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My Interview Guest Is Paralyzed By Fear!

Here are ways to help them through it.

Photo by david laws on Unsplash

Some people don’t do well being interviewed.

Public speaking is one of the biggest fears people have, and even though your show might take place in a small studio or room, chances are your guest believes there are millions of people listening, and they’re afraid of saying something that will lead to ridicule. All it takes to freak them out is a microphone or a camera in front of them.

Yet they want to do the interview. They know it’s important if they’re pushing a product or an event. Or maybe it’s information they believe people need to know, and it turns out they’re the best source of that information.

How do you make guests feel comfortable with being in the spotlight?

This is going to depend on the type of interview. Celebrities, politicians and other famous people know the drill, and are usually relaxed, unless they have something difficult to say, or they know the interview might become confrontational.

But people from other walks of life could very easily become a wreck right before your show.

Here are some tips I’ve learned that might be helpful.

Explain what’s going to happen.

Before you start recording, talk to them a little bit. Tell them you’re just going to have a conversation. Try to reassure them that if they go off track you will be there to guide them. Let them know you will make sure you give them the opportunity to promote whatever it is they’re pitching (for a lot of interviews, the plug is the trade off).

Don’t make them feel stupid. Make them feel important.

If you’re doing an entertainment type of interview show, you might even ask if there’s any question that’s off limits. Then don’t break that rule! I have seen and heard celebrities walk out or hang up if you ask what you agreed not to. You may think you’re being a badass by asking the “forbidden” question. I personally didn’t want to waste a good interview opportunity. Most of the time their limits were not an issue. If they were, I passed on the interview.

You might be wondering how someone like Howard Stern gets around this. Simple. You can’t be on his show unless you agree that nothing is off limits. Celebrities and PR people know this about him, and he has a big enough audience to get away with it.

Once the interview starts, maybe make your initial questions ones that are in your guest’s wheelhouse, the ones you know they can answer with authority. Let them know you’re listening, comment on their answers. If your guest feels like you’re into what they’re saying, they’ll start to get excited and will move past their fear.

Look them in the eye. Don’t get distracted by other things going on in the interview. If you’re doing a radio show, you might be aware of a time limit. You might have commercials, the news, traffic, and other things coming up, but it’s very important you stay focused on the guest. Looking at the clock repeatedly will take your guest back to nervousness.

Try to get them to tell a story. Ask them to explain something.

Don’t ask closed questions that lead to a yes or no answer. The trick is to get them to keep talking.

And most important, smile.

Even if there are no cameras, smile. Your guest will see it, and it will help them relax.

Now go do a great show.

I am a 30-year veteran of radio and other media, with over a dozen years hosting morning shows, and another dozen as a journalist. I’ve worked all across the country, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. My goal is to share the soft skills needed to be successful in podcasting and broadcasting. If you want to be notified when I post, click here.

You can also support my work by becoming a member here.

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A publication for those wanting to launch and run a podcast the DIY way! Tips, resources, tools, and stories from the podcasting world to help you go from idea to launch.

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George “Ace” Acevedo

George “Ace” Acevedo

Podcast and broadcast consultant. VoiceOver Pro. Writer. Presenter.

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