Marc Fennell’s top five tips for interviewers

Former Assistant Editor

Marc Fennell is the host of ABC Radio‘s Download This Show and a regular announcer and guest on ABC Radio Sydney.

He was also triple j‘s ‘That Movie Guy’ for over a decade.

Outside of radio, Marc is the host of SBS VICELAND’s The Feed where his interviews have wracked up millions of views on Facebook.

Over the years he’s interviewed torture victims, former terrorists, politicians right through to the biggest names in popular culture: Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lawrence, Julian Assange, Al Gore, Quentin Tarantino and many more.

There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to those starting out in radio broadcasting, but quickly getting to grips with the key facets of how to craft an entertaining interview can be a major ace up the sleeve when it comes to who gets the next network job.

Radio Today is shining the spotlight on some of the industry’s best when it comes to engaging and intriguing interviews, so here are Marcs’s top five interview tips.

1. Be obsessive

I look through everything when I agree to interview someone – their socials, articles, awkward LiveJournal posts they’d rather forget. But most importantly I look for the sort of early interviews they’ve done which *haven’t* been transcribed and put on a wiki page. So look for old public radio interviews or chat shows on youtube. That way you’ll not just find the gold but you’ll also see how *they* react when they tell those stories. Listen for what’s not being said? How can you use that gold nugget of information to then push them into a new area?

2. Listening counts for nothing without curiosity and curiosity counts for nothing without empathy

Everyone will tell you to listen closely when you’re doing an interview. You should. But whether you’re an investigative interviewer or a comedian, active listening will give you your window to push the conversation deeper or find conflict or find the moment for a joke. You need to be present in the moment and really engaged in the person to find those moments. I primarily do profile interviews where I’m trying to get people to open up about their lives. I don’t think you can do this job if you don’t genuinely care about that person and their experience. Be a pleasant, chill, empathetic person and they will usually return the favour.

3. There are no famous people

Remember, you’re never interviewing a *famous person*, you’re interviewing a person who happens to be famous. ‘Fame’ is an aspect of who they are and in order to get something authentic from them, you need to get them to volunteer moments that feel real and human. That requires empathy, humour and just generally not being a dickhead.

4. Questions matter less than content

This one is a biggie for me. Too many interviewers are enamoured with being seen to ask the “big question”. Get. Your. Hand. Off. It. It’s not about you (although you are an important part of the interview) its about what you can get your interviewee to share/reveal/admit. This is a principle that works across journalism, talkback and more.

5. The best interviews are stories

For an audience to feel like they were taken on a satisfying journey, your interview has to have a beginning, middle and a cracking end. Otherwise, it’ll just feel like a bunch of questions.

Catch up on the first two parts of Radio Today‘s Top Interview Tips series with Ash London and Sarah McGilvray.

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Trevor Sinclair
14 Aug 2018 - 7:39 pm

At last count I have done over 30,000 interviews throughout my 42 career in Radio. I actually hate asking questions and prefer to make comment. I find this generates a better conversation/interview.

walter sabo
14 Aug 2018 - 9:48 pm

great interview!


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