The Art of the Interview
It goes without saying that interviews are a cornerstone of journalism. The quotes you get from an interview will either bring your piece to life or cause readers to get bored. It’s all very good and well to be able to write brilliantly, but if you don’t know how to conduct an interview properly all that talent will go to waste. Some people are easy to get good quotes from while others are not; your technique is what will determine the quality of the quotes you get more than anything.
Here are 10 tips on how to conduct a successful interview
1) Consider what you would like to get out of the interview
Put together a list of questions. To be safe, write down more than you think you need – you never know which questions will give you the quotes you are looking for. Craft them with the idea for your story in mind. Also, don’t try and memorise your questions, rather bring them with you
2) Consider location
Choose a place that is not very noisy and where there are not many distractions. Sarah Stuteville says that a place that has relevance to the article you are writing could work, as you will then be able to weave a description of your surroundings into the piece. It’s important that your subject feels comfortable in the location; when they are relaxed they are more likely to divulge information, so interviewing at their home is another option.
3) Arrive before the time
Get to the place where you are conducting the interview early. This way you can take some notes (if you’re doing a print interview) or shots (if you are doing a video one) that may help you establish mood when you are crafting your final product.
4) Explain you process
Explain to your interviewee how you are going to go about conducting the interview. For instance, tell them that you have broken the questions up into sections covering different aspects you would like to discuss. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what type of quotes you are looking for.
5) Consider flow
The approach you take in this regard depends on what type of interview you are conducting. For an audio or video interview the questions need to flow into each other seamlessly with logical progressions. You have more leeway with a print interview as you will be weaving your quotes into your piece as opposed to using them in one block.
6) Consider the medium
This relates to the question above, but there is more to say on the subject. You can ask two-part questions for audio or video as this will get you longer quotes which work for those mediums. For a print interview, on the other hand, break up questions, as shorter quotes work better in this medium. Also, you can say “um” and “ah” in print interviews, something you can definitely not do for audio or video ones.
7) Don’t give up
Don’t be afraid to rephrase questions if you don’t get the answers that you’re looking for, either because you and your interviewee aren’t on the same page, or because your interviewee is purposely avoiding the tricky answers.
8) Don’t feel you have to fill awkward silences.
This is especially true when you are covering sensitive subjects. Don’t feel you have to jump from question to question. Once they have given their generic answer allow for a little pause, you never know what might come out next.
9) Consider body language
Always keep eye contact; it makes you appear more trustworthy which will help make your subject open up. Don’t ever appear shocked or disgusted as this could cause people to stop talking. Remain impartial.
10) Keep your ears open
People normally say the most quote worthy things when the interview is over and you are just talking conversationally as they feel more relaxed. If they don’t say that what they are saying is off the record don’t be afraid to use those quotes.
Are you a journalist? If so, share you interviewing tips with us. We’d love to hear from you.
Written by Zara Jade Bosman
Image credit: Nicole_N, Royalty Free, via stock.xchng