Two Tips on How to Be a Better Interviewer from The Late Sir Michael Parkinson

Content from BPR

It was certainly very sad news the world received recently that media legend Sir Michael Parkinson had passed away.

Parkinson’s first career choice was to be a first class or even Test cricketer; but alas, it was not to be. Instead it was his second career choice, journalism, that made him a household name interviewing some of the most famous people of our time.

Among those he admired most, he cited only Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn and the cricketer, Shane Warne as well as Sir Donald Bradman on a shortlist of “the ones that got away”. Bob Dylan also eluded him, although they met once when they were staying in the same hotel.

“Eggs over easy and coffee,” Dylan told him when Parkinson approached him at breakfast and told him that he loved his music. However, the one place Parkinson was not the world’s most famous TV interviewer was America….. Bob Dylan had mistaken him for a waiter.

His trademarks were his warmth and enthusiasm, and a recognition that the first requirement of a successful interviewer was to be a good listener. Parkinson also knew how to control an interview: “I am the boss, not them. It’s my patch, not theirs. This is my home … they have got to come down my stairs into my living room and talk to me.”

These are valuable lessons for radio hosts today….. to be a great listener and to know how to control the interview.

Too many times I hear the host reading from a list of questions without paying attention to what the guest has just said to the previous question. The host just marches on regardless, often missing the chance to open a very entertaining “door” that the guest had just left ajar.

It also sounds to the listener that the host isn’t listening to the responses which can be inferred as disrespect.

Then there’s control. If you let the guest take control you have no idea where the interview will lead. It will end up being a rambling mess of words strung together. This is not entertainment.

Sir Michael Parkinson knew how to make an interview entertaining.

Vale Sir Michael Parkinson.

By David Kidd, BPR


Main Photo: Shutterstock

Sir Michael Parkinson: Wikipedia