In the last two installments of the Author Marketing Club, I shared how you can land interviews and panelist spots at events. Today, I’m going to show you how to succeed when you’re participating in those interviews and panels. This will ensure that you get invited back and make you more likely to receive other opportunities.
Let’s dive right into today’s tips on how to be an awesome conference guest or interviewee!
1. Prepare for questions in advance
One of the best ways to calm your nerves is to prepare for the conversation in advance.
In some instances, like most podcast interviews, you’ll even receive the questions in advance, allowing you to prepare specific answers. You might also be able to guess the questions you’ll receive, either based on previous episodes of the show you’re appearing on or based on common interview questions.
Panels tend to be a little trickier. You might get questions from your moderator in advance, but this isn’t always the case. Most panels also include an audience Q & A, so you won’t know what those questions will be until you’re at the event. In these instances, I recommend sitting down for half an hour (or more) the day before the panel to collect your thoughts on the topic. Write down everything you consider important. You can then use these notes, or even the memory of these notes, to guide your answers during the panel.
2. Test your tech in advance
If you’re attending a virtual event, it’s always good to get familiar with the technology you’ll be using in advance. Many people are now familiar with Zoom, the most common software used for virtual events, but there are many other tools in use. You’ll also want to test your audio/video in advance if you haven’t used them in a while.
Most event organizers are happy to arrange for a tech test, so don’t be afraid to ask! Some events will even have a rehearsal meeting for everyone to test their tech and get to know each other.
3. Wear what makes you feel confident
Many guides will tell you to wear a suit or other formalwear to an interview because for most people, formalwear provides confidence. This advice has never worked for me; I feel like a fraud in a suit, and that robs me of confidence. You might feel the same way.
However, if you think about it, I’m willing to bet you know what clothes do give you confidence. You might feel great in a tank top in your favorite color and a pair of jeans. Hell, you might feel most confident in your pajamas (although I would be genuinely surprised if you do).
The only caveat here is that if you’re going to be on camera, you want to be careful with stripes, especially black-and-white ones. These can have a strobe effect, distracting your audience and even making the interview difficult for some people to watch.
3. Limit the number of appearances you do in a given day or week
Most writers are introverts, which means we need to recover from social events. Social events with strangers tend to be particularly draining, and in my experience, interviews are even more so. You need time to recover between them if you want to bring your best self to each one.
You will need to experiment a bit to discover the right balance for you. I suggest starting small, with perhaps one interview a week. You may eventually be able to do one every day for a whole week, or even do multiple interviews on the same day, but easing into it will help you find your footing.
If you want to do a big media blitz for a new release you can bend these rules for a week or two, but make sure you have ample time to rest afterward. Burnout is an all too real phenomenon, and it will hurt your writing as well as your ability to say yes to future media opportunities.
5. Keep water handy
You dehydrate fast when you’re talking non-stop, especially if you’re also nervous. If you do an interview in a studio, they will have water for you. If you’re doing interviews at home, keep a large glass of water on hand.
Water can also serve as an excuse to pause to steady your nerves or consider an answer to a new question. This is a great way to accommodate your nervousness without appearing awkward.
You can substitute this for tea or coffee if you’re doing a morning interview, but if you do, I strongly recommend having a small glass of water as well. Interviewing is thirsty work!
6. Remember to thank your hosts
Whether it’s a podcast, a YouTube show, or a virtual event, organizing people is a lot of work. There are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of applications to sort through, and three times as many emails to send. There’s also an incredible amount of work that goes into promotion. It’s simple courtesy to thank the organizers, moderators, and/or interviewers for all of the hard work they put in.
When you’re on a panel, you also want to thank the audience. They’ve taken an hour out of their day to listen to you and come up with great questions, so take a moment to appreciate them!
Final thoughts on how to be an awesome conference guest
Appearing at a conference or on a podcast/YouTube show seems intimidating at first, but the people who run these things do it because we love books. They appreciate your art and want to learn more about what you do. So do their audiences. Remember that, let your love for your books shine through, and the event will be over before you know it, leaving you craving more.
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