How I Psych Myself Up to Conduct Interviews for a Magazine

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I am terrified of speaking on the phone - which has never been a great quality for a writer to have. In fact, it's the reason I became a writer & not a reporter, why I work in social media instead of, say, public relations: I am great behind a laptop, but put a receiver in my hand (OK, or a cell phone, it's 2019), & I start shaking in my boots.

In recent months, though, I've started to take on more freelance writing work, & more freelance writing means more freelance reporting. And you know what that means: more phone calls.

Recently, I've identified a few key elements of my pre-interview routine, things that help calm me in moments when I might otherwise feels panicky. Some people have asked me what it's like to conduct interviews, so I thought I'd share! Before interviews I...

1. Plan ahead... but not too much.

I've learned that I'm one of those people who needs some details & structure in order to feel secure but who falls apart & starts to panic if I have too much of it.

I don't usually start researching a story until the hour before an interview, when I pull up the necessary news stories, restaurant reviews, etc., that will help me formulate my list of questions. This way, I feel prepared for the call & everything is fresh in my mind - but I don't have too much time to sit around & overthink things.

2. Charge my devices & save my docs.

Nothing's worse than finishing an hour-long call with a James Beard Award-winning chef only to find, once you've hung up the phone, that only the first two minutes of the interview are recorded because your iPad ran out of space to save the whole thing.

Now, before each call, I fully charge my phone & my iPad (which I use as a recorder), & I make sure I've deleted or archived old interviews to make way for the new.

3. Crank some power pop. 

I listen to a lot of Lizzo. Like, a lot a lot of Lizzo. But I also listen to a lot of Katy Perry, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Kelis, Taylor Swift, Kesha, Missy Elliott - the list goes on.

Basically, if she's sung a pop song about being a ladyboss, I've probably listened to her before an interview. And speaking of being a ladyboss...

4. Put on my BOSS necklace. 

For my birthday, my friend Rebecca bought me a small, gold-toned necklace that says BOSS in all caps; hers says REBEL. I've never thought of myself as the boss (though maybe bossy), but when I'm wearing this dainty piece of badass jewelry, I feel like one.

That's exactly the feeling you want before you interview, say, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers. (October issue of Cleveland Magazine coming soon!)

5. Read an affirmation or two. 

I wrote about Yetti Says' Self-Love Affirmation Cards in my last post; I don't yet use them as part of my (non-existent) morning routine, but I do use them before nerve-wracking moments, including interviews.

I like to shuffle the deck & then breathe onto the cards - I don't know why, it's not like I'm gambling? - & then pluck one that "feels right." The one at the top of this post is the one I pulled before talking to K-Love. Appropriate, right?

6. Breathe a little.

Sometimes I'll do a quick little breathing exercise before the interview begins, using the Breathe app on my Apple Watch or just sitting in silence & focus on the in-and-out of my breath. It helps me to center myself, to get rid of the butterflies, & to find a moment of calm before the interview begins.

7. Do the damn thing. 

Onto the main event! Time to make some interview magic - or, uh, something. Interviews can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the topic & the length of the piece I'm writing.

And afterward...

8. Celebrate myself.

OK, OK, this is part of my post-interview routine: I let myself feel good about what I've just done! If it was a particularly good interview or with a particularly exciting source, maybe I'll text my husband or a friend.

Maybe I'll put Lizzo on again & dance around my apartment for a sec. Maybe I'll just smile & breathe & move on with my day - but whatever I do, I allow myself a moment of pride before the next one.

What do you do before nerve-wracking moments? And what are those moments for you? 

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