I had some disastrous interviews when I was back in Australia.
They put me off audio for a few months. That’s why you haven’t heard from me, I haven’t been able to face updating you all.
I guess I’m disappointed.
I'm disappointed because I thought I was getting better.
And boy, was I terrible. In one interview I was 40 minutes in and because I didn't think I'd recorded any good tape, I just gave up and stopped trying and ended the interview early.
But, I still learned a lot from doing the interview (like I always do) and I hope you can learn from my mistakes too.
Mistakes + lessons
My biggest mistake was: both of the interviews were open interviews.
Me: Can I interview you?
Them: What about?
Me: I don’t know, just about your life.
And, how do you think the interviews went?
They were vague and shallow.
Lesson 1: Your interviews need focus
Yes, I'm saying to myself now, “Derrrrrrrrr, of course interviews need focus!”
You need to know exactly what you want to interview the person about before you do the interview.
If what you decided to focus on doesn’t turn out to be very interesting (despite trying everything in your interviewing bag of tricks), then you should try to shift the focus of the interview. But always start with something.
Side note: I’m always a bit wary about telling people what the interview is going to be about beforehand because I hate getting staged answers. I much prefer to surprise someone with what the interview is on. Definitely not sure if this is the best way to do things, it certainly isn't working very well for me, what do you think? What do you do?
Lesson 2: Don’t let the interviewee decide what’s interesting
Interviewees don’t know what’s interesting! By leaving the interview open, both of my interviewees had full control of where we headed. And while open interview styles can work, for me it didn't, it was just boring.
It’s your responsibility to steer the interview to interesting places not the interviewees (this lesson is certainly easy to type, not sure I’m ballsie enough to do this yet).
Lesson 3: Know the story before the interview
Hear the story beforehand – either from a previous conversation where you're left thinking 'Gee that’s a great story, I have to interview them about that' or from your pre-interview (nothing scares me more then doing a pre-interview despite having worked as a Radio Producer!).
Remember, you're not on a gold mining exhibition, you need to know exactly where the gold is buried before you even turn up to dig.
What I was happy with
This is a struggle, but in the quest to be kinder to myself, I’m going to end by mentioning two things I thought I did well.
1. I was able to redirect one of the interviewees
Me: Tell me about a happy memory from childhood?
Him: I don’t have any.
Me: (Knowing that he does) Tell me about your Grandfather (he then proceeded to tell me some happy memories from childhood).
1 win for me :)
2. I asked a question I was super scared to ask.
The answer I got wasn’t very good, but that’s besides the point, I did something that scared me.
And that’s what I’ve got to do more, I've got to do the things that scare me.
What about you, what scares you? And how much do you tell your interviewees beforehand about what the interview is going to be about?