Feature writers and news writers often need to interview someone to get the information they need for a new article. It’s not enough to sit in a dark room or make it up in your head. Leave that to fiction writers. If you want to get a good interview and create a great piece of writing, here are some tips to remember.
Preparation is key. Make sure you have a recording device (with spare batteries and power cable), a notebook and a couple of pens. Use both the notebook and the recording device, so you don’t come away with nothing in the event of a technical failure.
You should go into an interview having researched your topic or interviewee and should already have a good idea of the answers you are likely to get. You should also have prepared a list of questions you will need to ask.
People want to read about other people, so focus on what the people you are interviewing have done or plan to do. This will help to guide you as you frame your questions. At the very least, these should include the who, where, what, why, when and how of the story. Your question list should also include any facts that you need to check. Don’t be afraid to let your interviewee go off at a tangent, but make sure you have asked all the relevant questions before you leave the table.
Ask open-ended questions, rather than yes/no questions. You’ll get more information that way. How you handle the overall interview will depend on the time allocated and the interviewee’s personality. If the person is warm, friendly and used to being interviewed, you can go straight in with the difficult questions. If you’ve got more time or your interviewee is nervous, start with the easy, fact-checking questions before moving on to more difficult issues. Remember to listen to the answers so you can decide when or if to change direction.
These tips will help you to get the right information to create a great piece of writing!