In this post, Writers Write shares tips for the artful interview.
Writing is a lonely art. Interviews put writers in front of someone else (and then they talk). How terrifying for most writers!
Good interviews are about connections.
They are also about research, and about the best information from your source. A great interview is an art, and each question can alter results.
Here are 9 tips for the artful interview.
9 Tips For The Artful Interview
1. Research The Source
Be informed. Read about who you’d like to interview.
Know their past, and look into current events. Dig for projects they have done. Check past or present news.
Past careers? Interests? Scandals?
Know what they’re talking about, now or ten years ago.
An interview is always better if you’ve done research. This way, you have key points to talk about. Preparation means you are harder to throw off (or surprise).
2. Know The Topic
Sharpen your quill, and know your topic. Knowledge is leverage.
Many experts lose patience when an interviewer seems lost. Some sources will use this to advantage, and overthrow the talk to have the upper hand.
Read, and read a lot. Prepare well enough that you can always talk along.
Without this, you will look tired, or like a newbie.
3. Phrasing Questions
There are many ways to ask the same thing. Try different ways before you decide on what to ask.
Questions can be:
- Direct or indirect
- Tactful or plain
- Attacking or defensive
- Fast or long
Conversation is context. Personal, deep questions are not the best lead-in: talk first, and then work up to it.
Phrase with care. Instinct decides which questions are best when.
Oh, and there are no stupid questions – mostly.
4. Talk, Don’t Interrogate
An interview should never be an interrogation. Gather information, don’t yank it out of them.
Even scary interviews are just two people talking.
- Don’t stick to the list, adapt on your feet.
- Ask questions, not statements.
- Never force, but talk.
Remember your questions, but don’t repeat them like a parrot.
5. Getting The Most (Out Of Answers)
A source can give less than you need sometimes.
‘Yes, I have.’ or ‘No, we haven’t.’ doesn’t give you much to work with.
The trick is this: keep them talking.
A source who talks, is a useful source (and the writer can get back to their point). A source who shuts up or clams shut is harder to work with.
Phase questions to invite longer answers. Avoid phrasing things so that the answer stops at a single syllable.
Let them talk, but use questions to regain the lead.
6. Revising A Topic
Not enough meat?
Come back to the question with different phrasing, or say: ‘If we could get back to this,’ Lead the talk, and keep control.
Don’t interrupt when the interview flows. A source who talks is useful, and you can always ask again.
If they are stuck, talk about anything else for 30 seconds. It gets them talking again. It opens up the flow. Then bring them back to the point.
7. Three Ways To Interview
An interview can be in person, but increasingly isn’t
- Online Interviews: Video interviews are easier, and can be taped.
- Email Interviews: Gives sources time to think, but take longer.
- Physical Interviews: Great for some, but costly.
It’s up to you, as long as it’s convenient for both and you can prove the interview with its raw files.
8. Connecting With Subjects
Interviews are better when people connect.
Create rapport with good or interesting things. Things they like, things you like, and things you both like to talk about.
If you put the two most hated enemies in a room together, they will eventually agree on something: even if it’s that they hate the décor.
Find a connection first, and then talk.
It can be as simple as, ‘Terrible coffee here, right?’
Once you agree on something, you can get talking on the same level.
9. The Interview End
End an interview like a plane’s landing: gently, ease into it.
Ask if they have anything else to say, or last words, then end it. If an interview is too long, say time is running short. Always thank them for their time, because they could have used it to do literally anything else.
Keep in touch, and stay connected.
Thank your source again after publication. Writers know that it’s great to see your words in print.
Blunt endings are for rude sources. Bombshells that you can’t publish or repeat. Say thank you, but we’ll end this here.
The Last Word
In this post, Writers Write showed you 9 Tips for the Artful Interview.
We hope that this article helps you to be a better writer. Read more of our other posts about interviews and how to do them.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
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