A compelling interview does much more than share relevant information; it captures its audience and effectively conveys a message. It’s up to the interviewer to ask the right question and in the right way, or the interview can become dull, unexciting, or inauthentic.
Here are a few tips to conducting a successful interview.
- Be natural and genuine. Your authenticity will affect how much your subject trusts you. Make an effort to be warm, welcoming, and sensitive. Your subject’s energy and body language will naturally reciprocate yours, so remember to smile and relax! Your sincerity will be rewarded with your subject’s most genuine responses.
- Understand that your interviewee is probably nervous. The stress of a foreign environment, in conjunction with the pressure of the interview and being on camera, can make people feel nervous and clam up. Even the most confident people get shy! It’s up to you to make your subject feel relaxed and at ease. If you’re unable to get them to open up, you won’t get a good interview. The more confident they feel, the more likely they will divulge. If possible, interview the person in their most comfortable element: at home or work, or while they work on their favorite hobby or activity.
- Prepare for the interview. Show you respect their time and yours by being organized. It’s important that you know enough about your topic to ask the right questions as well as prepare for the answers you expect to hear. Don’t worry about becoming an expert in your research, however, and don’t pretend like you know everything. A professional will respect you more if you don’t act like you’re a professional yourself. They will generally be happy to explain what you and others should know.
- Be an active listener. Larry King said “I never learned anything while I was talking,” so stop talking and really listen! Pay close attention to what your subject is saying; don’t just go down your laundry list of questions. Go into more depth after they have answered a question, or be curious and explore a topic they might have brought up. Your attentiveness could help expose the gem for your story.
- Don’t interrupt. Let there be silence! A lot of times, people need a minute of silence to gather their thoughts, ideas, or memories, and if you break the silence you could miss out on great material. Silence is also known to make people uncomfortable, so this could be a great technique to push a timid person into conversation. From the technical perspective, any “um,” “uh,” or “uh huh” may be picked up on the mic, so it’s crucial to be quiet while your subject is speaking.
- Invite them to have the last word. At the end of the interview, ask your subject if there is anything else they would like to talk about. Occasionally they have something to add that you didn’t expect, and it could turn out to be your best material.
Once you’ve got your interview, all it takes is incorporating multiple video clips, dialogue, and music to enhance the story being told, and you’ve got a visually impacting and compelling story. Remember your purpose: to bring information to and enlighten your audience.
By Alex Warner