Techniques for Giving a Good Interview

This is a great article from mediacollege.com containing tips and techniques on how to interview people well. A good resource for anyone doing interviews for podcasts, documentaries or other media projects.

If there’s anything I’ve learned after 18 years of producing media in various forms, it’s that a good interview can make or break a piece. I’ve worked with some super-talented on-air people over the years and I learned almost everything I know about interviewing from them. Why? Because they were able to quickly establish a rapport with their subjects and draw out precisely the information that was needed for the piece.

These techniques are not difficult to learn, but they are crucial to the success of your projects.

Anyone have a great interviewing tip they want to share? Please comment!

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2 Responses

  1. Great! Also, immediate follow-ups to some answers, like “and why is that?” or “so how does that impact XYZ”? are often important opportunities some interviewers miss while getting caught up with the next Q on their list (as the article briefly touched on).

  2. I find it difficult to small talk to someone in a social setting (party, office) if I’m not asking them a bunch of questions where I’m genuinely interested. It’s much easier for me to establish a rappoire with an interviewee than it is to talk to family members about daily stuff.

    As I always told the young interviewers I was asked to train, I always start interviews with fast and loose questions, ones that are designed to put the interviewee at ease immediately, ones that will set the tone of the whole time you get to talk to them. After they have laughed and relaxed a bit, I get down to the brass tax, and I found that as long as you pose questions intelligently or with genuine inquisitiveness, the person will always open up. And controlling how and what they open up about is where the true art of interviewing is paramount.

    If you feel an interview for a social format show is uneasy with your line of questions or the tone you ask it it, you are allowed one chance to reask in a different way before you risk badgering them. If they open up a bit more after a bit of proding or reasking, then go for it.

    If you are interviewing for facts and critical information to support your slant on a story, than doing your best Murphy Brown impersonation is what it will take to get the answers you want them to spill. Thankfully I’ve never had to go after an interviewee hard oncamera, but my cousin has and he’s great at it. He’s so beloved how could you not want to tell him all of your dirty secrets? In his case, his charm and easy going personality work in his favour to a great extent.

    And finally, when you’re interviewing people with great life stories, I tend to ask stuff I would want the interviewer to ask if I were at home watching the interview. I like to put myself in the Burkalounger at home as I talk to the people and ask the stuff everyone else would if they were in my shoes.

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