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How to Prepare Questions for Radio or TV Interviews

Like everything else in radio and TV, the skill of preparing interview questions will become second nature with experience. If you’re starting out, you might find it useful to read one or two pointers….

  • Understand your role.  The interview is not about you or your views –  it’s exclusively about the person you’re interviewing; adapt you manner to the circumstances but, unless your the question is the story, stay low profile.
  • More than you need. How many questions? Depends on the length of interview you’ve been asked to record; the best answer is a non-prescriptive ‘more than you need’ – perhaps three for a one-minuter, five for a  three-minuter, eight for a five-minuter, etc.
  • Go for flow.  The way you order your questions should give the interview a structure and purpose, so think hard about the order in which you ask them.
  • The  questions your audience would ask? Up to a point. Ask the questions your audience would ask but edit and refine them: their questions may be aggressive, or rude, or fawning, or have been asked too many times before.
  • Start with a softie. A soft starting question will help you and your subject warm to the task.
  • Ask ‘open’ questions’. An ‘open question’ is who?, what?, why?, when?, where? how?; these are questions to which it’s impossible to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  • KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Keep your questions short and simple.  ‘Why?” is the best of the lot!  And avoid relative clauses: they cause confusion wherever they go.
  • One question at a time. It’ll give you, your subject and your audience the best chance of remembering it!
  • Written questions. If you have to, write down your questions but you’ll sound a bit clunky! Much better to memorise them.

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