Keys to Engaging Summit Speaker Interviews

Say goodbye to boring summit speaker interviews. Let’s cover top interview mistakes to avoid, how to conduct actionable interviews, and my interview outline.

Summit interviews don’t have to be boring!

Interviews can be an incredibly beneficial part of your event. They allow for more connection between you and your speakers, they allow attendees to get to know you as the host, and they're easy for speakers to participate in.

But if your interviews aren't energized, focused, and actionable, the attendees will mentally checkout and miss valuable information. They might even decide to skip the rest of the summit.

The good news is that your interview-style summit can be just as action-packed as a summit with all slides-based presentations, but you have to conduct the interviews in a way that will make it happen.

Today, we'll cover:

  • how to decide whether the interview format is right for you
  • the top interview mistakes to avoid
  • how to conduct actionable interviews
  • and I'll share a peek at my interview outline.

Are Summit Speaker Interviews Right For You?

An interview-style format for your virtual summit can be just as action-packed as a summit with all slide-based presentations, but there are a few things to consider when deciding if an interview-style format is right for your summit. 

When Interviews Aren’t A Good Fit

Interviews aren’t a good fit for everyone. Some hosts don’t prefer to use an interview-style format for their virtual summit because:

  • they’re an introvert and don't want to have to get on a call with every speaker.
  • of the time investment involved in planning questions to ask, conducting interviews, and editing.
  • they feel presentations are more actionable for attendees.
  • they aren't comfortable with their interview skills.

When Interviews Are A Good Fit

Interviews are a good fit for you when…

  • you’re confident in your interview abilities or can practice before you start. If you haven’t done interviews before or aren’t sure how to make them actionable, I wouldn’t recommend that you try it for your virtual summit. What you don’t want is attendees to go to an interview, get bored, not be happy with what they see, and then think the summit isn’t worth their time.
  • your speakers aren’t used to giving presentations. If your speakers aren’t in the online business space and aren’t used to creating or giving presentations, then I would recommend interviews. They shouldn’t have to learn a new skill in order to be in your summit.
  • you have speakers who are in a time crunch. If your speakers don’t have time to sit and outline a presentation, make slides, and record it, then consider doing interviews instead. Keep in mind, you can mix-and-match presentations and interviews in your summit.
  • it works for the topic or theme of your summit. For example, I pitched a speaker for my summit and her topic was typography. She wanted to be interviewed, but that wasn’t going to be a good topic to do with an interview so we switched the topic to one that worked well for an interview-style presentation instead. Interviews might be a better fit if you have a summit based around a journey and having conversations.

Top Interview Mistakes to Avoid

If you've decided that interviews (or a mix of interviews and slides) are the best fit for your summit, watch out for these top 6 mistakes.

Mistake #1: Long introductions

Keep speakers' introductions short and sweet with 1-2 sentences. Control the length of the introduction by doing it yourself, then diving right into questions or you’ll lose your attendees. This might not be the case if you have a more sensitive topic like mental health and the attendee needs to trust the speaker before they get into the presentation topic.

Mistake #2: Asking the same questions

While it's easier on you, it's extremely boring for attendees when every speaker is asked the same questions. Instead, focus each presentation on a specific topic and create custom questions for each.

Mistake #3: Lack of energy

Occasionally you’ll interview speakers who aren’t energetic and come off flat. It’s up to you to lift both of you up. One person with energy is better than zero people with energy.

Mistake #4: Missing actionable steps

When your attendees come to your summit to get a transformation, you have to deliver on that, even through an interview. Avoid having casual chats with your speakers and instead, have them ready to share actionable tips by asking specific questions and giving them time to prepare in advance.

Mistake #5: Talking more than listening

Focus on being an active listener and speak less than you want to, even though it’s tempting to add your 2 cents! Your attendees are there to get value from your guest and you’re there to feature your guest, not yourself. Focus on the person you’re interviewing.

Mistake #6: Skipping the speaker agreement

Speaker agreements are just as important with interviews as they are with presentations. You need written permission to use the video moving forward so speakers don’t come back and say you didn’t have permission to share.

The Key to Actionable Interviews

Conducting actionable interviews come down to the questions that you ask. Include questions that will make your speakers dig below surface-level responses.

When planning interview questions, think of it as if you’re outlining a presentation for this person to give. Don’t be afraid to ask what the next steps are or ask follow-up questions to dive deeper. For example, if they give a surface-level answer, ask for 3 steps to make it happen.

To get actionable interviews, give your guest the questions being asked ahead of time and point out the questions where you’ll be looking for actionable and detailed answers. Aim to send these about a week ahead of time.

Structure of a Good Interview

Now that you know the key is to ask the right questions, let’s cover a general structure of a good interview. Tweak this for your audience, topic, and summit, but this is what tends to work well.

  1. Start your interview off with an exciting and short introduction from you. In very limited cases, you’ll add in a short introduction from your speakers if that extra trust is needed.
  2. The first question to ask is an introductory question about the topic. Have your speaker share their general take on the topic and key the audience into what they’ll be learning.
  3. An optional question to ask is the biggest mistake they see. This works better for some presentation topics than others, but you can ask about the biggest mistake attendees should avoid with the topic.
  4. Dive deeper into their specific strategy. Here’s where you’re asking for their top 3 tips or their step-by-step process. Ask follow-up questions to dig deep and get specific advice. Listen as an attendee, not an interviewer, to ask the questions an attendee might ask as they watch the interview.
  5. Another optional question to ask is the speaker’s biggest takeaway. If you cover a lot and think your audience might be overwhelmed, ask the speaker to share what they want everyone’s biggest takeaway to be.
  6. Back it up with action steps. To end on a clear and actionable not, have the speaker share specific action steps for attendees to take.
  7. Ask your speaker to share a resource. This can be a freebie or an additional resource that’ll help attendees put what they learned into action.
  8. Thank your speaker and point out the first action step. Encourage your audience to connect with your speaker and to get started.

What do I do next?

Interviews aren’t the best fit for everyone, and it can be hard to host an engaging summit with all interviews, but if you're skilled at interviewing and can get actionable information from your speakers, you can totally pull it off.

Write out an interview outline based on what you want your attendees to get from your summit.


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