A few of you have mentioned that you struggle with using too many filler words, words like "ummm" and "like" when you interview for podcasts or testimonials. There are a few techniques to remove them from your speech, but none work overnight. Habits are hard to break, but it can be done. Below I talk about several of the techniques, everyone's different, try the ones that work for you. But be open-minded and persistent, if one doesn't work .. try another.
The technique can yield amazing results and should be step one no matter what other strategies you use. Choose a topic you are likely to talk about in your interviews and record yourself with your phone. Next, play it back and asses your performance. You may find out you aren't really overusing the terms. If you are, take note of the words you do use too much and think about substituting a pause, or connecting terms like "in addition" or "on the other hand," or "another concept is..."
Now record yourself again. Take note of the improvements you make and focus on duplicating success. Do this two or three times a day, add in whatever techniques below work for you, and you will get better.
Organize Your Thoughts
Sometimes we use filler words because we're not quite sure what we're going to say next. In an interview setting, this can cause your guest to lose confidence in the process. Take time to organize your thoughts, create outlines and checklists, and keep practicing. When your thoughts are organized, you can move more smoothly from one idea to the next without the "umm"s.
A pause is a great substitute for filler words. While a filler word may reduce your credibility, a pause often engages the listener's attention. When you are interviewing someone, you are in a position of control, they will not usually jump in or interrupt during a pause.
Make Eye Contact
There are many reasons you might be using these filler words when you interview someone; to give yourself time to move to the next thought, to keep the guest on notice that you aren't done speaking, to fill uncomfortable silence, or to cover nervousness. Good eye contact with your guest can help you build rapport and connection with your guest. If you record your interviews in person, try it.
There is a considerable body of work on the concept of "chunking." The basic idea is that the brain can hold a certain number of ideas at once in its short-term memory. Some experts suggest chunking information and using that to develop a speaking rhythm. I haven't tried it, but if you're still stuck try a google search, there are lots of articles out there, then let me know if it works for you!
If you're dedicated to improvement, you'll get there. Just keep practicing with a recorder and playing it back.
There's no question that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential conversational interviewers ever (read about the 5 Interview Lessons interview types here,) her talk show "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was the highest rated TV show of its kind in history. Today she hosts the successful "Supersoul Conversations," a TV show and a podcast. What can we learn from her? Here are four things she does in every interview.
#1 The most important question
The most important question comes BEFORE the interview. Oprah says "I approach every interview by asking, "What is my intention? What do I really want to accomplish?'" It's something podcasting trailblazer Pat Flynn puts another way, he says the most important thing to determine in your interview prep isn't what or how but WHY. A clear understanding of the goal will guide your questions and your reactions, that's what will set your interview apart.
A conversational interview is about rapport and compassion. Oprah creates connection from behind the mic with empathy. "You can't accomplish anything if you're judging," says the Supersoul Conversations host. It's an intentional technique - "I'm nonjudgmental in an interview. Out of an interview, there's a whole other side of me!" Her goal is to disarm the guest, make them comfortable, so they speak freely. As an interviewer you are on a search for meaning. "my secret to interviewing: How do I find the common denominator that allows a person to know that I hear them, and that what they say means something to me?"
#3 Detailed preparation
I listened to Oprah's interview with Steven Pressfield (if you haven't read his book "War of Art" I highly recommend it!.) Her detailed preparation for the interview was clear. I could hear that she had been working to understand Pressfield's take on the concepts he discussed arriving ready with questions that would allow her to dig deeper into the ideas. The level of detail was evident in the frequent references to quotes and page numbers. A perfect combination of big-picture thinking and detailed groundwork.
The "why," the empathy, and the detailed prep all come together in the conversation. Oprah acts as a translator, helping her audience process the ideas her guest presents through her own lens. Oprah is not afraid to be an active participant in the conversation sharing stories, and ideas of her own to help deepen her audience's understanding and give them additional routes to access the information her guest presents. This is the art of the conversation interviewer: bringing her own stories and comments to the conversation to lead her audience to a better connection with the guest.
Read more about interviewing for podcasts, documentaries, testimonials and oral histories at Interview Lessons.
Interview lessons is a new project I've begun, to share what I've learned over 30 years of coaching, conducting, shooting and directing interviews for podcasts, marketing testimonials, oral histories and documentaries. I'm researching and sharing what it takes to be a great interviewer and sharing it with you. So far there are articles about top podcaster Tim Ferriss' interview strategies, the philosophy of documentary filmmaker Errol Morris toward interviewing, how to drop filler words like "ummm" and Like" from your interviews and a few others. As the library grows I will be inviting experienced interviewers to contribute directly, taking requests from readers, and adding audio and video media.
I'm excited about this new project. It's just a few months in the making so far but has helped me to become better at the art of interviewing, and at coaching others.
3 Useful Resources to get the most from your Video Testimonials
WHY should I use them?
The first item in Hubspot's list of "7 Lead Gen Opportunities PR Pros Should Seize" is "Case Studies and Testimonials." Use video testimonials from satisfied customers because they are "...tried and true way of encouraging prospects to use your business."
WHO should give the testimonial?
Duct Tape Marketing for small business "3 Simple Ways to Empower Your Customers to Sell for You" suggests using customer surveys or customer appreciation days to select the best candidates. Don't forget to leave a comment area for customers who are not yet satisfied with your service so you can win them over.
HOW do I make them great?
Copyblogger's "5 Tips for Knockout Testimonails" applies to Video testimonials as well as text. The highlights are: Don’t over-edit, Use testimonials that fit, Address objections, Never fake it, Encourage specifics.
Below is one of my favorite testimonial videos. It's an interview with a heart transplant survivor for the Go Red campaign. The message is universal and compelling - take care of yourself. The production values are clean and simple, supporting (not distracting from) the message.
Have questions about video testimonials? Let us help you out 802-746-8876
On March 27th I was envious of the "pause" to reassess and learn I kept hearing about. I was fortunate enough to still be working, so I committed to a more active blog. This is my chance to think out loud.