Preparing for a big interview without getting intimidated
I’m going to name-drop now. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Denzel Washington – lots of big male leads in films. The presence they bring to the room can be quite scary. This feeling can really knock you off your guard, but you don’t know until you get there.
It all goes back to preparation. If you know your stuff inside and out – if you’ve seen their film, for example, and you’ve watched their other interviews about it – then you’re pretty prepped. But it all comes back to that bottom line: that Practise and Preparation Prevent Poor Performance.
Guiding the interview in the right direction
If you want the guest to tell you stuff, you need to be quiet. I’m guilty of not doing that enough, and I’m always trying to improve. But for example, right now we’re here in the studio and I’m the interview subject, so I’m doing more talking. If you were the subject, then I would just need to listen and react – and as long as I had that research and preparation we talked about, I could be ready to guide the interviewee in the right direction.
That said, as the subject, you can take me wherever you want to go. You want to go left or right, so to speak; I’ll be there. You want to be straightforward, or go in another direction entirely? I’m ready. You take me where you want to go, and I’ll follow, then bring you back to where I want to go.
And I know when to end an interview. At Tomorrowland, for example, I know what the ending is: Have fun on the main stage. I’ll let you go now because you’re going to be late – but don’t forget, you can listen to this interview and watch it wherever you go. Whatever happens in the messy middle, I’m not going to get lost at the end there.
Dealing with a mistake during a live interview
I was interviewing Mandy, a hardstyle DJ in Belgium, and I said, “We’ve not met before.” And she said, “Yeah, we have – last year.” In the midst of everything, you’re trying to remember a lot, and she wasn’t quite as big as some other DJs I’d interviewed the year before. She’s getting more and more established – but anyway, I felt bad, especially since it was a live broadcast.
But you just have to deal with it. I dealt with it by mocking myself later in the interview, like in a submissive way. “Oh, another mistake from me!” – that kind of thing, to make light of it. Because the last thing I want to do is offend anyone or make them feel less important than the next person.
And it was a nice interview after that point! Because the truth is, no one wants you to fail. There’s that element of empathy and understanding from most subjects – seeing that I’ve probably done 15 interviews already today, back-to-back, wall-to-wall, and understanding I might make mistakes.
And of course, if you’re careful with it, you can bring back that mistake and make a connection. Now that it’s become a thing, I can use that for the next interview with her – talking about “Have we met before?” as a joke. It breaks the ice for next time.