This common mistake will sabotage your interviews

When I was on-air, I took great pride in my interviewing skills. I wanted to be different and better than everyone else. At one point, I decided I could do that by making my interviews sound less like Q&A and more like conversations.

Big mistake.

interview sabotage

Interviews are NOT conversations. By definition, interviews are Q&A. They are input/output. You input questions and your guest outputs answers.

If you hold conversations, it gives your guest too much leeway to go whatever direction they want. Usually, it won’t be the direction YOU want. Your guest will often steer clear of subjects that make them uncomfortable.

Another reason that conversations don’t work is because they often involve you making comments instead of asking questions. Guests often won’t reply to comments, which brings the entire interview/conversation to an awkward, grinding halt.

If you want to distinguish yourself as an interviewer, do these four things:

  • Be well-prepared
  • Have a plan — know what you want from the interview
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Be a good listener and ask follow-ups

It’s funny – I wanted to have conversations because I wanted to distinguish myself. However, it was only after I realized the error in that that I was able to set myself apart.

5 tips to ensure you are welcome in the locker room

When I was covering San Diego Chargers and San Diego State Aztecs football in the early 90s, I would escort a female reporter friend of mine into the locker rooms. She would hold my elbow, keep her head down, and ask me to lead her to the players she wanted to talk to. Whether it was for religious or personal beliefs, this was part of her locker room etiquette.

locker room

For the most part, the etiquette inside the locker room is the same as on the outside.

  1. Don’t go into the trainer’s room. That is totally off-limits to the media.
  2. Don’t follow guys to the shower.
  3. When guys return from the shower to their locker, either (a) wait for them to acknowledge when it is okay to start asking questions or (b) wait until they have put their pants on.
  4. Don’t be “that guy” who never asks questions but instead only takes audio back to the station that came from the questions of others. You’ll gain respect from your peers if you actively participate.
  5. Always thank people for their time.

Sports talk hosts – here is another point about the locker room that is particularly relevant to you:

You will gain the respect of the players you cover if, after you have been critical of a guy, you make yourself available in the locker room.

Being critical then hiding inside the press box or radio or TV station is a fast way to lose respect.

Top tips for sports talk hosts to create inside sources

There is a sports talk host in San Diego who I love listening to because I know he is connected with the local teams. When he shares opinions, especially about the Padres, I love to read between the lines, knowing there is a good chance that what he is passing off as opinion or observation is actually information he got from an inside source.

photo credit: sandrafdzh via photopin cc
Make it a point to attend practice regularly
Photo credit: sandrafdzh via photopin cc

Most hosts don’t have such insight because most hosts don’t make the effort to develop inside contacts. It’s hard to do because it takes time that many hosts aren’t willing to invest.

Here are four top tips for building insider relationships with the teams that you cover:
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Choose Your Pregame Segments With Money in Mind

pregame-interview
When play-by-play broadcasters ask me what segments their pregame show should include, I tell them to think less about content and more about sponsorable segments. The more money your show can bring in, the more your sales staff will love you and the more job security you will have.

I hosted pre game shows in two markets — McPherson, KS and San Diego, CA. The formula worked equally well in both places.
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Consider this before your critics get under your skin

mobile phone

I couldn’t have worked in sports broadcasting today. My skin is too thin.

Even if 99% of the Internet comments about my talk show or my play-by-play were great, I would dwell on the 1% that wasn’t. I would dwell on it to the point that I would consider tweaking what I was doing to appease the 1%.

Big mistake. Don’t be me. Be realistic. Be mentally strong.
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Off-the-shelf questions for your postgame interviews

interview

When I was on ESPN Radio, I used to hate when my producer Jason McBride would pop into my headset and say, “We have so-and-so on from the baseball game. They just won 3-1.”

Great. What am I supposed to ask the guy? I didn’t see the game – I was on the air!

Tired of getting caught unprepared, I put together some standard, off-the-shelf questions. Most of them aren’t very insightful, but at least they can get the interview started. From there, you can spontaneously ask more thoughtful questions based upon the answers you receive.
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