One of the biggest thrills in my professional life was being interviewed by Oprah herself, for her amazing Super Soul Sunday series. Yowza!
Doing the interview was exciting on many levels, but among other things, I learned a lot about the interview process. Oprah is the master, and it’s always a rare privilege to learn from a true master.
- Oprah was extremely prepared and referred to my work several times. This is an obvious point for an interviewer, but still it was a good reminder of how important that is, to the interviewee.
- She really listened — it felt like a real conversation, a real exchange. I know from experience that when doing an interview, it’s all too easy to refer to a list of questions, and to move to the next question no matter how someone answers.
- She talked herself. There’s a tricky balance for interviewers — you don’t want to talk too much yourself, but perhaps counter-intuitively, if you talk too little, an interview can fall flat.
- She made me feel like I surprised and intrigued her. When I’m interviewing someone, I want to have a moment of genuine connection and learning. That often means surprising or puzzling another person. Oprah has heard it all, and she’s read my books, yet she made me feel like I was saying things that genuinely intrigued her.
- She was in control. The first time I went on the Today show, to talk about my book Power Money Fame Sex, to be interviewed by Matt Lauer, I was so nervous. An established writer said, “Don’t worry about this interview. He’s the best at that job, and he’s the best prepared — this will be one of your easiest interviews.” And that was true. (You can watch the 2000 interview here. I can’t bear to watch, so have never actually seen it!)
Same thing with Oprah. A friend who had been on Super Soul Sunday said, “Relax. Oprah is the master, she’s the best, so just think about being yourself and answering from the heart. Don’t feel like you have to be in charge of the conversation.” And that was true. I really enjoyed the conversation — so much, that I forgot to be nervous.
I was also a lot calmer, because my sister Elizabeth was with me — that made the whole adventure much more relaxed and fun. Here we are taking a selfie before leaving the hotel to go to the recording. Note Elizabeth’s excellent hair — no hair or make-up for me yet.