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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Ground Rules

We’re continuing with some hints on interviewing techniques. Last week, we discussed preparation, from the perspective of the interviewer. This week, we’re going to talk a bit about preparing your subject.

It should go without saying that you should do all the homework possible on the subject you are interviewing, so these hints today aren’t about researching and background work that should go without saying. What we are covering today are a couple of logistical considerations that you may not have thought about.

1. Set the ground rules. This doesn’t mean to boss the subject around, but rather letting him/her know how the interview will proceed. “You sit over here. I’m going to sit over here. The interview will be about ten (15? 20? 30?) minutes long. We’re going to talk a bit about your book, but more important...” What we mean by setting the ground rules is to put your guest at ease, so that they have a sense of what’s going to happen. Get them a cup of coffee, or water (the small bottles are perfect). Think of a time you went into a restaurant and there was neither a hostess to seat you nor a sign telling you to seat yourself. It felt weird to not know what you were supposed to do. You have to answer your subject’s questions before they ask them.

2. Don’t forget formalities. Have your subject sign a release if appropriate (more on this in the future.) Explain what the release means to them.

3. If you have a cheap camera, take a photo of your subject. Even if it’s just for memories, a photo in the setting where the interview takes place is not only pleasant, it could be helpful for newsletters, promotion or the like.

4. If the guest is an author, don’t forget to have them sign the book - but don’t have them sign it before the interview, sign itafterwards, so they can say nice things about you - rather than a generic autograph.

5. You might even want to have them look over a list of rules - sensitive language (again, more on this in the future), agree on stuff you can and can’t talk about, don’t twitch knees, tap table, or pound on the desk for emphasis. Explain that the short answers are not as useful as longer answers, and that if they can wrap your question into their answer, it will be even more useful. For example, if you ask “when did you start writing?” the answer shouldn’t be “six years ago...” but rather “I started writing six years ago...” Set vocal levels on your recording equipment, lay down tone and bars if appropriate, and get set.

More on questions next week... Until then, keep breathing.