I had the privilege of attending the 11th Geneva Writers’ Conference last weekend. It was hosted by the Geneva Writers’ Group, founded in 1993, an international group that brings together 300 English-language writers from 30 countries.
It was my second time at the conference. I earn a living as a freelance corporate writer and when I’m not working, I spend my free time…writing. (Not all of my time, but a good deal of it.) Of course, there is writing and WRITING, and the work I do for my clients, while gratifying on many levels, is not the same as the writing I do for myself.
So, I hear you thinking, sitting in a room full of writers all weekend. Dotting the i’s and cross the t’s together. How nerdy is that? In fact, it was a lot of fun. We plotted and pitched, assassinated characters and created entire universes together.
Interviews are a rich source of content – for your website, content marketing campaign or background research. Asking the right questions opens the door for the people who matter to your organization to tell their story: an employee talking about what makes their job unique, an expert sharing insight into the challenges of your industry or a satisfied customer telling us why they bring you their business. Whoever is answering the questions, interviews give a human face to your content.
Throughout my writing career I’ve conducted dozens of interviews. No matter who you’re talking to – from CEOs to engineers, scientists, medical professionals and people-on-the-street – each interviewee has a unique story to tell. Your job as the interviewer is getting them to share it. Sometimes the goal of the interview is just one good sound bite; other times you want to scratch the surface and discover the deeper story. No matter what the objective, each interview is different, as is each individual’s personality, story, mood and agenda.
One key quality of interviewing that should run throughout the discussion is empathy. The ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes will enable you to ask the right questions: the ones your audience wants answers to, and the ones the interviewee wants you to ask. That, combined with a certain killer instinct for probing questions, is the hallmark of the great interviewer.
Conducting a successful interview requires some advance planning and a lot of listening. Here are five tips to ensure you make the most of yours: read more