5 Things Oprah Taught Me about How to Give a Good Interview.

One of the biggest thrills in my professional life was being interviewed by Oprah herself, for her amazing Super Soul Sunday series. Yowza!

The interview airs on November 8, at 7 p.m EST/PT on OWN (find your station here.) Please watch. I’ll be live-tweeting while it airs.

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

I hope you’ll watch! Sunday, November 8, OprahElizabethandGretchenSelfieHotelOWN channel, at 7:00 ET/PT. Be sure to join me on Twitter during the show.

  • Natalie

    I was interviewed once on local radio about an event I was going to MC. The thing about radio is, there can’t be any dead air. No silence, or pauses. To me, it seemed like the interviewer rabbited on constantly and I hardly got a word in edgeways – I answered her questions but didn’t get to add anything. I didn’t really enjoy it. But people listening at home told me it sounded really good and professional. So I guess the interviewer knew her job after all.

  • katywolkstanley

    Hmm . . . I remember *someone* giving me that exact same advice before I was nervous about being on The Today Show. Now who could that be?

  • Sherri Williams

    Any chance us international viewers can see the interview online? I’ll be watching from Berlin, Germany (and also have never owned a tv!)

    • Anna

      I second that question – I am in France. Perhaps it will be available somewhere for viewing after the event? Really wouldn’t want to miss it!

  • Katie

    Great picture of you two–it’s actually the first time I’ve thought you two look alike. You’re definitely sisters.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks!

    • Heather H

      I thought the same thing!

  • Jenya

    Just watched the Matt Lauer interview, and it’s great. You make some interesting points, and you look lovely — very lawyerish, too! I don’t see any reason you should avoid watching it, unless you choose not to see yourself on camera ever.

    • gretchenrubin

      I do avoid it, whenever possible. Good to know that it’s a decent interview!

  • Sophia Jeanne

    Can we watch this online? I’m in Australia so can’t watch live 🙁

  • This is so great! So happy for you and thankful that you share your amazing opportunities and experiences with us. You continue to amaze and delight. Your success on so many levels is an inspiration. Thanks!