April 04, 2019 Katie O'Rourke
I recently wrote about different webinar formats you can use to keep your audience engaged. One of my personal favorites is the expert interview because it gives you a fabulous opportunity to bring your audience the unique experience and knowledge of an authoritative voice while allowing you at the same time to showcase your own skills and understanding of the issues.
Equally important, preparing for and leading an interview gives you a chance to spend valuable one-on-one time with a guest who matters as much for your own practice as he or she does for your participants: a government agent or regulator, an industry leader, or an executive from a key client, for example.
Finally, building your webinar around an interview lets you move away from the traditional slide presentation to lead a dynamic discussion around issues facing your audience. It is, above all, a conversation, which provides you with broad freedom to explore questions in depth without becoming weighed down by bullet points and linear logic.
So how to make sure your expert interview is memorable for participants and guests alike? Here are three ways:
1. Remember your audience
Yes, you want to make the webinar interesting and fun and engaging for your attendees, but a story about the time your guest went surfing amid sharks off the coast of Australia – as entertaining as it may be – isn’t going to help participants revise their workplace policies, for example, to account for legal recreational marijuana use in their state.
Never forget that your audience signed up to learn something and that it’s your job to make sure they do. It’s ok to go off topic from time to time with anecdotes, as long as you don’t take too long to get back on.
Takeaway: prepare your questions, and the structure of the conversation, with audience needs in mind.
2. Let your guest be the expert
You may have the broadest knowledge about the topic you’re covering, but when you’re interviewing an influential guest, you’re no longer the star of the show.
Let your interviewee do most of the talking. Ask them relevant questions that allow for meaningful answers. Listen to their responses so you can follow up when you think your audience needs more detail or explanation.
And above all, try not to interrupt your guest unless it’s absolutely necessary: to get immediate clarification on a particular point they made, or allow them to correct misstatements. You can follow-up and probe deeper into the issues when they’re done talking.
3. Fine-tune your questions (while also allowing the conversation to go anywhere)
Good questions make for great interviews: the way you frame the issues, the way you tee up responses, the way you elicit insight and perspective. And the best way to make your webinar a success is to ask questions that allow your guest to provide valuable and perceptive answers that get straight to the core of your audience’s concerns.
Spend time fine-tuning your questions. Edit them down to the essentials, then edit them down again to make sure you get quickly to the point while providing essential context. Have a colleague put them to you so you can hear what you’re actually asking rather than what you think they say.
During the interview, it’s a good idea to use your questions as a guide to the conversation rather than as a strict outline that you must follow: the discussion is likely to take unplanned directions that lead you down paths that are relevant to attendees.