How to Be a Great Interviewer or Moderator

At some point, you may find yourself in the position of interviewing people or moderating panels. If you’re not prepared for this, you can feel out of your depths.

Lisa Elia moderating panel at Expressions of Peace Event

Photo courtesy of PeaceNow and John Lystrom.

Recently, when I moderated a panel at “Expressions of Peace,” a wonderful event that our client PeaceNow held, several people asked me how I prepared. Admittedly, I’ve been interviewing people since I was in journalism classes when I was 19 years old, and I have continued to refine my process over the years. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to be a great interviewer or moderator.

How to Be a Great Interviewer or Moderator

1. If you want to learn how to be a great interviewer, watch great interviewers, like Charlie Rose, Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper. Pay attention to their timing and rhythm, and note how much research they have done to prepare prior to an interview.

If you want to learn how to be a great interviewer or moderator, study people who do both well. Charlie Rose fits into this category as well.

2. Do your research. Take the time to research the topics to be discussed and the people you will be interviewing/moderating. Read up on current events so you can tie them into the discussion when appropriate. When you have done your research, you will be better able to quickly formulate questions and to effectively lead the interview or panel discussion.

3. Practice encapsulating others’ rambling speeches. A good interviewer or moderator can sum up what was said on the spot. While some people are naturally more adept at this than others, this skill can be improved with practice.

4. Write out some questions you plan to ask during the interview or panel discussion. It’s good to have more questions than you will need to fill the time, and then to put them in order of priority, so you ask the juiciest, most interesting questions at the beginning, middle and end of the interview or discussion. You want to lead people on a journey and keep them engaged.

5. Develop a preparation ritual to relax and center yourself before you begin your interview or panel discussion. No amount of research or knowledge will help you if you get so nervous that your body goes into “fight or flight” response and you forget what you’re saying. Having a ritual to help you control your breathing, relax your body and focus your thoughts will help you to center yourself so you can be more fully present and enjoy the moment.

6. Control the audience. If you open the floor to an audience Q&A, know that there will be some people who want to take the opportunity to promote their agendas, rather than contribute to a discussion. Be sure to bring the conversation back to the topic that the panel is discussing. You may have to politely cut someone off, but it can be done with grace.

Other articles that include tips that may interest anyone who wants to know how to be a great interviewer or moderator, are provided here:

6 Tips for Effective Presentations

Media Training Resources (communication studies and useful links)

Body Language in Interviews and Meetings

How to Ace Every Presentation

Individual or group training inquiries should be directed to [email protected]  or 310-479-0217.

Lisa Elia, Media Trainer and Speaker, on How to Be a Great Interviewer or Moderator

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Learn What the Media Want, a Video Interview with a Media Member by Media Trainer Lisa Elia

One of the most interesting things I’ve had the pleasure of doing is to interview members of the media about what they seek in guests to interview and what they think potential guests and interviewees should do to get featured in large media outlets.

The video below is from an interview I conducted at my Meet the Media Day event, with Nicole Dorsey Straff, who had been on the launch team as managing editor of Fit Magazine, spent years as Fitness magazine’s west coast editor, and is now at ValueClick Brands. In this video, Nicole touches on what the media want, how to get featured in large media outlets, and more.

Watch the video below to learn what the media want and to learn how to get featured in large media outlets.

If you want to share what the media want with your friends, you can do so by using the share buttons below.

If you want additional tips on how to get featured in large media outlets and information about what the media want, read some of the other blog posts by Los Angeles Media Trainer Lisa Elia:

Top 10 Media Relations Tips – Media Training Tips from a Media Trainer

Media Interview Checklist

How to Create an Online Press Room that the Media Will Love


Prepare for TV Interviews – Tips from an LA Media Trainer

Entertainment Tonight has featured Expert Media Trainer Founder and Los Angeles Media Trainer as an expert numerous times.

I was on Entertainment Tonight recently, sharing my PR and media training expertise.

This was my fourth segment with ET, and the show producers had called me two other times when I wasn’t able to tape the segments due to scheduling conflicts. However, I believe that one of the reasons the producers have called me so much is that I’m easy to work with.

As a media trainer, I offer you these tips to prepare for TV interviews:

1. If you are positioning yourself as an expert, stay up on research, trends and news related to your field and think about how to articulate various aspects of your work so that you can easily answer questions about it. If you have not had media training yet, do not wait until the day before you have an interview. Get it as soon as you begin to think about putting yourself into the public eye so that you have time to work with your media trainer on creating clear responses to questions and on polishing your delivery.

2. Have your preparation ritual down, so that you can center yourself and get your energy up with very little notice. Quite often, you will receive requests for interviews that must take place within hours, or sometimes minutes. Having a good preparation ritual that you use to get in performance mode can give you the confidence to say “yes” to great opportunities, even when you are very busy.

Preparation rituals are included in all of our programs. When we have provided media training for actors or music artists, we have observed that they love our techniques, because they are based in acting training and movement training.

When we provide media training for athletes, they too appreciate the use of a quick preparation ritual, as most of them use them in their professional work.

3. Knowing that many media interviews come up very quickly (sometimes with less than 24 hours’ notice), have your wardrobe ready to go, have your hair cut and colored the way you want it, nails manicured, etc., at all times. This is the life of a public figure, which is what you become if you put yourself out into the public eye as an expert.

4. Try to accommodate last-minute media requests, if you can. If you say “no”, someone else will say “yes”.

Suze Orman skyrocketed into the public spotlight because she told the producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show that she could be an emergency guest. They asked her to fly in and sit in the front row so they could ask her a question: she answered it so much to Oprah’s liking that Oprah asked her back, and rest is history.

You can watch my interviews on Entertainment Tonight and learn more about the media interviews that have arisen for me as a media trainer and PR expert at

To further prepare for TV interviews, use the quick list of items to have ready to go, which you can find on this blog post:

Here are some other links you may find useful in preparing for media interviews:

Media Training Resources

Top 10 Media Relations Tips – Media Training Tips

Frequently Asked Questions about Media Training


How to Commit to the Moment, Advice from a Media Trainer and Communication Expert

“Committing to the moment” is something almost any acting student hears over and over again. However, anyone who speaks publicly or who is interviewed by the media can also benefit from creating a practice to help them commit to the moment.

Ideally, in any interview or presentation situation, you want to be completely engaged. The moment you stop listening or being fully present, even for a nanosecond, you risk missing an important point or not answering a question as eloquently as you’d like.

When you truly commit to the moment, with the understanding that every time you are being interviewed by the media or speaking to a group that is your only opportunity to reach your audience with your message at that precise time in history, you will be effective and you will have few regrets.

The ability to commit to the moment generally comes from your habits and preparation. Consider the following:

How do you clear your head and focus on the interview or presentation, without allowing your mind to wander on to other matters awaiting you at the office or elsewhere?

Do you have a ritual to help you shift your attention from whatever you were doing prior to an interview and onto the interview itself?

Do you maintain daily habits that keep your mind sharp and your energy up?

I recommend practicing being fully committed to the moment during situations where the stakes are not very high, such as a casual staff meeting or even when you’re walking down the street or buying a latte. If you’re generally a multi-tasker, it may take some concentrated effort to really listen and connect with the barista or to notice the sights, sounds and smells around you. Doing this on a regular basis will help you become more aware of the sensation of being fully present.

Now that you have tips on how to commit to the moment, do you need additional media training information? Check out these blog posts:

What Are We Saving It For? A Media Trainer’s Thoughts on Committing to the Moment

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid in Media Interviews

Top 10 Media Relations Tips – Media Training Tips from a Media Trainer

Media Training Tips on The Language of Your Brand in Media Interviews

For additional communication tips, check out my Confident and Clear Communication program.


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