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.
The Perfect Question
In our last installment, we talked about the art of listening
and how vital it is to a good interview.
This week, something about the nature of the questions we
I generally assume that there will be one "money"
question in an interview. Sometimes we are lucky enough to
get more, but we have to have at least one. In future segments,
we'll discuss the difference between feature and news interviews,
and open ended radio interviews vs. television "story"
interviews, since their needs are so different, and subtly
complicated to achieve.
Face it, anyone can ask a question. Nothing could be simpler
- in fact we spend much of our waking life asking questions.
We sometimes refer to our life-survival questions as "navigation
speech": "where is the..." "how do I...?"
"What's the answer to...?"
There is no intention to be memorable with these questions.
Rather there is simply the need to gather information and
move on. The information that is gathered is of a much more
factual nature than the information we want from a good interview.
In a good feature interview it can be as much what is not
said, what is implied by the tone of voice, the body language,
and the hidden meaning of the response than the factual content
of a subject's answer.
There are a couple of ways to lay out your questions. One
way is to put your most important questions first, in descending
order down to your least important. This way, if your tape
runs out, if your broadcast has technical problems, if you
are interrupted in any way, you will have (hopefully) gathered
your most important information. Another scheme suggests that
you always save one or two good questions for later in the
interview, so that if things start to bog down, you will have
something in reserve.
Whatever scheme you use, try to think deeply about the one
single question that will elicit the deepest meaning or response
from your subject. Don't use it first, but be constantly probing
as to the right time to pose that question. This concept of
defining the "perfect question" is much more an
art than a science, but there is much that systematic preparation
can provide us with as tools.
We'll cover some of those methods next week. Inhale deeply,
pause, exhale slowly and enjoy it!