How to conduct sensational interviews your audience will love
Being a journalist doesn't mean writing well-researched essays and articles to daring media all the time. Alongside words and facts, men (and women) of pen work with people, too.
It means that if you are a journalist you can't avoid interviewing big dogs to bring interesting information about experts and media personas to your audience.
Needless to say, you want the audience to love your interviews.
But here comes the problem:
The only fact you are a journalist doesn’t make anyone owe you an interview. Interviewing influencers such as Sam Hurley or Jeff Bullas, for example, it’s not enough to have a list of questions, ask them to write answers, and copy their words to your post.
Want to develop your journalistic style and do interviews both audience and interviewees will love? Follow these steps to prepare and conduct interviews, as well as come up with solutions to unexpected problems that might come up during the process.
Step 1. Develop the right habits
As one professional with 20+ years of experience in journalism said, "I am a good amateur: I know a little bit about everything." To become a king of journalism, you should be able to keep the conversation on different topics. (After all, you never know what your interviewee will ask or decide to discuss.)
So, to write better, read a lot. Learn to distinguish worthy things from informational rubbish.
Also, develop a habit of writing every day, even if your writings are short theses or notes.
Step 2. Plan the interview
Preparation takes 70 percent of the time you are going to spend on the interview. It's a stage when you should do your best and examine an interviewee.
Aspects to remember:
You are not a microphone but interlocutor, a valuable participant of the interview.
Remember your audience who'll read this interview, but don't forget about an interviewee as well: it should be interesting for them to talk to you. So, choose topics of their interests, not yours.
Design your interview: you can suppose the answers of your interviewee, so don't hesitate to prepare some additional questions you will ask depending on their answers.
Your interview can go the wrong way: an interviewee can evade an answer or talk about something you didn't plan to discuss. Be ready for such situations and think of how you'll solve them.
Prepare the questions but don't provide your interviewee with them in advance. You can give them topics you are going to discuss, not ready questions; otherwise, your interview will turn into a simple quiz.
Step 3. Do the interview.
Many things can go wrong even if you follow all interviewing principles, and the bare fact an influencer agrees to answer your questions doesn't guarantee any success.
Problem: You see that an interviewee doesn't want to answer your particular question.
- Solution: Ask the question anyway. Your journalistic reputation depends on that. Just be tactful and don't ask the same question 3-5 times in a row. Know when enough is enough.
Problem: You see that an interviewee doesn't answer the way you supposed they would.
- Solution: Let them talk. It may appear the audience will love occasional answers more than you expected. Just think how you'll get back to the topic and your prepared questions.
Problem: You see that an interviewee has already answered your prepared question though you haven’t asked it yet.
- Solution: Just cross it out and follow your interlocutor's train of thought. Don't repeat anything they've told you already.
Problem: You see that an interviewee doesn't like you.
- Solution: If you have time and opportunity, give them a choice: if a person is in no mood, suggest to postpone the interview; but if you see there is a personal animosity between you two, suggest another interviewer. If there is no choice, do things as they are: sometimes finishing an interview ahead is better than trying to continue it.
Problem: You see Aaron Orendorff, Sujan Patel, or Guy Kawasaki (you name!) just here and now. You don't want to lose a chance of interviewing them. But you don't have any prepared questions or specific topics!
- Solution: Forget that you are a journalist. Ask the questions your audience would like. Imagine yourself a reader of your interview: what would be interesting for you to know about this person? Let them speak. Tip: Ask the questions your mother would ask.
Problem: The interview is over, and you forgot to ask something.
- Solution: Send a mail describing a situation and ask missed questions.
Yes, it’s hard to become new Jeremy Paxman or Larry King at once, but knowing and following some tips from gurus would be a good practice to take one step closer to the journalistic Olympus.
So, learn from the best, master your skills, and become the interviewer with whom all influencers want to touch base. Do you already know who will be your next interviewee?
Photo: Man interviews via Shutterstock