Churches are increasingly under scrutiny—here’s how to avoid a bad interview that could kill church momentum

Hang on to these steps, print them or save them on your phone, and in that unexpected moment when the press comes to your door, you’ll be ready. | by Phil Cooke, Ph.D

I’ve become a big podcast fan, largely because it allows me to learn from brilliant people in multiple areas of life. But something has been surprising, and that’s when bestselling writers, respected filmmakers, high level executives, and other high achievers can’t express themselves in a simple interview. Even though their books are extraordinary, their films are insightful, or their work is groundbreaking, I’m fascinated with how much difficulty many people have in a normal conversation.

It’s so frustrating to hear someone I know is a great thinker stumble for words, start every sentence with “So,” constantly say “ah,” “um,” and “you know,” and struggle to craft a coherent spoken sentence. Keep in mind these are men and women who write bestselling books, lead companies, or do amazing creative work.

Granted, not everyone is a great public speaker, but there’s no question that if you can’t carry on an intelligent conversation, it will hold you back. Starting today, think about how you are perceived in a conversation or a casual interview. If you had the opportunity to be interviewed for a news report or podcast, could you pull it off?

I’ve written before about speaking in front of crowds, but chances are, you’ll have many more opportunities to be interviewed, so here’s a list of suggestions to keep in mind:

  1. You never know when an interview opportunity might come, so it’s never too early to prepare. Practice by yourself or with close friends. You’ll never be comfortable unless you’ve done it before.
  2. It’s only an interview, so there’s no need to get uptight. Enjoy the moment.
  3. Always be aware of using “fill-in” words like “um,” “ah,” or “you know.” Eliminate those – even from everyday conversation.
  4. If you’re not naturally funny, be careful in the attempt. That’s where most people get into trouble because it usually results in off-color, inappropriate, or just plain corny jokes.
  5. Know your area of expertise and always be prepared to do a 3-5 minute talk on the subject.
  6. Focus, don’t ramble. Most interviews are very short – typically 7-11 minutes depending on the platform. So don’t go into the backstory, your life history, or other peripheral stories. Get right to the heart of the issue or you’ll lose listeners.
  7. Finally, even short interview responses should have a beginning, middle, and end. So for instance, rather than rambling, next time you’re interviewed share what you know of the background or context of the issue (beginning), some options for solving the problem (middle), and your recommendations on how the listener can fix it in his or her life (end). A simple 3-part formula like this can yield a very informative interview.

The Bible says to be ready “in and out of season,” and when it comes to opportunities to share your expertise, that’s excellent advice. Otherwise, a poor interview could inflict some significant damage to your career if not to your church.

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