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3 Tips for an On-Stage Interview

By Adam Bush on August 9, 2018

Capturing stories come in so many forms, and often, working for an organization or non-profit can mean you as a storyteller are wearing many “hats.” A friend of mine who’s normally helping craft messages for his lead pastor asked me a question about interviewing someone live on stage, so I thought I’d post the question here and expound on my responses a bit.


Hey off the top of your head, what are some quick tips for doing an on-stage interview?


1. Don’t ask close-ended questions, bring up topics of conversation.

I’ve seen this happen with so many first-timers. I even read this in a real estate magazines today: “How long have you been doing this kind of work?” That’s going to get a short response that isn’t even interesting. As the interviewer, you have to think of yourself as a conversation starter, a topic “bringer-upper.” A better question would be, “Talk to me about when you started and why.” That’ll, at the least, allow a more expanded, detailed answer.

Remember what we say (cause we stole it from Ira Glass): YOU’RE THE HOST OF THE PARTY. A host would get people talking.

2. Do the least amount of talking. The audience is most likely here to listen to the interviewee.

Timothy Keller is the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan and author of The Reason for God. He’s one of my favorite communicators and has been a hero of mine for years. Last year I went to a Q&A he was featured / speaking at. It was two hours long, but might as well have been thirty minutes because the interviewer didn’t understand his role: to get the featured speaker talking. A rookie mistake (or maybe prideful one) is to think you need to be a BIG part of the conversation. Remember: your audience is here to hear them. Your role to help pull out what they want to hear.

3. Do your homework.

Just like any story, there’s some pre-story work to do. Talk to your interviewer beforehand or (if they’re an individual who’s unavailable to talk) do your research. If it’s an author, read the book. If it’s a CEO or founder of an organization, learn everything you can about their company. Walk in feeling like you know JUST AS MUCH ABOUT THEM as they do. You won’t, but that confidence will come through.

And there you have it. 3 quick tips for an on-stage interview. Happy storytelling.

P.S. Full disclosure, my actual #3 response to my friend was: Don’t poop on stage. Everyone will know. Also, a good tip, but I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. : )

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