If you’re posting blogs, developing newsletters, or writing articles for any array of in-house, professional or organizational publications, you will, occasionally, require contributions from sources other than yourself. That’s when having an interviewing strategy comes in handy!
Whether formal or casual, your interview will be successful if you gain interesting, informative subject matter for your readers. In other words, you need to pose questions that elicit meaningful responses. Therefore, no matter how well you know the individual or topic, it’s important to plan and prepare for your Q & A session.
To help you get started, I am pleased to share my 10 tips for making your article interviews successful:
1) Define and outline the objectives of your article. To entertain and inform your readers, you must have a clear sense of purpose: What would your target audience want and need to learn about the subject at hand? With that understanding, identify and organize the kind of information/ideas/insights you need to gain from your interview.
2) Prepare for the interview by researching the topic and the interviewee. Make every effort to gather your preliminary information from reliable sources so that you are well-informed.
3) Based upon your preliminary findings, consider whether you have uncovered a more interesting or more enlightening angle for the interview. Put your natural curiosity to work.
4) With your latest findings and objectives in mind, develop solid questions. Use discretion. Avoid issues, for instance, that delve into areas that veer way off the topic. Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask unique or challenging questions, if appropriate.
5) Arrange questions in a logical manner so that queries and responses flow naturally. Rather taking a hazard approach, you’ll elicit more thoughtful answers if your conversation follows a certain progression.
6) Give your subject enough time to research or prepare thoughtful answers. One tactic is to deliver your questions ahead of time. If, however, you’d prefer spontaneous responses, provide general rather than specific questions in advance.
7) Place your subject at ease. Don’t waste time, but start by building a rapport. Be friendly. Also, if you plan to capture the individual on camera or record his/her voice, obtain permission beforehand. Additionally, if you meet face-to-face (or can see one another by another means like Skype), look up from your notes frequently to make eye contact and acknowledge your interviewee.
8) Be flexible. Digressions often add unexpected flavor and unique insights to a piece, so encourage a fascinating anecdote or two. At the same time, keep your notes at hand to ensure that you remain on topic and accomplish your objectives.
9) Listen and then verify your understanding of responses. Repeating the interviewee’s words for him or her to ponder is often a useful tactic when you want the individual to confirm, explain or elaborate.
10) Be respectful of your interviewee’s time and comfort. Adhere to the timeframe allotted, and observe cues that indicate your subject needs to take a break or resume at a later date. When finished, thank the individual for his/her time and effort. If you’ve agreed to share the article with the interviewee before you publish, offer the piece with a reasonable deadline for comments.
As in writing, interviewing is a skill that can be honed until your effort appears effortless and results in a work of art. To reach that goal, proceed with sincerity and integrity.
Do you have any tips of your own? Please share them!
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady