Stories come in all shapes and sizes, and they all serve different purposes. Maybe you are writing a blog or a testimonial or producing a video or a podcast, whatever your purpose, your story is almost completely dependent on the interview. Sometimes that pressure can be a lot to handle. Will I ask the right questions? Will I get the deep, emotional or insightful quotes I am looking for? Will my subject open up? These are all things that may run through your head as you spend hours poring over a list of questions and researching every detail about your subject on the internet.
Take a deep breath and relax. All you need to do is have a conversation.
The pandemic might still have us a bit out of practice, but most of us spend every day having conversations with one another. These may happen over the computer, the phone or face-to-face, and what we talk about changes with every scenario. Maybe you chat with a coworker and ask about their weekend, or call your mom and ask for help with a recipe. Every day you are asking questions. Your interview is no different.
Here are three tips and tricks for taking your interview skills to the next level.
- Don’t come with a long list of questions. Instead, write down three or four to help you out when you get stuck. When you are in the interview, treat it as though you are just chatting with someone, rather than interviewing them. When you are too focused on running down your pre-made list of questions, you may miss an opportunity to ask insightful and curious follow-up questions. This opens the conversation to go anywhere, rather than dictating it through a set list of things to ask. By having just a few questions prepared, you have a crutch in case the conversation hits a lull, but you won’t be focused on checking off a list the entire time the person is speaking.
- Don’t do too much research. This one can be tricky to navigate, but it is possible. Yes, it’s important to have a basic understanding of who you are interviewing and why you are interviewing them; however, it’s also important to go into an interview with an open mind. Your reader or viewer may not know anything about your subject, so going into an interview with this same mindset allows you to ask all of the most important questions, which includes the most basic ones. You may learn something new by asking a very simple question, and it may even take the story somewhere you hadn’t thought of. Take the interview as a learning opportunity and ask questions with the goal of learning.
- Take a deep breath and listen. Shake off the pre-interview nerves and go into it like you’re chatting with a friend! The best interviews are natural and conversational, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to ask the right questions or on your subject to say the right things. As an interviewer, your most important job is to listen. This is where all of the follow-up questions, new ideas and conversations will arise. Once you master the art of listening, a spectacular story will follow! Larry King said it best, “The key of interviewing is listening. If you don’t listen, you’re not a good interviewer.”
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