Interviewing subjects for your blog is a fun way to change up the content format on your website. But, if you want your interview to be interesting, knowing how to interview is going to make all the difference.
As a former reporter I can tell you that there are several ways an interview can go (including sideways.) If you aren’t prepared the interview can get awkward really fast, this is particularly true if you are interviewing someone you don’t know.
So, rule number one: Be prepared. Prepare your questions in advance. Every single question you plan on asking should be written out. This requires preparation beforehand.
Do research on the person you are interviewing. Research their profession, their background, their company. Know things so that you know what to ask them. If you are asking them about a specific topic, know enough about the topic that you can hold an intelligent conversation; this will allow you to formulate intelligent questions that will get your readers the best information and keep you from looking like an idiot.
When you take the time to write your questions in advance, you won’t be stuck staring at your interviewee with nothing to say. Have a lot of questions, and be aware that some will cancel each other out and others you just won’t need to ask.
Bring a notebook and a recorder: If you are doing the interview over the phone recording the interview can be more problematic. But most cell phones have recording capabilities. Worst case scenario: put it on speaker phone and record that way.
The reason you should have a recorder and a notebook is to make sure that you get everything you need. I’ve done interviews with and without a recorder and without a doubt having a way to playback the information is much more convenient.
When you interview without a recorder (and you can) you’ll have to write quickly and very accurately. You don’t want to misquote your subject in your story. Having a recorder makes it easier to have a connection with your subject, because while you can jot down a few notes, you aren’t so focused on writing everything down that you can’t make eye contact.
Be aware, that tape recorders do fail, so always have a notebook and jot down important quotes and facts so that if something happens you still have material to work with.
Be polite and professional: Always thank the person you are interviewing for their time. Be courteous and don’t interrupt while they are talking. If you have a question about a comment the make, write a note and go back to it after they are finished speaking.
Let them know you will call back if you have any further questions. And I beg you, never offer to let them read the work before your publish it. If they don’t trust you enough to do a fair interview they shouldn’t have agreed to work with you in the first place.
Ask the hard questions last: If you have a question that you know will be awkward, save it until last. That way, you at least get the rest of your interview done if they decide to toss you out of the office.
photo by: Gerard Stolk (vers le Carême)