September 15, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

Too many podcasts, panel sessions and event conversations have ended up as one big train crash.

There is not one reason for it, it can be multiple. The guest taking over and taking the interview somewhere irrelevant. The host making the session all about them and forgetting about the guest. A conversation that seems to be them waffling and you wishing for a way out!

There are some key things you can do to keep your interview, panel or conversation on track. While some of these may be more suited to one of these conversation styles (interview, panel or simply a chat) they are all useful and worth consideration.

It’s not about you

The concept of “be interested not interesting” applies here. Particularly if you are a panel or podcast host. Ask questions about your guest. What is it that they want to communicate? What is it your audience will find valuable? How can you get to the core messages and skip the padding? It is not the time for you to wait for the guest to answer the question and then tell them what you think. Be humble.

What is your style?

There are three kinds of interview styles: friend, foe or facilitate.

The friend style is when you agree with everything they say and, to be frank, I find this rather dull. Think of nearly every entertainment reporter you have ever heard. They stick to the script and just go with the core messages.

The foe style is your investigative reporter approach. Friendly up front and then the surprise BAM! Sometimes it is a bit foot in the door-like. It can be quite uncomfortable to watch and doesn’t get you the best results.

The facilitate style is my preferred approach. This is where you know what the guest wants to get across so you help make that happen, and you ask some other interesting questions that you know the audience wants to hear. Craig Ferguson was brilliant at this on the Late, Late Show.

What about conversations?

Not everyone is a professional interviewer. So what about at networking events or conversations, how can we make those interactions easier? Stick to the “it’s not about you” principle and treat the people you are talking to as your guest. If someone joins you for a conversation, make sure you introduce them. And not in that, “Oh Raj have you met Jai?” kind of way. Go full on.

Something like, “Oh Raj, this is Jai. She is a senior accountant at Accountants R Us and loves cycling. Jai, this is Raj. They do amazing things with copper sculptures and also work in purchasing at Bunnings.” Give a little more context. People feel way more at ease because they now know a bit more and don’t have to pussyfoot around small talk. They can follow up with “Oh wow, copper sculptures! Have you got any pictures?”

At your next event, make sure your time is well spent and your podcast, panel or party gets the result you want. Your interview and questioning style will make a huge difference.

Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events globally.