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Re: [podcasters] Tips for interviews

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  • Stephen Nelson
    Long-dead zombie thread, resurrected so that I can continue to pick your brains... brains... I appreciate all of your tip suggestions. Re Steve Riekeberg s
    Message 1 of 6 , Sep 28, 2010
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      Long-dead zombie thread, resurrected so that I can continue to pick your brains... brains...

      I appreciate all of your tip suggestions. Re Steve Riekeberg's point below, I've wound up using his overall approach-- instead of giving an actual list of questions, I give a list of topics, as he does. That gives me the benefits of sending the question list and eliminates the risk that they'll over-rehearse. Now that I've actually been interviewed as well as being an interviewer, I can tell you that I'd have felt more confident during the process if I'd had a list of topics in advance.

      Additional tips (subject, of course, to debate):

      * Read all of your questions aloud just prior to the interview.

      I have a tendency to "um" and "uh"-- it only manifests during interviews or when I'm talking to my boss. Reading the questions aloud beforehand helps me ask the questions fluently when it's time. This in turn helps me avoid stammering when asking improv questions, since I'm relaxed. Even for those lucky people who can sound natural reading from a teleprompter, this can be helpful. I find it helps me to get my question list fresh in my mind so that I can make easy transitions.

      * Explain the rules of engagement

      When I'm doing an interview, I'm generally most interested in showing off how awesome my interviewee is. Before we get started, I generally explain this. I further mention that if I ask a question that they think is uninteresting, or at any point they want me to edit out a question and its response, they merely have to ask. (This might not apply to all interviewees; I have yet to do a hostile interview, but I may do so in the future.) No one has ever taken me up on this, but it seems to keep things on a friendly tone. Just as importantly, explain how long you expect the interview session to last. Personally, I ask if the interviewee wishes to tell a joke, since that has helped loosen things up in the past, but not everyone can think of a joke.

      * Ask the interviewee to record on their end

      If I'm interviewing a podcaster, I ask for a dual-headed recording. (This is obvious, but sometimes checklists should include the obvious. I've forgotten to ask until too late-- quite recently, even!) If my interviewee isn't prepared to record a Skype conversation on their end, that's fine; better to have asked than not.

      * Take breaks

      My average interview is forty-five minutes, which is a little long to listen to without a break. I like to interrupt the interview about halfway through with something else-- a promo, an announcement, or whatever else comes to mind. I haven't done this too much, but I have found that taking a break at some point during the interview can help the interviewee stay relaxed and focused.

      Of all of the tips, the one I still find most useful is to make sure you're listening to your interviewee. If I ever catch my mind wandering, I close my eyes and just focus on the sound of his or her voice. If I can stay focused, my audience can stay focused.


      On Sep 1, 2010, at 1:31 PM, Steve Riekeberg wrote:

      > Hey Stephen,
      >
      > After doing Geek Cred for nearly four years now, as an interview-centric
      > show I can say it's certainly very fun rewarding.
      >
      > Many of the points you mentioned are similar to advice that I would
      > give, most of all /just ask. /(I've had people often ask "how'd you get
      > <Guest XYZ>?!" Well, you don't get what you don't ask for...)
      >
      > However, I do take exception to sharing your questions with the gust
      > ahead of time. It is most assuredly important to write up a list of
      > questions in advance, but I specifically do /not/ share them with the
      > guest. I totally understand the reasoning of wanting the guest to be
      > prepared and ready when you bring something up, but at the same time
      > some guests will take that list too far and prepare manufactured answers
      > and/or freeze up when you go off the list.
      >
      > Admittedly, it depends a lot on the tone and format of your show. In the
      > case of Geek Cred, it's more conversational and long-form (30-40
      > minutes), and I'm usually interviewing someone for something specific,
      > such as a project they are working on. I /do/ however give the guest an
      > overview ahead of time of points and topics I intend to cover so that
      > they can be prepared, but I don't go so far as specific questions.
      >
      >
      > At the very least, something to think about...
      >
      > Steve Riekeberg
      > Host, Geek Cred
      > <http://www.geekcred.net>
      >
      > On 8/29/10 8:08 PM, Stephen Nelson wrote:
      >>
      >> Hello all,
      >>
      >> My show has featured more and more interviews recently, and I've been
      >> learning by trial and error the best way to perform interviews. I've
      >> come up with the following tips, and I'd like to know what I've missed.
      >>
      >> 1. Don't be afraid to ask for an interview.
      >>
      >> Doing an interview will cost the interviewee little and might bring in
      >> a great deal of benefit. Mine is a small skeptical podcast, but
      >> comparatively famous skeptics seem quite happy to appear. I've only
      >> been turned down (or rather ignored) once, and that was on quite a
      >> long shot.
      >>
      >> 2. Write up your questions in advance.
      >>
      >> This, for me, is the most time-consuming part of the interview
      >> process. I try to read everything that this person has ever published,
      >> if they're an author, and read enough of any blogs they've written to
      >> get an understanding of what they're all about. If they've been
      >> interviewed elsewhere, I listen to those interviews. This can take weeks.
      >>
      >> 3. Split the difference between set pieces and new questions.
      >>
      >> Most people that have been interviewed a few times develop some set
      >> pieces-- good stories that they can tell with great skill during an
      >> interview. Figure out which of these set pieces you want to include
      >> and remap your questions accordingly. However, many people that
      >> subscribe to your podcast will have heard this person interviewed
      >> before. Try to make sure that you include the set pieces that you know
      >> are interesting and good, and new questions.
      >>
      >> 4. Have some emergency backup questions in case you run out of material.
      >>
      >> I did an interview fairly recently where I hadn't prepared enough.
      >> About halfway through, I realized I had nothing more to ask and was
      >> unclear on what to say next. Since then, I've always had several
      >> open-ended questions that I use for a jumping-off point.
      >>
      >> 5. Share the questions with the interviewee before the interview.
      >>
      >> I email my question list in advance. I generally start things off with
      >> a disclaimer stating that this question list is not set in stone--
      >> I'll be improvising around it-- but that I'll have it in front of me
      >> during the interview. It gives the interviewee a chance to say, "I
      >> don't know anything about that" about a particular question and avoids
      >> an awkward moment. Sending the questions beforehand helps to establish
      >> that you're both on the same side.
      >>
      >> 6. Have the interviewee's book with you.
      >>
      >> If the author has a book, you'll probably be referring to it by title
      >> many times. It's handy to have it sitting next to you so that you can
      >> just read it off. If the interviewee doesn't have a book, write their
      >> name and other important names down in large letters so that you can
      >> read it off and avoid sounding like an idiot.
      >>
      >> 7. Listen during the interview.
      >>
      >> There are many distractions during an interview. Is the recorder still
      >> running? What question am I going to ask next? Is this going well? The
      >> biggest challenge is to clear your mind and really focus on what your
      >> interviewee is saying. This can be most challenging when they're doing
      >> a set piece that you've heard before, but stay focused and listen to
      >> every word. That will help you segue to the next question naturally.
      >>
      >> 8. Don't be afraid to stop the interview.
      >>
      >> Unless you're doing a live show, what you're doing can always be
      >> edited down. If you feel uncomfortable, or run out of material, or
      >> don't know where to go next, there's nothing stopping you from pausing
      >> for a few seconds to make editing easy, saying, "Let's stop for a
      >> second," and chatting with the interviewee on where to go next. Unless
      >> this is an adversarial interview, there's no harm in it-- you're both
      >> on the same side.
      >>
      >> 9. Thank the interviewee.
      >>
      >> Make sure that the interviewee knows how much you appreciate the
      >> interview. Keep him or her informed as to its edit status and when the
      >> podcast featuring it has been posted.
      >>
      >> I think that's enough for a start. What you you think?
      >>
      >> Stephen Nelson
      >> Skeptical Viewer Podcast
      >> http://www.skepticalviewer.com
      >>
      >>
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >
      >
      > ------------------------------------
      >
      > YahooGroups Podcasters Links
      >
      > ------------------------------------
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
    • Steve Riekeberg
      Glad to hear that my advice seems to be working for you! You make a very good point about explaining the rules of engagement--well, and I love that descriptive
      Message 2 of 6 , Sep 28, 2010
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        Glad to hear that my advice seems to be working for you!

        You make a very good point about explaining the rules of engagement--well,
        and I love that descriptive term for it. It really helps guests know what
        your expectations are, and how long you expect it to take. I do quite a bit
        of editing, so it's important that they know that if they stumble they can
        pause and start again. Beyond if your intention is say conversational or
        formal, what are your standards? For example, is harsh language acceptable,
        or will they be censored? (Personally, I don't necessarily want guests to
        censor themselves--I want them to be natural and authentic--but I let them
        know that I may bleep them if necessary--no "f-bomb" for example.)

        There's probably plenty more advice I'd add that I'm forgetting at the
        moment...


        Steve Riekeberg
        Host, Geek Cred
        <http://www.geekcred.net>
        818-925-GEEK


        On Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 8:55 PM, Stephen Nelson <stephenenelson@...>wrote:

        >
        >
        > Long-dead zombie thread, resurrected so that I can continue to pick your
        > brains... brains...
        >
        > I appreciate all of your tip suggestions. Re Steve Riekeberg's point below,
        > I've wound up using his overall approach-- instead of giving an actual list
        > of questions, I give a list of topics, as he does. That gives me the
        > benefits of sending the question list and eliminates the risk that they'll
        > over-rehearse. Now that I've actually been interviewed as well as being an
        > interviewer, I can tell you that I'd have felt more confident during the
        > process if I'd had a list of topics in advance.
        >
        > Additional tips (subject, of course, to debate):
        >
        > * Read all of your questions aloud just prior to the interview.
        >
        > I have a tendency to "um" and "uh"-- it only manifests during interviews or
        > when I'm talking to my boss. Reading the questions aloud beforehand helps me
        > ask the questions fluently when it's time. This in turn helps me avoid
        > stammering when asking improv questions, since I'm relaxed. Even for those
        > lucky people who can sound natural reading from a teleprompter, this can be
        > helpful. I find it helps me to get my question list fresh in my mind so that
        > I can make easy transitions.
        >
        > * Explain the rules of engagement
        >
        > When I'm doing an interview, I'm generally most interested in showing off
        > how awesome my interviewee is. Before we get started, I generally explain
        > this. I further mention that if I ask a question that they think is
        > uninteresting, or at any point they want me to edit out a question and its
        > response, they merely have to ask. (This might not apply to all
        > interviewees; I have yet to do a hostile interview, but I may do so in the
        > future.) No one has ever taken me up on this, but it seems to keep things on
        > a friendly tone. Just as importantly, explain how long you expect the
        > interview session to last. Personally, I ask if the interviewee wishes to
        > tell a joke, since that has helped loosen things up in the past, but not
        > everyone can think of a joke.
        >
        > * Ask the interviewee to record on their end
        >
        > If I'm interviewing a podcaster, I ask for a dual-headed recording. (This
        > is obvious, but sometimes checklists should include the obvious. I've
        > forgotten to ask until too late-- quite recently, even!) If my interviewee
        > isn't prepared to record a Skype conversation on their end, that's fine;
        > better to have asked than not.
        >
        > * Take breaks
        >
        > My average interview is forty-five minutes, which is a little long to
        > listen to without a break. I like to interrupt the interview about halfway
        > through with something else-- a promo, an announcement, or whatever else
        > comes to mind. I haven't done this too much, but I have found that taking a
        > break at some point during the interview can help the interviewee stay
        > relaxed and focused.
        >
        > Of all of the tips, the one I still find most useful is to make sure you're
        > listening to your interviewee. If I ever catch my mind wandering, I close my
        > eyes and just focus on the sound of his or her voice. If I can stay focused,
        > my audience can stay focused.
        >
        >
        > On Sep 1, 2010, at 1:31 PM, Steve Riekeberg wrote:
        >
        > > Hey Stephen,
        > >
        > > After doing Geek Cred for nearly four years now, as an interview-centric
        > > show I can say it's certainly very fun rewarding.
        > >
        > > Many of the points you mentioned are similar to advice that I would
        > > give, most of all /just ask. /(I've had people often ask "how'd you get
        > > <Guest XYZ>?!" Well, you don't get what you don't ask for...)
        > >
        > > However, I do take exception to sharing your questions with the gust
        > > ahead of time. It is most assuredly important to write up a list of
        > > questions in advance, but I specifically do /not/ share them with the
        > > guest. I totally understand the reasoning of wanting the guest to be
        > > prepared and ready when you bring something up, but at the same time
        > > some guests will take that list too far and prepare manufactured answers
        > > and/or freeze up when you go off the list.
        > >
        > > Admittedly, it depends a lot on the tone and format of your show. In the
        > > case of Geek Cred, it's more conversational and long-form (30-40
        > > minutes), and I'm usually interviewing someone for something specific,
        > > such as a project they are working on. I /do/ however give the guest an
        > > overview ahead of time of points and topics I intend to cover so that
        > > they can be prepared, but I don't go so far as specific questions.
        > >
        > >
        > > At the very least, something to think about...
        > >
        > > Steve Riekeberg
        > > Host, Geek Cred
        > > <http://www.geekcred.net>
        > >
        > > On 8/29/10 8:08 PM, Stephen Nelson wrote:
        > >>
        > >> Hello all,
        > >>
        > >> My show has featured more and more interviews recently, and I've been
        > >> learning by trial and error the best way to perform interviews. I've
        > >> come up with the following tips, and I'd like to know what I've missed.
        > >>
        > >> 1. Don't be afraid to ask for an interview.
        > >>
        > >> Doing an interview will cost the interviewee little and might bring in
        > >> a great deal of benefit. Mine is a small skeptical podcast, but
        > >> comparatively famous skeptics seem quite happy to appear. I've only
        > >> been turned down (or rather ignored) once, and that was on quite a
        > >> long shot.
        > >>
        > >> 2. Write up your questions in advance.
        > >>
        > >> This, for me, is the most time-consuming part of the interview
        > >> process. I try to read everything that this person has ever published,
        > >> if they're an author, and read enough of any blogs they've written to
        > >> get an understanding of what they're all about. If they've been
        > >> interviewed elsewhere, I listen to those interviews. This can take
        > weeks.
        > >>
        > >> 3. Split the difference between set pieces and new questions.
        > >>
        > >> Most people that have been interviewed a few times develop some set
        > >> pieces-- good stories that they can tell with great skill during an
        > >> interview. Figure out which of these set pieces you want to include
        > >> and remap your questions accordingly. However, many people that
        > >> subscribe to your podcast will have heard this person interviewed
        > >> before. Try to make sure that you include the set pieces that you know
        > >> are interesting and good, and new questions.
        > >>
        > >> 4. Have some emergency backup questions in case you run out of material.
        > >>
        > >> I did an interview fairly recently where I hadn't prepared enough.
        > >> About halfway through, I realized I had nothing more to ask and was
        > >> unclear on what to say next. Since then, I've always had several
        > >> open-ended questions that I use for a jumping-off point.
        > >>
        > >> 5. Share the questions with the interviewee before the interview.
        > >>
        > >> I email my question list in advance. I generally start things off with
        > >> a disclaimer stating that this question list is not set in stone--
        > >> I'll be improvising around it-- but that I'll have it in front of me
        > >> during the interview. It gives the interviewee a chance to say, "I
        > >> don't know anything about that" about a particular question and avoids
        > >> an awkward moment. Sending the questions beforehand helps to establish
        > >> that you're both on the same side.
        > >>
        > >> 6. Have the interviewee's book with you.
        > >>
        > >> If the author has a book, you'll probably be referring to it by title
        > >> many times. It's handy to have it sitting next to you so that you can
        > >> just read it off. If the interviewee doesn't have a book, write their
        > >> name and other important names down in large letters so that you can
        > >> read it off and avoid sounding like an idiot.
        > >>
        > >> 7. Listen during the interview.
        > >>
        > >> There are many distractions during an interview. Is the recorder still
        > >> running? What question am I going to ask next? Is this going well? The
        > >> biggest challenge is to clear your mind and really focus on what your
        > >> interviewee is saying. This can be most challenging when they're doing
        > >> a set piece that you've heard before, but stay focused and listen to
        > >> every word. That will help you segue to the next question naturally.
        > >>
        > >> 8. Don't be afraid to stop the interview.
        > >>
        > >> Unless you're doing a live show, what you're doing can always be
        > >> edited down. If you feel uncomfortable, or run out of material, or
        > >> don't know where to go next, there's nothing stopping you from pausing
        > >> for a few seconds to make editing easy, saying, "Let's stop for a
        > >> second," and chatting with the interviewee on where to go next. Unless
        > >> this is an adversarial interview, there's no harm in it-- you're both
        > >> on the same side.
        > >>
        > >> 9. Thank the interviewee.
        > >>
        > >> Make sure that the interviewee knows how much you appreciate the
        > >> interview. Keep him or her informed as to its edit status and when the
        > >> podcast featuring it has been posted.
        > >>
        > >> I think that's enough for a start. What you you think?
        > >>
        > >> Stephen Nelson
        > >> Skeptical Viewer Podcast
        > >> http://www.skepticalviewer.com
        > >>
        > >>
        > >
        > >
        > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > ------------------------------------
        > >
        > > YahooGroups Podcasters Links
        > >
        > > ------------------------------------
        > > Yahoo! Groups Links
        > >
        > >
        > >
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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