How to conduct a great interview!
I'm not sure whether to feel delighted, alarmed or ultimately a little daft at the latest "I want to interview you" style of approach. Personally, it's a skill that took me years to master. I made every mistake on the planet - I could write a book on interview technique but perhaps it's of no matter to the masses.
Hey, we can all ask questions, how hard can this be? In my experience, pretty tricky. I've done close to 5,000 interviews over the years. I've had CEO's lost for words because they can't remember what their PR told them to learn, homeless people grabbed at 4am who've given the most heartfelt, tear jerking responses, I've sat in prisons with inmates, spurred politicians to deliver even one answer to the actual question. It's not easy. It's a hard, multi-tasking lot of brain work, if it's done well.
Before you dive into the world of inviting people to be interviewed, three quick tips to make you think.
1. Can I have the questions beforehand? My answer is always a polite "no". I'm asking you because you are an expert in your field or you have a great story to tell..... it's not a quiz, I'm not planning to catch you out here. Questions given before result in rehearsed and stale answers. If you are approaching a senior business leader or politician, sadly you'll probably not have this option but let me explain by example.
An interview some years back with a leading CEO, hugely protected by his PR... all questions vetted beforehand and an absolute veto on me adding any. End of the interview, all questions answered, boring, lacking in integrity, rehearsed, I chanced my luck and added one. PR jumps out of his chair.... "Fiona, I said no additional questions." CEO says, "actually, I'd like to answer that one." End cut - the final answer is the only one that makes it... the only true, impassioned answer. To top it, the CEO enjoys it so much he asks for an out take to be filmed, a ridiculous answer to the question and what a joy!
2. Don't go over the interview before the interview.... In my years of waiting for a camera crew to set up (often half an hour or more) I'd be sitting with the interviewee. First question always - "so what are you going to ask me?" My tactic - divert, divert, divert. Let's talk about the weather, or your children or your dogs. If not, the interview is done, the spontaneity is lost, the questions have been answered before 'record' is pressed and you'll have a whole lot of "as I said before's" peppering your actual interview.
3. Ask open questions. "Did you enjoy my talk today?".... "Yes". Perfectly appropriate answer. Alternatively..."What was the best piece of advice you drew from my talk today?" I needn't say more - you get my point?
I would go on but it might take a while. I guess I just want to make a point. Interview