Like many things in life, a media interview is never over until it is over. There have been many experts, CEOs and politicians who have been sent a curveball by that all-important final question.

If you find a question coming at you from left field, it can quickly put you on the back foot. Answer the question badly and it could well be the only thing people remember about the interview. In a worst-case scenario, it could even go viral on social media.

There are several different types of last questions and each has their challenges.

There’s the ‘while I’ve got you here…’ question which is often about something completely different from what you were talking about. If you are being interviewed because there has been a problem with your business, you might be tripped up by a question on whether you should resign or not. The journalist may simply leave the most difficult or nastiest question until the end.

The key here is to make sure you are fully trained, prepared, and have a plan in place. Some journalists order an interview entirely around the response they are looking for in the last question. It is essential to do your homework and practice your responses beforehand.

Be Aware

It is important to know from the outset that you need to remain aware as you go through the interview and not begin to relax as you think you are nearing the end. The last question could be anything. It might be something you are entirely unaware of, perhaps a news development that happened while you were conducting the interview.

It is essential to think about the wider issues associated with the interview you are about to take part in. Looking at what the media have recently been interested in concerning your sector can give you a few ideas. That last question might concern something more general, however, such as how Brexit is going to affect your business or what you are doing to support your employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Practise Your Replies

As with any interview, practising your answers is the best way to ensure that you are fully prepared. It is usually a good idea to do this with someone you trust rather than simply in front of the mirror.

One key here is how much to say and how deeply to go into your reply. Say too much and you can make your response the only headline in the interview. Say too little and it can leave you looking defensive, particularly if it is a difficult question about whether you should resign or not.

If it is a difficult question to answer, the trick is to keep the answer brief and uncontroversial and then begin steering the conversation back to the subject that you came to talk about in the first place.

It is Better to be Prepared than Caught Unawares

Anyone who is undertaking a high-profile interview should spend time focusing on that all-important last question. It is much better to do the extra work in this area before you meet the journalist than to find yourself stuttering or panicking when you are caught off-guard.

Media Training is Essential

For more advice and expert training on all aspects of dealing with the media contact the media training team at Hawkeye today to discover how we can help prepare you and your team to deal with tricky interview questions.