Tips for conducting a great interview

micIf your job is to interview people, either for a podcast, videocast, article or blog, or even to interview someone for a job, you know how hard it is to get the information out of your subject in a free flow and conversational manner. Tom Clifford, an award-winning filmmaker, suggests 22 interviewing tips and questions that you can use to enhance your interviews. I love these tips and will surely use when I conduct my next interview! (Tom’s website was very slow to load, so I included all of the tips below. If you are interested in reading more of his articles, go to: directortom.com)

  1. Create a comfortable place for the interview; have water ready for your hero and be reassuring.
  2. Ask open-ended questions to get the person talking in depth. Avoid asking questions that create a “yes” or “no” answer.
  3. Be a “story steward.” If you will be editing your hero’s story, tell them that. They will feel more comfortable knowing that and open themselves up to you. If you are not editing their words, tell them who is so they understand the process.
  4. If your hero freezes up, remind them you are their “story steward.” It is you who will be taking care of their words and story.
  5. Do not interrupt! Nod your head in acknowledgement while they answer.
  6. Ditch your list of questions when your hero says something surprising. Ask new questions based on what was said, not necessarily what is next on your list.
  7. Keep you questions short: ten words or less!
  8. Ask: “What’s at stake?” This is an excellent question to end your program. It could be interpreted any number of ways, so let your hero choose how to answer.
  9. Ask: “What does the future hold for you/your company?”
  10. Ask: “How did you get into this business?
  11. Ask: “What do you think your story tells our audience?”
  12. Ask: “What’s the most amazing part of your life?”
  13. Listen 100%. Stop playing your tapes. Listen to theirs.
  14. Ask the first few questions again at the end of the interview. Everybody’s warmed up by then and you’ll likely get better, as well as, different answers.
  15. Try not to give the questions ahead of time to your hero. Most likely, they will wind up memorizing answers and come off stiff during the actual interview.
  16. Ask “throw away” questions when first starting. This gets everybody warmed up. Try, “What are your hobbies?” “What books are you reading?” and the like.
  17. Imagine hearing the type of answers you want. This helps you focus precisely on the question you need to ask to create the answers you want.
  18. Be completely open to “infinite possibilities.” Anything can, and will, happen!
  19. Repeat questions, if necessary, to capture the answer you really need. Do not be afraid to say, “I liked that answer a lot. Can you give me a shorter version of it?”
  20. At the end of the interview, ask “Is there anything we missed?” Invite your hero to say whatever else might be on their mind.
  21. Allow the crew to ask questions, if it’s appropriate. You can count on being surprised!
  22. Share gratitude to your hero for the unique opportunity of capturing their remarkable story to help change the world.


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