time, but it’s your job as the guest to remain calm, cool and collected. Even under the worst of circumstances, an author can boost their likeability by being prepared and professional.
Recently, an ABC News Now entertainment reporter crashed and burned in an interview with Hollywood actress Holly Hunter. While ABC has been extremely supportive of the News Now host – who later explained that her ear piece failed while she was interviewing Hunter – it’s apparent from watching the clip that she was not ready for this interview.
As publicists, what really stands out for us was how Holly Hunter kept her composure during the interview-gone-awry. Not once did she seem thrown off by the host’s flubs. Hunter maintained her professionalism and still managed to plug her latest project.
While Media Training is a great way to prepare authors to perform under the pressure of a TV interview, there is no way to plan for problems such as bad interviewers or technical malfunctions. If you do get caught up in an interview that isn’t going as planned, here are some things you can do to make the most out of the situation:
•Don’t panic. The camera is on you, and if it’s a live interview, there is no time to edit out disapproving facial expressions or nervous laughter. Keep your composure as the actress in the interview did. Smile, nod and maintain eye contact. If your eyes start dodging around the room for answers, you’ll be the one who looks unprepared.
•Take the lead. While this isn’t always an appropriate thing to do, it might be your saving grace if the interviewer seems stumped for questions. Try using bridging statements such as “On the other hand,” or “But the most important thing is…” as a way to bring the host back to your message and develop some new questions.
•Don’t interrupt or correct the host. Sometimes, an interviewer might introduce you incorrectly. To avoid looking arrogant or rude, try to cover up their mistakes throughout the interview. You’ll have the opportunity to offer accurate information and reference your professional by using statements such as, “In my work with…” or “In my 30 years of experience in...” or “My book, which comes out next week, is about…”
•Mention your book. If the host uses the title of your book, another way to bring the interview back around is to use your title as a reference tool. In our Media Training, we urge authors to mention the name of their book at least three times. The repetition should help your title stick in an audience member’s memory. You can say, “One of the things I talk about in “Insert Title Here,” is…”
•Don’t go on the defensive. Remember, odds are that the host has not read the book and is not extremely familiar with your message. Most hosts receive a press kit from their producer (who got it from your publicist) about five minutes before they start interviewing you. If they make a mistake, push through it and explain your message as if you're pitching your book to a complete stranger for the first time.