9. Focus on the future, not the past

Let’s say you meet a person that is obviously from another country or culture. It would be quite natural to ask them, ”Where do you come from?” Please don’t do that. They’ve probably told their story hundreds of times. Ask them, instead, ”Where are you going?” When you ask a guest to come on your show, it is more than likely because of something they have done in the past. Maybe it could be about something they have written, filmed, designed, constructed, experienced, or spoken out about. 

That’s fine and a reason for your curiosity and a reason that would be interesting for your audience. Sure, ask about that. But don’t dwell on it. You don’t have to look very far to find interviews that dwell so much on the past that, in the end, they turn boring and uninteresting. 

The other evening I watched a sort-of talkshow-reality show with a few famous actors and musicians. The most wildly popular, famous person was an excellent, acclaimed singer. The program and interaction on the show focused almost 100% upon her past. It was fun to be reminded of some of her hits, but, in my opinion, complemented with a look to her future, would have made for a better segment on the show

Look at it this way – you have a friend who is upset and sad about just ending a long relationship. Surely, you want to give support, listen and show empathy for their emotions. Do that. But if you let this looking back at all the injustices, all the conflicts, all the faults of the other person go on and on and on, well, there comes a time when the conversation has to move to the future. What now? What have you learned? What do you not want to repeat? What are you looking for? What do you want to do differently next time?  

No, you don’t have to, nor should you, ask all those questions, and maybe let the venting process take its course and wait a few days or weeks to move on.  I am guessing you are curious and would want the conversation to move forward after that emotional venting. The point – move forward even if so slowly.

You’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of these interviews – the athlete talking about their drug use or doping and how they turned around (or ruined) their careers—the politician talking endlessly about the faults of other parties, politicians or policies. The actor only being asked to speak about their old films instead of new projects. The adventurer is constantly asked to retell a story of an event from twenty years in the past. The fallen hero is asked to explain him or herself over and over and over again. The new hero asked over and over and over again why they had been successful.

Fine. I am sure you and your audience are curious. Make a point, tell a story, and then move on. Please. The future awaits. What next? Just stop digging a ”dwell” and get to the learning, the growing, the rethinking, the replanning, then restarting, and the fundamental values and reflections part. That is not only going to help your guest but also help retain and interest your audience.

Sure, this is tricky. When to allow ”dwelling” and when to stop the digging? We’ll get to how to know when to dig and when to let be, but first, know that while understanding history is crucial to understanding the future, it’s the learning in order to meet the future that is the interesting part. Help your guest to learn and grow and see a possible future.

Watch the interview example with Charles

Here’s another what I call an empowerment interview. See if you can connect the dots between the big picture purpose and the small actions needed to move forward. Before we go into the details of body language and other details of a good interview or conversation, take another look at this approach and see the advantages and disadvantages. Do you get my purpose and method? What would you do differently? How would you explain the purpose of your own Talkshow?

Charles is a good example of a person with a job who also has a hobby – writing children’s books with different value themes. Charles is doing the work needed to turn his hobby into a business, not just creating, writing, and publishing but thinking of marketing strategies and how to gain attention for his books. I don’t mind at all giving him a little help with PR and encouragement for his efforts or share the value-oriented purpose for his endeavors. 

You have seen seven full interviews. What are the common traits? Do you see the similarities in their structure and purpose? Do you see how I try to connect their value system with their actions?

Now we move on to more of the details through an analysis of the five phases of this type of Talkshow interview.