by DANNY RUBIN
Part one of the Lance Armstrong interview was stunning, mesmerizing and probably gratifying for millions of people who long suspected the cyclist of using drugs to win seven racing titles.
Armstrong dropped bombshell after bombshell about his deceitful past but only because he was prompted by Oprah Winfrey, who guided the discussion with sharp questions and total command.
One-on-one with Lance, Oprah again proved her chops as a terrific interviewer, and there’s a great deal we can learn from her performance.
1. Posture Matters
Throughout the 2 1/2 hour interview, Winfrey was engaged. She turned her body to Armstrong, looked him in the eyes when she asked questions and watched him intently as he confessed to a lifetime of lies.
The Takeaway: You don’t just listen with your ears; your body also indicates if you’re interested (or not) in the conversation. People pick up on those cues and, if you’re attuned to the discussion, feel that you value what they have to say.
2. Know Your Stuff
Winfrey had just days to prepare for the interview, but the average viewer would think she had studied Armstrong’s career for years. She reportedly had 112 questions ready and made a point to come into the room over-prepared.
The Takeaway: Want to impress a boss during a job interview? Arm yourself with facts about the industry, the company and the boss. You can probably find valuable info on each in a 30-minute Google search. If you do your homework, you’ll be poised for the discussion and prove you’re serious about the position.
In this clip, Winfrey asks Armstrong about a specific case involving Emma O’Reilly, a former masseuse who once tried to out Armstrong for doping.
3. The Art of the Follow-Up
Even though Winfrey sat down with 112 questions, she had no problem straying from the course and often asked about topics that arose naturally during the exchange.
The Takeaway: At a networking event, it’s easy to ask people the basics: ‘where do you work, what do you do, how long have you been there?’ Too many people stop right there and fail to ask next-level questions that create a more stimulating conversation.
If you hear something that catches your attention, keep digging. The other person will be happy to oblige and continue chatting away. The ability to ask follow-up questions shows a great deal of maturity, and if you’re rubbing elbows with someone you want to impress, even better.
Around :45 in this clip, watch as Winfrey decides to roll with the conversation and ask a deeper question to learn more about Armstrong’s ‘reckless behavior.’
4. Leave Yourself Alone
It’s no stretch to say that Winfrey is a bigger global personality than Armstrong. If she wanted, she could have looked for moments to inject herself into the situation. Winfrey could have talked about the times she watched Armstrong race or recounted when she talked to her friends about his alleged doping, but she didn’t. She was there to interview Armstrong, and it remained that way for 90 minutes.
The Takeaway: We’re often tempted to flip a conversation back on us. We think: ‘How I can talk about me? When is it my turn to talk about myself’?
A fourth next-level skill is the ability to leave yourself out of the picture. Focus solely on the other person, ask questions four or five layers deep about a certain project or his/her career track. Take an abiding interest in someone else’s story, and they will respect you for it. (tweet this)
Plus, how can you learn anything new if you’re the one talking?
Do you think Lance Armstrong is truly sorry for all he’s done? Or do you think he’s doing these interviews so he can compete again athletically? Do you feel sorry for him at all?
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© 2013, Danny Rubin
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