This week’s post is from Eldon Khorshidi, Director of Client Services. It highlights five techniques for conducting effective interviews.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” — Voltaire
In the broadcasting world, conducting interviews is not easy and at times can feel like a daunting task. With so many different personalities (on both ends of the camera), there’s no handbook to follow for a constructive and insightful conversation. But as a journalist, there are various techniques and tools to develop rapport with your subject, and to ultimately conduct an effective interview. Here are five tips:
1) Do your homework— The depth of an interviewee’s answers will heavily depend on how much he/she thinks the interviewer knows and understands. In other words, always do your homework beforehand. Obviously you (the interviewer) won’t know everything pertaining to the topic, but if you know enough to ask methodical, pointed questions, there’s more opportunity for the interviewee to share deeper insights.
2) Have a strategy — Interviews are like chess, and as the interviewer it’s your job to always be two steps ahead. Use easy-to-answer “set up” questions to establish background and develop flow, and then ask follow-up questions. While you can never predict what direction an interview will take, it is your job to systematically improvise and keep the conversation within a certain scope.
3) Listen up —Instead of thinking about what you’re going to ask next, listen—like, actually pay attention—when the interviewee is speaking. A lot of times their response can lead to the best questions.
4) Don’t be overly demanding — Sure, sometimes you should push for answers and/or information, but you should never be intrusive or rude. Doing so will result in an uncomfortable conversation, something that benefits neither you nor the interviewee.
5) Be sincere — In an interview, in order to get information you must first gain trust. In order to gain trust, you must always “level” with your interviewee. If they see you’re thoughtful and genuinely interested, they’ll be more likely to open up a truthful dialogue with you.
Also, don’t feign interest or respect. Interview subjects will sense this, and it will strike a disconnect and damage rapport. As they taught me in journalism school, “Don’t’ judge the subject, but instead let the subject judge himself.”