Learning how to conduct an interview takes practice and a little industry know-how.
Here are five tips from broadcasting professionals on how to conduct a great interview.
Create Comfort and Trust
It’s important to help people you are interviewing feel comfortable. Filmmaker Lynn Novick interviewed many people during the creation of The War, a 2007 documentary series about the Second World War. In an interview with PBS, Novick said that her interview subjects opened up, in part, because she and other members of the filmmaking team spent lots of time talking with them before doing any filming.
In a YouTube video about how to conduct interviews, Today Show host Katie Couric similarly states that it is important to be “gracious” and welcoming in order to put people at ease before an interview.
Adjust Your Tone
Couric also says that it is important to “calibrate” the tone of interview questions based on whom you are interviewing. Although her style would be gentle when drawing out someone who has suffered a tragedy, Couric says that her tone likely would become “pugnacious” when questioning a controversial figure, such as a famous racist.
Lots of preparation is necessary before conducting an interview. When possible, it pays to have a solid idea of what you want to ask — and why — well ahead of the interview. When shaping your questions, you should avoid ones that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Otherwise, you may be stuck with awkward pauses on air.
Know How To Handle Impromptu Interviews
Journalist and social media expert David Spark says that sometimes when he is covering an event, he doesn’t know who he will be interviewing at an event “until I meet them.” However, Spark notes, researching the event ahead of time is good preparation for these “run-and-gun” interviews. This knowledgeability improves questions and responses.
Becoming a good interviewer is a lot like learning to play an instrument – nothing beats practice! Find ways to hone your interviewing skills by creating your own Youtube videos or podcasts.