The recipe for conducting an excellent personal interview can be compared to making a delicious cake.
Use the proper equipment, mix up a few high-quality ingredients, bake at the right temperature, add the icing, and voila! You have something the interviewee loves and others clamor to read or hear.
The Right Mixer = The Right Research
A high-quality mixer gives an advantage in producing a fancy cake just as research makes the difference in creating a powerful interview. The “mixer” in this case is the interviewer beefing up on the highlights of the life of the person about to be interviewed.
A person will be sitting across the table from you, or speaking to you via telephone or Skype. What has made them who they are right now . . . today? What have they designed, written, studied, invented, or changed? How have they affected others?
There are so many ways to discover factoids. I personally use the Internet, public library, business periodicals, company history pubs, trade rags, etc. If it’s important enough, you might consider conducting mini-interviews with family, friends, or colleagues. Without being a nuisance, you can learn a lot in a short time.
Of course, the amount of time spent on personal research directly correlates to whom you are interviewing, why, and how much time you have in your schedule. The fact remains that most people – celebrity, businessperson, politician, author, or Joe the Plumber – are complimented when an interviewer has taken the time to learn a thing or two about them.
No matter what you find out in this initial process, be open to listening to different versions from the people themselves. Unless you’re writing your interview for the National Enquirer, avoid gossip and hearsay.
High-Quality Ingredients = Respect, Sincerity, and Dynamic *appropriate* Questions
Respect – Set a time for the interview, and don’t be late. No excuses. If the person must cancel, be gracious in rescheduling another time. Use good manners, and don’t be disrespectful. Ever. You catch more fish with delicious bait than a sledgehammer, right?
Sincerity – Don’t try to feign sincerity. Do you care about people? You’d better, or your phony earnestness will quickly become a throbbing blister on the heel of your credibility.
Questions – Make your questions insightful and real. Ask things others haven’t thought of asking. Find out why Barbara Walters had the reputation for making interviewees cry during their interviews. (Hint: It wasn’t because she was mean!)
Something to keep in mind: attempting to fake yourself into the interviewees’ world will show up quickly in the question stage. Keep it real.
Don’t be rude, but do be persistent if you feel an appropriate question should be addressed. Save your hardest and/or most controversial question for last. Trust me, it works out better that way.
Be creative! The questions you design for interviews can define you as a Barbara Walters superstar interviewer or as an amateur wannabe. It’s up to you to study the greats and put your own spin and heart into each facet of your interviews.
Bake at the Proper Temperature = Finish with finesse
End on a positive note. Thank your interviewees for taking the time to talk to you. They didn’t have to, but they did. Be grateful.
If the interview is to be published, get busy and finish it while everything is fresh in your mind.
Icing on the Cake = Your Reputation
- Don’t rat out your interviewees by blabbing things they told you in confidence.
- If you promise a printed copy or a copy of a verbal script to your interviewees, be true to your word.
- If you told them you would call them when the interview airs or comes out in print, do it!
You’ll be surprised how quickly your reputation as an interviewer will spread. Your integrity is on the line every time. If people trust you, they will tell others. Soon, you will be in demand, and that’s when the icing on the cake becomes your path to being an acclaimed interviewer.
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If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindle, the Nook and most other eBook readers.
Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:
Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?
Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.