My first television interview was aired at 5:30 PM on April 2nd on Cogeco’s Cable 14 – Hamilton, Ontario. I had been interviewed for employment many times, but never publicly, and never about something as personal as an autobiography. The overall experience gave me confidence and prepared me for my next interview to come, with a reporter from a local newspaper, The Flamborough Review. Here’s a bit of background information just before I launch into a critique of the interview.
In my last post, I explained that the recent TV interview came about through a chance meeting with the host of the show, who just happened to be someone I knew. That was a bit of good luck. Being interviewed by someone you know increases the comfort level of the whole process. We worked together more than twenty years before and got to know each other well enough then. He was the principal of a high school where I was Head of the Science Department. Although we hadn’t seen each other for years, and contact was limited to one congratulatory email when the host was elected mayor of Hamilton, when we reconnected everything fell back into place.
The show’s host met with me for about an hour prior to the day of the interview. During that meeting ,he engaged me in discussion and posed some general questions. At the end of our meeting, I gave him a complete bio, a brief synopsis of the book’s content, and a copy of the book itself. The interview was scheduled for the next afternoon when it would be recorded live to tape.
The interview went smoothly and I was relaxed. It really helps when you are being interviewed by someone who knows you. Nevertheless, his questions were probing. The taping was for a half hour show and that was to be the length of the interview; no retakes, no editing, and no chance to misspeak. My goal was to answer questions fully but succinctly, not use too much in the way of gesture, and mind my posture. Although I think everything went well, the proof will be in the viewing.
The setting: Our family room at 5:30 PM on Thursday, April 2, 2015
The viewers and reviewers: My wife and I
The interviewer: Larry di Ianni, retired high school principal, former mayor of Hamilton, Ontario, and a host of a weekly current affairs program in Cable 14 – Hamilton, Ontario.
The interview subject: L Alan Weiss – retired Special Education Specialist, début author of Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment.
The questions posed suggested that the Interviewer had read the material provided, read selected sections of the book, and prepared a set of probing questions. His demeanour was relaxed and friendly, which put the Author at ease.
The Author seemed relaxed, but a bit stiff in affect. Perhaps I was more sensitive to this perceived stiffness than others might be. We are often our most severe critics.
The Interviewer spent the first ten minutes or so asking questions related to the Author’s life story based on the autobiographical section of the book. Why did you immigrate to Canada in 1968? What was it like to be separated from family and home? Why did you pursue a career in teaching after training for a career in research science? Why did you decide to write a book? The remainder of the interview focused on the book and the Author’s intent in writing it. Why did you select a title (Through a Lens of Emptiness) that uses a word, Emptiness, which has negative connotations for most people? Can you explain Taoism for our viewers? How do Zen Gardens fit into your book? Your book is also a memoir about the process of writing an autobiography, could you tell me about that.
The Author responded to all questions with candour and relatively succinctly. The initial stiffness rapidly gave way to a more relaxed demeanour. He answered questions related to personal choices and potential conflictual feelings directly and without hesitation. The Author (me) did not shy away from positions that might be contentious, but tempered his language in all cases. He seemed prepared to answer questions, knowledgeable about the content element of the book, and demonstrated his knowledge of related material in a confident but humble manner.
The viewers, my wife and I, thought the interview went well. My wife is my most trusted critic. She knows me like no other individual and would tell me if it hadn’t gone well without hesitation. I was satisfied with the overall result too. Although my answers were direct and to the point, there were times when they might have been briefer. It was a terrific first experience all-in-all. I’ll stop here before this post, like some of my interview answers, becomes too long.
I came away from this experience with the following insight:
· I can give a credible public interview performance.
· I might spend more time on talking points and possible questions related to my life story, which was probed more than I thought it would be.
· I came across as sincere and modest, but answer questions comfortably.
· The interview was successful because of the preparation of the interviewer and the way questions were asked.
· Not all interviewers are equally skilled and may not be as friendly, so be prepared for the unexpected.
· When you ‘put yourself out there’ answer all questions with conservative candor.
· If you can’t stand by your words and thoughts, you shouldn’t be in the hot seat.
My next interview will appear in print. The words of the interviewer and any quotations are more permanent than the fleeting words of a TV interview. It will be another interesting experience, which, of course, will become the subject of a blog post in this series on Marketing a Book.
As always, your faithful blogger,
L Alan Weiss – Author of Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment
Did you have a first experience interview? How did you react? Please comment….
Visit my author website at www.lalanweiss.com