I’ve interviewed four people in the past week. One was casual, at a desk, where I actually got to type in the Q&A. Two were completely spontaneous where I had to think up Qs on the spot. And the fourth, and most interesting, was on location as she was getting ready for a TV interview.

Sometimes we can put all of our energy into getting the interview, that actually conducting it gets our leftover attention. Anybody want to have a conversation about what interview tips have worked for them?

Here are some things that have helped me:

  • Know who you’re interviewing. Reading a bio can both let you know what not to ask (as it could be all over the web already), and clue you in to things about them that will lead to interesting tangents. Like the time they bought a fake ID that said they were 18 so they could get into the Tijuana bars when they were 16.
  • Figure out what gets them excited. Not everyone is outgoing and open and exciting. But most people have something they enjoy. Find out what that is and watch them light up. The McNeal-Lehrer Report? Oh yeah!
  • Be flexible. Even if you have your list of Qs that you want answered, let your interviewee talk a little while on what is interesting to them. Sometimes they can go off on a subject. Don’t be in a super hurry to get back to your list unless you’re in a time crunch. And then, gently steer the conversation.
  • Keep things professional. I think. Sure, everybody wants to be friends with a star…but while you’re interviewing try and postpone making out, dinner and party invites until later.
  • Family topics can bring up good goss. Duh, even the happiest and closest of families have their strange ones. Which cousin is in jail this week?
  • Be respectful. If they ask you not to write about something, don’t. And keep your eye out for material they say that could be damaging. Just because they didn’t say “don’t” doesn’t mean you should anyway. Find ways to write about the good stuff without making them look their worst.
  • Have a Lifeline! If you get that spontaneous interview and you need to be there in twenty minutes, have an online buddy who can look up the bio and read it to you over the phone so you’re more prepared when you get there. THANKS, SUSAN! She’s good folks, and her rate is $150/hr with a 40hr/week minimum. Well worth it.

I’m sure you have tons of experience and tips to add. These are just a few that came straight off the noggin. By all means, chime in.

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