I’ve spoken to two clients in the last couple of days and used variations of the same advice to each. That tells me I may have shucked a messaging oyster and found pearl of wisdom. Here it is: When doing an interview, you have to know when to land the plane. And you can’t do that effectively unless you build the runway.
Sometimes that looks like letting the reporter (and the viewers and listeners, since this is mostly a broadcast tip) know where the plane is headed. So don’t begin a story with lots of detail and info, no matter how good it is, without saying what the runway is. Example: If you have a few anecdotes and a little historical narrative you want to mention about how stars became the choice decoration for the tops of Christmas trees, begin by saying something like, “A lot of people actually assume, incorrectly, how the tradition of stars on top of Christmas trees started.” That offers a flight path, to extend the metaphor, for the great stories you’ll tell, helping ensure the audience can and will stay with you until your story’s payoff, which marks the landing of your rhetortical plane.
In most cases, though, it suffices to simply build the runway — not inform the passengers you’re headed to it. Use this technique when your answers aren’t as thick with details and anecdotes, but you nonetheless want to make sure you don’t ramble. Your goal here is to create natural stopping points in your messaging that concisely wrap up a thought before adding on to it or moving on to another. Think of those stopping points as runways built into your conversation where you can land the aircraft, refuel, then set out for another short flight of information.
Always remember: Non-stop flights may be best for air travel; they are not best for interview answers.