Ah, yes. Another blog post giving tips on how to conduct an interview. Played out? Very; I think every publication relations major of the SOJC has one of these. But, I thought I would try, because I may have something to offer to the subject. For one, to continue the reporting theme of my blog, I’ll be talking more about being the interviewer rather than the interviewee. Secondly, I’m writing this post for those of us who aren’t the face-of-the-company type — you know, those who find the interviewing process sometimes a bit awkward.
Personally, I still find it at times uncomfortable. I don’t consider myself to be shy or anything, but it can be nerve racking asking someone questions about a topic you just learned about. I’m definitely still getting it down, but I’ve learned some tips along the way that I’ve found helpful, which you may or may not find useful.
1.) Be prepared with good questions
Before the interview occurs, go online and research everything you can find about your subject. What you’re looking for are ideas of what questions to ask and what questions have already been asked. You don’t what to repeat the same questions; it’s no fun for your subject or your readers. Usually, if you read in between the lines of other interviews, you’ll be able to find some interesting topics to bring up. The better questions you have, the more confidence you’ll have.
2.) Establish a rhythm to the interview
This is an underrated but necessary component to giving interviews. You’re talking to someone for the first time. You’ve read about them, but you have no idea what they’re like in real life — how they speak, how passionate they get, whether or not they like to talk much. So, as you pose the first couple of questions, try and find out these things. If they like to talk a lot, then let them talk — give it a couple seconds after they finish their sentences as they may go on. If they seem reserved, take the lead and help them open up by asking more general questions at first. Once a rhythm is started, both sides of the interview can feel it, and it makes the process much more fluid.
3.) Don’t read off your notepad
As funny as it sounds, treat the interview as a conversation, not an interview. Have a list of good questions to ask, but ask them only when it’s pertinent to do so. If the question doesn’t have much to do with what you and your subject are talking about, don’t completely switch topics by asking it. Instead, try and think of follow up questions that have to do with what’s being talked about at the moment — this is easier when you think of it as a conversation. If you just go down the list on your notepad, you’re missing chances to dwell deeper into subjects, and you’re making the process a lot more formal, which makes your subject feel less comfortable.
4.) Don’t be intimidated and have fun
You’re interviewing a NASA engineer about his breakthrough in rocket science — so what? Regardless of how accomplished or intelligent your subject may be, your job is to explain his work in simple terms so the public can understand it. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they sound stupid. If the subject looks down on you for it, then it’s their loss, because they will be missing a chance to educate people on their work. With that said, chances are the subject will be happy to answer all your questions, regardless of how simplistic they are. Use step one, though, and try not to ask any questions that have been posed before.
Also, try and view it as a unique and fun experience. When else are you going to have a conversation with a NASA rocket scientist? The more interested and less intimidated you are, the more stimulating the conversation will be.