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Why I use these 4 interview techniques to reveal the best story and create great content?

Most people don’t know what their story is all about. Of course, they know their businesses and their goals, and their concerns and the challenges faced. They know a lot, but they are not able to see the story behind all these facts and feelings; they can’t give a form that will transmit the most significant bit about them. And this is why I use different interview techniques I have learned during almost two decades working as a journalist to get to know my clients and their story.

I interviewed Mark Ruffalo when he was in London launching the Oscar winner movie ‘Spotlight’. But I have also talked to a sad old lady that lost her house and all her belongings during a natural disaster. Or even an incredibly intelligent Professor of LSE or a quite scary drug dealer in a slum in Rio de Janeiro. (You can learn more about my previous experience here:

Very different people in very different settings and moods but to connect with them and to get the best from them I used the same techniques.

So take a seat and let’s talk about each one of these practices:

1 – Truly listen to them:

It might seem obvious, but so many times we get in our head what we think the story should be and we don’t realise that something even more fascinating is there waiting for us. So yes this is my first recommendation because is the most important one.

On TV news you are always running against time, with tight deadlines to get the story ready for tonight show. In one of my jobs, at the beginning of my career as a journalist, I used to work with this dreadful editor that would come to me when I was leaving for an interview and say: ‘I need this guy to say that X is the problem and it was caused by Y and now the way to solve the mess is by adding W.’ He had the piece ready in his head and just wanted a quote to rapidly insert in the video to give his premise credibility. Sorry but this is not an interview.

Don’t have your story ready and you will be amazed by what you might discover when you start to genuinely listen to people.

2- Do your research:

You got to be willing to listen, but this doesn’t mean you should abandon your initial research. Read about your subject, google them (the business,  the owners, the market in general) and take note of a few main questions that will guide you especially at the beginning of the interview.

3 – Which questions to ask?

Have a few previous questions in your head, but if you truly listen to your interviewee, you will soon realize that many other questions will pop up in your head. Ask those. All of them. There will be a lot of ‘how?’, ‘why?’, ‘tell me more about this’. This is the part of the process that I call ‘digging.’ You still don’t know which story is the one you should tell so keep searching for it and using the clues that your interviewee will give you. The emotional clues are the ones that I pay more attention to. His or her tone of voice might change while telling you about this specific event or they might pause and smile, remembering something from the past. Help them, help them bring the story to the surface. 

4 – Save any problematic question for the end:

That is not always the case, but sometimes, during your initial research, you might find some information that your interviewee might not want to talk about. Don’t ignore it in order to please your interviewee. As a journalist, that is probably the bit of information you were looking for in the first place, especially when interviewing politicians.

As a content creator, this won’t be the case, but I still believe it is valid to have your client’s perspective on a difficult point. It might end up being something completely different from what you first imagined. So use the interview to know more about it but don’t let this difficult point interfere with the rest of your interview, save it for the end to be sure that it won’t jeopardize the entire process.

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