Learning How to Interview People
Over the years, I have discovered that I love interviewing people for videos and podcasts. Once the camera, lights, and audio equipment are setup, I sit down and the process begins. “Don’t worry about the camera, we’re just going to have a conversation,” I say. Inevitably their eyes go to the camera and then travel slowly back to me. Over time, their insecurity disappears, their confidence grows, and the story unfolds.
When I am face to face with others, I am confident. I know that I can talk with anyone. There is always a question to ask, a rabbit trail of curiosity to go down. But in the past six months, I have been going deeper into the art of interviewing people by engaging in weekly interviews over Skype for my podcast Getting Work To Work. I have struggled with my own insecurity and my ability to have meaningful conversations, effectively bringing out the best of my guests.
There are moments when I get off a Skype call, overwhelmed with joy and enthusiasm, thinking that I just recorded my best interview yet. Then there are the times when I kick myself, thinking that I just wasted the other person’s time and that I am a fraud. In both moments, I learn a valuable lesson: the only way to learn how to interview people is by interviewing people. What else have I learned? Here are five tips you can use to conduct more engaging and deeper interviews with others.
Tip #1: If possible, take some time to talk before you press record.
My best interviews happened because I took some time to talk without the pressure of either of us being “on.” I could get to know the other person as a person and not just their résumé, their website, or social media profile. It also gives people a chance to get to know me and my motivations for recording a conversation with them.
Tip #2: Turn on your camera so you can see the other person.
While all of my podcast interviews are audio only, I tend to have my video turned on so that the other person can see me. The first podcast interview to do that was Alicja Colon and the result was a great conversation because we could see each other’s responses. My imagination runs wild when I can’t see the other person: Did I just lose their interest? Did they hate that question? They must think I’m an idiot for asking that.
Tip #3: Have a plan or a list of questions, but be flexible.
With every interview, I do my homework. I have a list of questions that I usually send ahead of time to my interview subjects. But lately, I have been having a negative gut reaction to this style of interview. I haven’t been pleased with the outcome. I’m not listening as deeply as I want to be. I’m trying to fit my questions into the conversation instead of simply talking. By having a thematic plan or an overarching structure, I can be flexible and have an engaging conversation by listening to where things are naturally going.
Tip #4: Listen!
Don’t multi-task. Be present and listen. When things go wrong, take a moment and reconnect to the conversation. That can be edited out after the fact.
Tip #5: Treat the end result of your conversation with reverence and wonder.
As I was editing my podcast interview episodes with James Victore and Noah Elias, I had a realization: I must treat all of my interviews with reverence and wonder. I am grateful for the time given to me and the audience I am building. There is tremendous wisdom shared with me. Community is being forged in each interview.
I hope that you will take some time and learn to how to interview people. It can impact your life, your work, and your business in deep and abiding ways. You simply need to make a concerted effort to follow these five tips and, most importantly, continually learn to be a better conversationalist and interviewer.