Interview Tech Lab Recap

At Thursday’s Tech Lab, we all drew from our various interests and personal knowledge bases as we discussed and practiced the art of INTERVIEWING.  Obviously, there are many genres of interviews.  We focused our workshop on longer interviews (30 minutes – 2 hours) that involve in depth conversations.  Sara, Francois and I will be available as resources throughout the semester – as people plan their projects, we can offer interview technique advice.

You can follow along with the workshop via our video (see the end of the post) or just use the resources outlined here.

1.  We began by viewing two very “different” interviews and discussing the techniques each interviewer used (some successful, some not) as they conducted their interview.  Watch both interviews below:

a.  NPR Interview with Sigur Ros

b.  Katie Couric Interviews Sarah Palin

2.  After talking about the above interviews, we brainstormed the different qualities that make a good interviewer/interview.  Here are some of the responses we came up with:

  • Many things in an interview are up to circumstances beyond their control.
  • Questions are different in a journalistic interview vs. a ‘humanistic’ (more interviewee-centered) interview.
  • It is important to communicate your goals/interview intentions to the person you are interviewing.
  • Make sure to know your technical set-up before your interview – know your space, equipment, etc.  Communicate the set-up/preparation to the person you are interviewing.
  • Discussion about ethics of recording – release form, sensitive topics, etc.
  • Open questions/closed questions
  • Knowing the person’s name/doing your research

3.  If you get stuck and do not know how to prompt your interview subject to describe their story or ‘answer’ in more detail, the following questions are good “back pocket” follow-up questions to have ready:

  • Could you give some examples of…?
  • Can you remember how that felt?/What did that feel like?
  • What happened next?
  • Could you paint a picture in words of…?
  • Tell me more.

4.  Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, lists “Six Ways To Make People Like You.”  We are all interviewers in our day-to-day abilities to relate to people around us.  This list captures what we already have, succinctly.  (Note:  Depending on the interview, there are obviously exceptions to these six ways to relate…you don’t want to smile when you begin interviewing someone about an intense topic, for example):

  • Principle 1:  Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Principle 2:  Smile.
  • Principle 3:  Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Principle 4:  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Principle 5:  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Principle 6:  Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

5.  We transitioned into Technical Preparation of Interviews.  The video captures the way that Francois would choose where to situate the interview within a large room (in our case, Room 1011 at 2 West 13th Street).  Read over this simple Media Storm Field Recording Guide – we went over it in the workshop:  MediaStormGuide

Finally, here are some other resources on interviewing and field recording:

  • – Great list of questions and guide to setting up an interview
  • – Focus on audio equipment and recording
  • – Go to the ‘Training’ section for some other good resources
  • Vox Pop Information – How to conduct street interviews/quick, one – two question interviews

Here is the full video of our Tech Lab session.  Password is “newschool”.

Categories: Tech Labs


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2 Comments on “Interview Tech Lab Recap”

  1. February 5, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    I had a job as a New Media Specialist where I did dozens of interviews with all sorts of different people – all of this is really good advice. I’d also add that a good interview is often about employing the art of conversation, bearing in mind your goals (what answers you want to get out of the interviewee balanced against the answers they give you), and the technical aspects. Converse, but be conscious of timing – try to create breaks for easier editing later.

    The most important thing you can do is be comfortable – the worst interview is the one you feel as though you have to rush through, that leaves you remembering things you should have asked later, or that barely meets your goals. More is always better – you can’t edit in what was left out, but you can always edit out what you don’t want to leave in the final product.

  2. February 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Sorry I couldn’t make the session but thanks for the useful summary, lots of good pointers.

    Here are some BBC Training resources people may find useful – in particular, the 5-shot rule is one that works well.

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