Open for Business
In our final look at interviewing techniques, here are some
last observations on conducting solid, moving interviews.
It should go without saying that open ended questions tend
to elicit the best responses. This is to say that rather than
asking ...do you like the kind of research you are doing?
you probably want to ask ...what is it about your research
that you like the most? In this way, you suggest to
your subject that they elaborate a bit, go into more detail
and explain not only the facts and figures of their life but
also the feelings and emotions.
It is worth noting as well that your interview begins NOT
when you begin recording, but rather when your eyes meet with
your subject. It is your job as the interviewer to put your
subject at ease, give them confidence that what they have
to say is important to you, and that they should feel free
to go anywhere the discussion might lead.
It is also worth noting that every interview is in reality
two interviews: one, with the newsmaker - the reason, after
all, that you are talking to them, and the other with the
human being behind the newsmaker.
I have often found that when an interview seems to be floundering,
going no where, even when the subject ought to be compelling,
the subject is straying too far into their news maker role.
When this happens, you ask them ...but what do YOU feel
about that...? In a sense, you have to bring them back
to their human role as well. Frankly, while their achievements
and accomplishments may be the reason you are interviewing
them, it is their emotional connection to those achievements
and accomplishments that make electronic media so compelling.
Often, the intrusion of a camera and microphone are what makes
your subject uncomfortable, and feel like they are on the
With my best videographers, I have a system worked out where
I begin chatting with the subject of the interview, the videographer
and audio engineer begin rolling and set levels - without
saying a word - and then, when they are at the appropriate
audio levels and tape speed, the videographer taps me gently
on the back to let me know that the interview is now being
recorded. This might seem a little sneaky, but what it does
is moves your chat with the subject from the informal
just catching up mode to the official recorded
interview seamlessly, without signaling the subject that they
are now on. I wouldnt suggest using this
technique in every interview, but its a good way to
graduate into the formal interview without letting your subject
tense up at just the moment you begin rolling tape.
This little trick assumes a.) that you have slated your interview
prior to your subject arriving, identifying the subject of
the interview, the date, time, story, etc., and
b.) that your subject has executed any formalities releasing
you to conduct the interview.
The real goal here is to put your subject at ease, to make
them feel not only that you are genuinely interested in what
they have to say, but also that the technology recording the
interview is of little concern to them.
If you follow the ideas outlined in the past few installments
of this column, you should be conducting world-class, award
winning interviews with the best of them.
Oh, and of course, keep breathing