This post is part of a series of How to make an Audio Slideshow
Interviewing people is at the centre of every journalist’s concern. Some people are not good narrators and they get really shy when talking to a camera or an audio recorder. As an interviewer you need to help the interviewee speaking clearly and with structure.
So here are some tips for the multimedia interviews:
1. Always talk with the person before you start
Don’t say “hi” and start the interview. That is the worst thing you can do. Get to know the person, if he had been interviewed before and explain what you are looking for from that interview.. However, don’t talk too much about the topic and don’t give them the questions previously or it won’t come out naturally.
When briefing the person, explain that when you ask a question they have to try to integrate the question in their answer or when you are editing it might not make any sense.
2. Be prepared
If you have time, try to get to know your interviewee. E-mails are very practical, it is true, but sometimes a call is worth the effort.
Make sure you have enough batteries and that your microphone is working. That is nothing worse that realising that you had technical problems by the end of the interview.
And…don’t forget to press REC (it is the red circle)
3. Avoid awkward silences but don’t read your questions from the paper.
You have to make a choice here. Some people prefer not to prepare questions and have a conversation following the ideas they keep in mind. That might make your conversation lighter if you don’t know the person and changing the topic much easier.
However, if you are not completely confident do prepare a script. Write it, read it and re-read it. If you are really interested in the topic the questions will come to your mind when it is interviewing time and you won’t sound like a robot.
If you don’t want to write the questions, make your notes and keep it front of you to structure the interview because you don’t want to forget what is next and sound like an amateur.
4. Avoid yes or no questions
Put yourself in the audience position and think what is the point of asking yes or no questions? One word answers don’t make very interesting stories. But it is a matter of how you ask the question. Instead of asking: where you scared? you can ask: why were you scared. This means you have to ask the right question
With written pieces you have an advantage: you can play around with words to make it more appealing but the same does not happen with audio slideshows or video pieces. You have to make it happen the moment you press REC because there is no going back You have to ask the right question to get the right answer. What they say in the interview is what you get for your piece.
Don’t accept a one word answer unless in the best answer you ever heard and even so…A good trick is to remain silence after a yes or no rather than jumping right to the next question. If this does not work explain the question again or ask your subject to elaborate.
5. Give the interviewee time to think
You want the interview to be as natural as possible: and you want it to be compelling and interesting, so don’t rush the person. You have to give the subject time to think and to organise his mind. Don’t interrupt right away or don’t try to explain the question if you don’t have an answer yet after 3 or 4 seconds.
6. Act like it is a normal conversation
Imagine that you are talking to a friend: you react, you ask questions but most important you are interested. Do the same things in an interview. If something that you were not expecting comes out react, ask questions.
However, don’t forget that the interview is not about you but the interviewee so he has to do most of the talking. Your personality is important but should not be the dominant factor.
7. Be Silent
Avoid making noises during the interview: sounds such as “hmm” or saying something like “I see”. When you record to write an article this is not your main concern but the same does not happened if your aim is audio. You are going to use their words so you don’t anything to interrupt them while they are speaking or the edition is going to be hell.
Silence is very important. When the subject stops answering one question don’t jump into asking the next question, as you want to have silent moments to help during the edition.
Think of it like someone telling you a story and you get to ask the questions in the end.
8. Don’t overthink
After so many tips it is ironic to say not to overthink. You should have all these in mind as guidelines but not to think about it during the interview. Focus on the interviewee and make the most of you time and don’t focus on the technicalities.
9. The end is not when you press STOP
When you are done thank the person and ask him how it went. He might redo a part or after the pressure of a bunch a questions he remembers something interesting. Being recorded can be daunting for some people even for a good storyteller. You can discover important points “off the record”.
10. Practice and listen…and listen a bit more
The say “ practice makes perfect” is true. You get better at anything through practice. You just need to interview people to learn how to interview people.
Throughout practice you will get more confident and you will learn how to deal with panicking situations without freezing out. Also, listen to interviewers you like and try to understand what they do right. Listening to those we like inspires us when it’s time to take out the recorder.
And why listen more? Play your interviews over and over again if you have the time because you are your best reviewer. By listening what you have done you can see where you can improve and what you can do for next time.
Finally, here are some good tips by Adam Westbrook