Tip of the Week - 2016 09 28: Interviewing Tips

When I started in radio, I hated doing interviews. Even now, I’m not a natural interviewer, and doing them makes me very nervous. You too? Read on…

So, what are the keys for doing a great interview, especially when it doesn’t come easy to you? Media people will give you many tips. But here are a few ideas I’ve picked up over the years.

An interview is someone telling a story. Your job is to help them to tell that story – be it a life story or the week’s weather.

The first key to a successful interview is…familiarity with the content. This will help you to design the right questions to get the right information out of your guest. In fact, you should rarely ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.

Here’s a tip to help develop this. Choose a family member or friend, with an interesting story to tell – a story you are already familiar with (just one definite story, not a life story). Write some strategic questions that will guide them to tell their story, then record an interview with them. Keep to a set deadline, and if you are running out of time, make up questions on the spot to hurry them through the main points.

The next key is just as important. Know your audience. When you are writing your questions, ask yourself “what would my audience want to ask this person?”

Perhaps like me, you are not a wonderful conversationist! Here’s a solution. Get deliberate. The next time you meet someone…after church, at a party, at a convention…chat with them; get curious; ask questions and show an interest in what they do. Don’t talk over the top of them, but listen carefully to their answers. Use their answers to help you formulate your next question. If something interesting comes up in the conversation, take some time to take a detour to explore it. You will soon develop great listening and questioning skills.

A good interviewer is well prepared – by knowing the topic and having questions ready. During the interview, follow the plan. However…let me say it again…listen carefully to your guest’s answers. Before you rush off to the next question, did they answer sufficiently? Did they deliver the key information they were supposed to? If not, re-word your question and get that information out of them.

Remember, is that an interview is a conversation between two people. Don’t be nervous – enjoy the chat. And remember to include your listeners by asking questions from their point of view – even if the answer is already painfully obvious to both you and your guest. If the guest speaks in technical or legal talk, reword their answer in everyday English with the words: “so, you’re saying that…”

What tips do you have for interviewing?

Go…interview…and happy broadcasting.

James

PS: Check out our video series on Interviewing here.


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Added: Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
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