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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.

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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 “ 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 spot.

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 wouldn’t suggest using this technique in every interview, but it’s 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