Wednesday, January 25, 2012
How to Conduct Interviews That Resonate With Today's Readers
Pick up any consumer magazine or trade publication and it’s highly likely you’ll hit upon an interview or two.
Interviews are popular reads because our natural curiosity as human beings piques our interest in the private lives and inner-workings of others.
Whether it’s the success story behind power players, or Oprah’s beauty secrets; inquiring minds wanna’ know. As writers, we are entrusted with the important task of telling others’ stories, and being the voice of the impoverished, the afflicted, and even those blessed with the “it factor“.
In my professional career, I have had the privilege of both being the interviewer and interviewee, and based on this experience, here’s what I’ve discovered about conducting interviews that connect with today’s reader.
Timely tips to master the art of the interview:
1. Start out with a clear agenda. In other words, what’s your purpose? (It shouldn’t be just to “parrot” information). Is it to increase awareness of a cause or movement? Promote an event? Educate? Entertain? Provide a noteworthy individual with his deserved 15 minutes of fame? Your agenda will establish your approach, direction and the nature of your questions.
2. Resist rookie questions like “Do you have a dog?” Or “What’s your favorite color?” It wastes valuable time, and adds very little depth or value to your piece. Instead, strive for things that delve into the person’s life philosophy, business strategy, or “ah-ha” moments.
3. Do your homework. Before assembling questions, do a little online sleuth work. Many times, you can find interesting facts and tidbits by visiting the subject’s blog, Facebook page, Linkedin profiles, and even quotes from other articles. Consider interviewing someone who knows or has worked with the interviewee for background information too.
4. Inject a little humor when appropriate. Humor is to writing what spices are to cooking. Find a funny angle from an anecdote shared. Or have him reveal his most embarrassing moment, or a hidden talent. For example, I was watching a program that documented the life of Dr. Phil, and discovered that he enjoyed watching cartoons, (even into adulthood). Who would have thought?
5. Decide the best way to capture the essence of the interview, by knowing your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a poor listener, have a short attention span, or trouble sometimes deciphering your handwriting, it may be wise to conduct the interview via email questions for accuracy purposes. If on the other hand, you enjoy using imagery, then a face-to-face, where you can assess body language, tone, and use your skills of observation might prove more successful.
6. Put yourself in the readers’ place. What would you like to know about the person being featured? What makes him interesting or different? Why should readers care?
7. Enhance your interview with quality images. There’s great truth to the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
8. Watch and incorporate some of the trademark techniques of talented TV interviewers like Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, and Dianne Sawyer. Oprah, you’ll find, is always personal, witty and compassionate. Barbara is provocative, sharp and unapologetic. While Dianne is no-nonsense and straight-forward. Case in point… Oprah admitted once on her show, that as a young girl she was inspired to become a reporter from observing Barbara Walters decades before.
By following these eight tips you’ll make the most of your next interview and make more money in your freelancing career.
Thoughts? What tips or techniques do you use to ace interviews?