Most of us, when we interview someone, compile a list of questions and go through them one by one. California Radio personality Colin Marshall suggests that what you should do is the opposite—have a conversation led by the interviewee instead.
Photo by Andrew Feinberg.
Marshall, in a recent blog post consisting of interviewing tips, explains that while ultimately, you need to ask insightful questions and lead the interview in interesting directions, you're far more likely to have a good interview if you drop the stiffness and have a real, honest conversation with the person you're interviewing. This may seem obvious, but he lays it out in a way that makes it really clear and easily to implement:
I, as did every super-novice interviewer except maybe Michael Silverblatt, started out by scripting elaborate sheets of questions ahead of time. This is death. Work from a question sheet, and you kill any chance of organic exchange, of real, vital intellectual back-and-forth. You just tick off the boxes and grind awkwardly forth.
As Jack Paar told Dick Cavett, "Kid, don't do interviews. That's clipboards, and David Frost, and what's your pet peeve and favourite movie. Make it a conversation." I once thought of this as a dichotomy between two equal and opposite hosting strategies. In the "facilitated speech," the host's goal is simply to elicit maximally interesting and detailed responses from the guest, minimising their own presence. In the "conversation," the host both contributes and seeks contribution, potentially even mirroring the guest's role.
The list itself is quite lengthy, but has a lot of great tips in it that are easy to understand (from only ask questions you're actually curious about to reveal your ignorance—really, boiling down to the fact that if the conversation is interesting, confusing, or emotional to you, it probably is to your audience as well). Check out the full article over at Colin Marshall's blog. Got any of your own interviewing tips? Share them in the comments!