Yesterday, I made my way to Ngee Ann Poly’s school of film & media studies to “help” a 2nd year Mass Comms student. I usually say no to student interviews because (1) the interview requests are less-than-polite, (2) my home is just really far from all campuses and (3) there is absolutely no benefit to me to do these interviews. #AtLeastIAmHonest
With regard to the first point, I think people who have not worked for a couple of years tend not to be able to relate well to people. This student actually sent me a Whatsapp message past 10pm (while I was on holiday) because I was late (for a day or two) in replying to her email. I had responded favorably to her initial email because she is a former student of a good friend of mine. That was the only reason I agreed to help her out with her schoolwork.
And yes, NP is really far from my home. Besides the total of about 2 hours spent on commuting and on the actual interview, I spent S$40 on taxifare to and fro (during off-peak hours). *I value my time more than money, so any reimbursement would also make no sense! And there was none, just to be clear on this point.
At the end of the interview, I could safely say there was no benefit to me at all. Her teacher basically sat in during the session while we pretended we were “on air”. And there was even another student arranged to do a fake “call in” segment.
Having been featured on actual radio at least three times, I could tell my student interviewer was nervous. Before we entered the room, I asked her to rate her nervousness on a scale of 1 to 10, and she said she’s a ‘7’. I then told her to “take deep breaths” and tried to make her laugh. I told her to imagine me as our mutual friend, which made her chuckle. And then I said I have to grow that beard too, to look like him, and she really laughed out loud.
I also made sure I asked her some important questions, including what the teacher was grading her on. [She actually didn’t even tell me without my prompting!] Apparently, she would be graded on how well she interacted with the guest (and didn’t look at her notes, etc) AND whether she could get her guest to share something more personal. I couldn’t help her with the first part, so I did my best with the second. Her teacher eventually told me I was an “awesome” (in her own words) interviewee.
You might think I’m stupid to go all the way to NP for this fake radio interview, to help someone I don’t know, and pay a ridiculous amount in taxifare just for a mock 15-minutes interview. Yes, I actually do think it is silly. But when a friend asks me for help (the first time), I usually say yes. ;)
But no more student interviews for the rest of this year, please! I don’t have that much youth to waste anymore! :D Anyhow, here are some tips for future Mass Comm poly students who find that they need to interview people for their school assignments:
Tips on handling ‘radio interviews':
1) Always let your guest know what is the grading criteria. If you don’t tell your guest how to help you, how will the person know?
2) Definitely let your guest have a look at the list of questions first. My student interviewee felt I should not see the questions beforehand so that I’ll appear “natural” during the interview. I told her that’s a mistake because (1) I’ve been on multiple interviews. I can fake sounding natural. Thank you. (2) Your interview is a very short 15 minutes. If I spend time hemming and hawing, and thinking of the right words to use, you are going to fail the module!
3) Never let your guest wait. I was there ahead of the appointed time by over half an hour. She arrived at approximately 7 minutes before our agreed-upon 2pm. And then said we had to rush and get into the studio by 2pm, though she had told me the interview starts at 2.30pm. Thankfully, I’m not so old that I couldn’t catch up as she sped off towards the studio. #firstimpressionscount
4) Stay calm and collected. If you are nervous, you transfer that nervous energy to your guest. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If you need your guest to come by early for a rehearsal, ASK. Don’t just ask the person whether he/she will be there early. The person’s natural response will be “Early for what? I’ll just be on time”
5) Avoid the use of pause fillers like “Um ok… so…”. The student who conducted the interview right before ours must have set a record for the most number of “okays” used in a fake radio interview.
Tips on handling bloggers you want to interview:
1) Get a recommendation. That’s what my student interviewee did right. If she had sent me a request, without any mention of our mutual friend, my answer would have been “sorry, I’m not free then”.
2) Tell them what’s in it for them. Bloggers are nice people, but they are not your parents. You can phone your mother and say “Mom, school’s over! Come and pick me up in 5 minutes ah!” but you cannot say to a blogger “I need you to come by my school on (insert date) at (insert time) to help me with a school assignment”. The world owes you nothing. And neither do your parents, by the way. If you’d be able to show the blogger around your school, or introduce the blogger to lecturers who might be keen on finding out more about blogging, or see how you can help promote the blogger’s book to your friends, then yes, TELL the blogger what you’ll do.
3) Don’t piss the person off by repeated contact when the guest has already agreed to turn up on appointed date and time. A gentle reminder email is good enough. No smses past office hours PLEASE. You are not a friend!
4) Give the person a handwritten note as thanks. I received some chocolate (and quite promptly gave it away as I’m on a diet) but I would definitely have appreciated and kept a handwritten note of thanks.
I have only 24 hours in a day. I usually have a huge backlog of blogposts to do, advertorials to craft and things to do, such as running errands. Hence, my time is very precious to me. This is why I often say ‘no’ to interview requests from students, most of whom don’t even ‘like’ my facebook page or read a page from my book.
If I’m retired, then yes, you can certainly have me for your interviews up to 12 hours a day. No problemo. Otherwise, you can go interview some other blogger. :)
**Just to be clear. I think my student interviewer did ok, except for that late night Whatsapp message while I was on holiday. She seemed sincere and was polite.