by Thomas Nash
So you are going to be interviewed on radio or television. Praise the Lord! It’s an excellent and exciting opportunity to present the challenge of your work to more people than you might talk with in several weeks or months of church meetings.
So you are going to be interviewed on radio or television. Praise the Lord! It’s an excellent and exciting opportunity to present the challenge of your work to more people than you might talk with in several weeks or months of church meetings. But to most people a broadcast interview also contains a certain element of terror. The thought of thousands of unseen ears listening may be unsettling. Unless you are technically inclined, you may feel overwhelmed to be surrounded by strange appearing electronic equipment. The purpose of this article is to ease that fear somewhat by helping you prepare for your interview, and helping you to know more or less what to expect in the interview situation.
Do actively seek out interview situations. When you are going to be in an area where there is a Christian radio station (or several perhaps), drop the program manager a letter letting him know that you will be in the area and available for an interview. (A Directory of Religious Broadcasting, listing religious radio and television stations as well as program producers is available for $15.00 from National Religious Broadcasters, Box 2254R, Morristown, New Jersey 07960.)
Be sure to tell him how to get in touch with you. Also give him enough interesting details about your work or background so that he will want to know more. If you have not heard from him by the time you arrive in the city, telephone him . Ask to speak to the program manager, and again offer to be interviewed, telling something of your background. This will frequently get you an interview opportunity.
Do be entertaining. People listen to radio for both long-term and short-term benefits. As they listen to your interview they will no doubt pick up information that will help them in their spiritual growth and in their ability to pray more knowledgeably. Don’t forget, however, to put in some of the elements they can appreciate right now. A good story. A funny experience. Something that will touch their emotions. Something that broke your heart. Use some balance, neither entirely light items, nor entirely heavy.
Do be brief. Radio and television are fast moving media. You will want to talk fairly rapidly and with enthusiasm. You will also want to compress the vital information you wish to convey into small packages. You might wish to practice answering questions like, "What is it like to live in (your field)?", in not more than about a minute, and still get something significant said.
Do use anecdotes. People like to hear stories. Jesus used many. In written communication a reader can stop and ponder a point, or reread it if he doesn’t understand. In spoken communication the speaker needs to organize the material so it is easy to grasp. Abstract ideas are often difficult to understand, but anyone can understand a story.
Do be personal. People relate to other people. Chances are most of the listeners won’t understand much about your work, since they don’t know the culture and the kinds of problems that missionaries face. You can’t expect them to share your love for a people of which they know almost nothing. But being human they can and will relate to your own personal struggles and triumphs. Speak in first person singular, I, rather than plural "we" as often as it is appropriate. People don’t understand and can’t relate to campaigns, mission organizations, broadcast stations, corporations, etc., but they can relate to individual human beings.
Do be conversational. An interview should not sound like a sermon or lecture. There should be an easy back-and-forth exchange with the interviewer. Incomplete sentences, such as we use every day in ordinary speech are entirely acceptable in interviews. Speak fairly rapidly. Try to feel what you are saying and let that feeling show through. Don’t study out your words excessively, as if you were dictating an important letter.
It may help if you are able to forget about the radio audience and picture yourself as talking only to the interviewer. But if you must think of an audience, try to picture individuals by themselves or in small groups, rather than one great mass of people. After all, people are not assembled in a grandstand to listen, they are usually alone, going about their day’s activities. Your style should reflect the easygoing informality of a visit to the home of a good friend.
Do be prepared. Make a note about things you wish to cover. These notes should be key words only, seed thoughts that will cause you to remember the ideas, rather than a scripted text. If you try to read a script it will sound just that way unless you have had professional training in this area. Notes are often convenient if typed on cards. One or two cards can contain a lot of key words, are easy to handle, and don’t rattle as paper does.
Do suggest ideas to the interviewer. Before you go on the air you may wish to suggest some kinds of questions the interviewer might ask. After all, he doesn’t know you or much about your work. It might be helpful if you were to prepare for him an information sheet, giving your name, field, position, any pertinent personal information he can use in the introduction, and a list of possible questions he might ask. As indicated earlier, these questions should be personal to the extent that they can be. For example, very few people can relate to the number of operations per year that a missionary hospital performs, but people would be interested in what a missionary doctor does in a typical day.
Do get to know the interviewer personally before the interview, if possible. Ask him some questions about himself, where he is from, his family, how long he has been in this business, his schooling, etc. This will have two positive effects, it will make you feel more at ease with the person, and will do the same for the interviewer. Don’t forget that to many broadcast people missionaries are as much an enigma as they are to the general Christian community. He may feel ill at ease in your presence.
Don’t give yes or no answers. If the question is, "Do you have a family?", use this as an opening to tell a little bit about your family, rather than just answering, "Yes." A clever interviewer will not ask questions that can be easily answered yes or no, but some interviewers have not learned this technique, so help them out.
Don’t ramble. Keep your answers reasonably brief and to the point. Don’t depart from the main point of question unless you must for good reason to really answer it, and if you must, point out what you are doing. The interviewer doesn’t want to feel as if he is losing control.
Don’t make personal attacks. By law a radio or television station must notify any individual or institution personally attacked over the air and offer them the opportunity to reply. Obviously this is a lot of trouble for the station and will not make you popular there. You can refer to what you believe are errors or outright sins in other people, as long as you don’t mention them by name. In any case, it is probably more wise to keep the program on a higher plane and "judge not."
Don’t forget when the program is to be broadcast, if it is pretaped. If it is not made clear, ask when the program will be on the air. Write it down, and refer to any speaking engagements, etc., in light of the time the broadcast will be heard, rather than from the time perspective of when it was recorded.
Don’t forget to thank the station. Personally thank the interviewer, of course. But be sure to write a letter of appreciation to the manager of the station pointing out the significant contribution to the Lord’s work such an interview is. Christian broadcasters sometimes feel they are not really appreciated by the Christian community. Some are living at an economic standard below much of the rest of the community, and don’t have the status that overseas missionaries have. Your letter will help them see the importance of what they are doing in light of eternal values. They will greatly appreciate and be encouraged by it.
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