How To Be A Better Interviewer (Part One)

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on October 4, 2011 – 6:27 am

Media trainers usually coach spokespersons how to become better interviewees. But over the past few years, an increasing number of our clients have asked us to help them become better interviewers.

Some people want to become better interviewers because they moderate panel discussions. Others host podcasts which require them to interview outside experts.

Over the next three days, this blog will help you learn how to become a better interviewer.

There are many effective styles of interviewing: Ted Koppel is known as a tough interrogator, Tim Russert was known for being direct but affable, Charlie Rose is known for being chummy and curious, and James Lipton is known for being well-researched and sycophantic.


The late Tim Russert was known for being friendly but tough.


Four men, four totally different styles. As I said, there’s more than one effective style of interviewing. For now, build upon your innate personality traits. If you’re naturally warm, be a warm interviewer. If you’re naturally skeptical, play the devil’s advocate.

Regardless of which style of interviewer you become, some traits are common to almost all good interviewers. In this video, former CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric offers some terrific interviewing advice:

Here are five of the most important things Katie Couric teaches you about interviewing in this video:

  1. 1. Interviews aren’t about you. You’re there to serve the audience, not to demonstrate your impressive knowledge.
  2. 2. Ask short questions.
  3. 3. Avoid yes/no (and other dead-end) questions. Ask open-ended questions instead, since they elicit open-ended answers.
  4. 4. Anticipate the interviewee’s likely answers before the interview so you can form smart follow-up questions in advance.
  5. 5. Most importantly, listen. As Ms. Couric said, good interviewers “use questions as a template,” but are willing to veer off in a different direction if the guest says something interesting.

Click here to read part two of this series.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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