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What would you ask Sir Richard Branson?

Where do you start?! It’s a fantastic dilemma to have and one I was faced with when the billionaire/entrepreneur/adventurer last visited Australia. I was asked by the national networking group, Business Chicks to interview Sir Richard for one of their events at the Brisbane Convention centre in front of an audience of about 2 thousand people – mainly women.

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I did my research – read one of his books… searched online for anything new and came up with pages and pages of questions about his life, career, family and all his remarkable stunts. It would have taken hours to get through it all and I only had about half an hour for the interview.

In this situation, you really need to understand your audience… How much do they already know about your guest? There’s no point in trawling over information that everyone already knows… They want something new and fresh and with Sir Richard in particular, they want to be inspired too.

I started thinking about a previous Business Chicks event in Brisbane with Sir Bob Geldof (It’s been a big year…) and we only had around 500 guests. I didn’t interview him; he simply spoke on stage, without notes or a lectern. He was the most impressive speaker I have ever heard; funny, engaging, charming and inspiring. Anyway…. Why didn’t this rock star sell out and Branson filled the Convention centre?

Why do women love Branson so much?

That was my first question to Sir Richard Branson.

However, it made him really uncomfortable! Awkward.

I had to overcome the panic of unsettling a billionaire, change tack and move on to the rest of the interview which ranged from the personal to professional and also the future, which for him is space travel with Virgin Galactic.

Interviewing someone, regardless of whether they are famous or not, is not simply asking a list of questions. You need to understand your guest and the audience in equal measure. Sometimes it doesn’t go to plan, but what does? A good interviewer needs to listen and also be agile… change direction and explore new avenues if they appear.