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Celebrity Interviewer Shares Secret To Powerful Conversions: An Interview with Rod Berger

Rod Berger was sifting through countless media pitches late on a Sunday in the winter of 2022. After a cursory look, one pitch had this contributing writer for Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine very much interested.

The media pitch wasn’t for Berger to interview Charles Barkley, Sammy Hagar of Van Halen, or UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov, though these and many other notables dot his stories of the past year. The pitch was for Berger to travel to the Sub-Saharan nation of Senegal to report on efforts by the Le Korsa Foundation to bring resources and stability to the evolving nation.

Berger bit and two weeks later found himself landing on a continent of mystery for this Nashville-based storyteller. “I quickly found myself in a new land in search of powerful conversations,” says Berger.

It was clear to Berger that while he might be able to rely on past interview experiences, he would need to reach into a new professional bag of tricks to capture the essence of his subjects. “We are, as a culture, incredibly overt as communicators,” he recalls. “Not every culture is as bold verbally, which took some getting used to. I found that nonverbal communication told me almost as much as the answers to my questions as I traveled across the country.”

The trip across the Atlantic may have only covered eight days on the calendar, but the lessons learned were applied to countless interviews that took Berger to seven countries in less than nine months. “Even though I’ve conducted over 2,000 interviews over the last decade, I’m not sure I actively thought about non-verbal communication the way I do now,” says Berger.

As the roster of celebrity interview guests grows, Berger finds himself even more reliant on the non-verbal gestures, pauses, and subtleties of his subjects. “Those revered in our society and across the globe are often hungry to have real conversations. I remember asking Sammy Hagar about growing up in the lettuce fields of California. He looked at me with trust, and the subsequent conversation painted an extensive visual picture of his family and influences that made the Red Rocker who he is today.”

Rod Berger with documentary film director Tim Neeves in the streets of Rome discussing his next interview with a UN official.

The impact of reading the interview ‘tea leaves’ may not have been more evident than when Berger stepped inside the octagon to interview Khabib. “When researching Khabib, I came across an assessment of his fighting style as both terrifying and brilliant. Needless to say, I literally walked into the octagon very aware of the physical space we shared and the non-verbal responses that ultimately guided the interview,” shares Berger.

The calendar has turned the page on another year, and as 2023 ramps up, Berger finds a similar, if not expanding, calendar of opportunity ahead. In February, Berger travels to Uganda to document stories of refugees bordering South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then it’s directly off to Kosovo to interview the President of the country and other leaders across the Eastern European nation. 

Rod Berger on X Shore’s electric boat in the archipelago in Stockholm, Sweden interviewing famed music producer Jörgen Elofsson.

“I am fortunate to be able to document the stories of leading voices across the planet. If I’ve learned anything about the power of conversations, it is most definitely the value found in silence.”

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