Host Advice: How to Prep for a Press Tour Interview

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Maybe you’ve been thinking about becoming a host or you’re just curious about how things work. Well, I’m here to answer your questions! And the first one I’ll be tackling is something a lot of aspiring hosts ask me: How to prepare when conducting an interview and, more specifically, how to prepare when your guest is on a press tour.

Ah yes, the ol’ whirlwind of press activity: a day of back-to-back media outlets asking questions (often the same ones) to a guest in a confined amount of time (usually 3-5 minutes if you’re lucky). These days can be dry and boring with answers very rehearsed and on brand.

In fact, on the Aug. 9 edition of the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” actor Robert Pattinson even brought this to light, confessing to Colbert that he had just done a series of “dreadful” interviews over the phone before sitting down in the guest chair.

The same questions over and over might have been fine in the era of regional interviews, but now, with pretty much everything going online, most people want their videos to be watchable, shareable, clickable...viral.

Unless you already have an audience of millions that follow you online, if you ask the obvious questions, you’ll get the obvious answers and your content won't resonate.

Fundamentally, there are two emotions that cause people to share content: happiness and anger.

Let's start with happiness: something either makes a viewer laugh so much they just have to pass it along (like a meme), completely fills their heart with joy (like an awesome success story or a very cute cat), or is something they completely, passionately agree with ("This person shares my thoughts too!"). This also encompasses information that's really interesting. All of these factors equal something people are more likely to share it.

Then, anger: “This content enraged me so much I not only have to share it but my opinion on it as well.” Short, strongly opinionated video clips are a good bet for more sharing because they tend to evoke this kind of emotion.

READ: How to Take Your TV Hosting Skills to the Big Screen

So how does this relate to preparing for an interview? Well, what can you focus on with your interview subject that you feel will make good content? Humor? Interesting information? A strong opinion? Have one in mind when you prepare your questions.

If your guest is on a press tour, you’ll have to talk about the project the press tour is for but to avoid answers that are boring and on-message, think about how you can ask those questions in a way that may spark more interesting, less repetitive answers.

Often, a publicist will be in the room during the interview to make sure everything is going well, so you may have to work with them to get the OK regarding any fun segments or ideas, like games. If you’re at a press junket, sometimes you have to clear props as well—it depends on the publicist. Once you build trust and forge a relationship, it’ll be easy to pitch fun ideas.

During press tour interviews, I try to completely avoid cliche questions. I mention why they’re there and what they’re promoting, then get into a related topic. Definitely do your homework: learn what your guest’s hobbies are, any recent news items, favorite teams, etc. Thanks so social media, this isn’t all that hard.

I once did a five-minute press junket interview based on five-year-old tweets. They loved it and the segment was a hit because the subject had completely forgotten about the tweets until we were laughing about them for the camera.

Press tour or not, the biggest advice is to listen. Always listen. The worst thing you can do is just power through your questions as it might mean you plow over a gem of a follow up that could turn into the main draw of your interview. Larry King, the king of interviews, prepares minimally for his subjects because he asks simple questions and listens closely.

For those of us who need to be prepared, if you know your stuff, have a good angle to take, make sure the guest gets out of it what they need and have fun, then you have a better shot at having a video that will be enjoyed by more people.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Arda Ocal
Arda Ocal is an award-winning broadcaster based in the New York City area. He currently works as a host on MSG Networks and ESPN.