Super Tips on How to Score a Great Interviewcomments (1) March 12th, 2009
Interviewing interesting people is a great way to add dimension to your storytelling, especially when it comes to blogging. But there’s a catch—you have to find a way to make the article engaging, unique, informative, and inspiring. Your interview has to be different from everyone else’s, otherwise why should they bother reading? Old news is not good news. This not only goes for interviewing others but also when you are the subject.
I spent a decade working as an entertainment reporter for a daily newspaper. My gig involved interviewing artists, musicians, actors, movie stars, and everyday peeps, too. There were times when I crashed and burned because I took my subject for granted or was not prepared or let the guest steamroll over me. Luckily, those were few and far between. The majority of my interviews went smoother than whipped cream. I learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting great quotes, tidbits, and gasp-worthy trivia. These are what make great stories that your readers will want not only to reread but also pass on to friends and family.
Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that will help make your interviews sparkle! Aside from the obvious (never ask too many yes or no questions!), here are some you maybe didn’t think of!
As the interviewer:
• It’s great to go for well-known people, but don’t forget about those who are under the radar. Sometimes the best catches are the least obvious.
• Ask him or her to share a piece of his or her artwork, as well as a headshot to post alongside the interview.
• If you do interview someone well known, dig deep online and come up with questions that you don’t think anyone else has asked. Readers love to feel as though they are getting the scoop. If you are talking to someone who is known for a perfectly organized studio, ask her about the last time she made a mess!
• Keep your interviews tight. Tell your guest that the interview will be 15 minutes, or if you are doing the interview by e-mail, ask for him to keep it to 200 words per answer. This will let him know he has to filter and only give you the best, juiciest, most concise answers.
• For podcast or radio interviews, avoid “empty calorie” ramblings and small talk. A lot of times we do this because we are nervous. The listeners get no value from this at all. Focus to stay on track and move the interview forward.
• Never, ever inject your own personal stories into an interview, especially if it is a TV, radio, or podcast interview. Remember, this is about the other person, and you only have so much time to get info from him. Don’t eat up his minutes with information you can share on your site later.
• Keep a list of questions handy. Keep them to one or two sentences each. You never want the guest to have to say, “What was the question again?” And make sure to really listen to your guest’s answers. Often a guest will say interesting tidbits that you didn’t think of! It’s OK to veer from your list when you find a compelling opening.
• If your interview is by e-mail, always do your guest the favor of proofreading the answers before posting them.
• Never ask your guest, “How did you get started?” Instead, ask your guest to send you bio info that you can summarize in the opening. Leave the interview for the good stuff! If there is an intriguing aspect to her beginning, zero in on that time. For example, “In your bio, I read you used to sell jewelry out of the trunk of your car. What kind of car was it, and what did those first pieces of jewelry look like?”
• Be specific with your questions. Instead of asking, “What inspires you?”, narrow it down to something like, “What is the oddest thing that has ever inspired you?” or “What inspired you today?”
• Add a game to keep it interesting. Tell your guest to say the first thing that pops into her head when you say certain words, like “Glitter glue!” or ask things like “Pastel or brights?” These spontaneous answers will reveal a lot about your guest’s personality!
• If you have a talker, don’t feel shy about jumping in and taking control of the interview. You can politely say something like, “Great! That brings us to the next question…”
• Always leave room at the end for your guest to plug her web site, book, product, etc. Make sure to repeat her contact information, and don’t forget to thank her!
• Always encourage your readers/listeners to send you suggestions for new people to interview!
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