Comedian Martin Short is known for his meticulous preparation before his “ad lib” interviews on the late-night shows:
“What I do for a typical talk-show appearance, and I’m not exaggerating, is I’ll send in something like 18 pages ahead of time.”—Martin Short
Then he’ll spend 90 minutes—or more—chatting with the producer to cull the material into a maybe 10-minute conversation he’ll have with the host.
(It’s probably no coincidence The New Yorker named him the greatest talk show guest of all time.)
His theory is that while you can never control the finished product, you can darned well master your end.
That’s exactly how you can think about spreading your authority.
Can you control the questions show hosts and media will ask and in what order? Nope.
But you can prep for them like a master, channeling yourself a little Martin Short.
You start by dissecting the host—their point of view, their interview style, their hot buttons.
If you haven’t been a regular consumer of their stuff, you read, watch or listen to a few of their pieces so you’re not walking in cold (plus it gives you a few bread crumbs to throw down).
And then you apply all of that to what you’re preaching so you can meld the two into something memorable:
- What is the overall theme I want to hit here?
- Which of my material is most on-point for their audience at this particular time?
- Which things will feel like catnip to the host?
- What stories will best suit this interview and this situation? (You already have a small cadre of go-to stories, but this is more finely curated.)
- What sound bites do I want to sprinkle throughout this interview?
- And what do I want to “sell” in the brief (usually a minute or less) shot the host will offer me?
You will curate your best points—not scripting, which always rings false—so that you’re on-point with their audience and your point of view.
Every single time my clients or I do this, we’ve been thrilled with the results.
Try embracing the Martin Short approach on your next important interview and see how it shifts your results…