The pre-edit phase: some tips for interviewing

A lot of you already know that I’m writing a book for my IPP. This work-in-progress book is called Project Peace, and will profile approximately 12 young Canadians who are working towards positive change; both in their own communities, as well as globally.

Before I can even begin to edit my book I need to write it, and in order to have the necessary information I need to write each profile, I need to conduct a series of interviews with the people I’ve selected to appear in the book.

Let me tell you… this has been a process – and one that’s not yet complete.

As I’m coming to the end of this phase of my IPP, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned throughout the interviewing process.

• If the person you need to interview doesn’t get back to you after the first email, send another one. Follow that email up with a phone call, and another email if necessary. Eventually, they’re going to get sick of you pestering them and get back to you.

• Sometimes interviews are going to fall through. Sometimes an interview subject might cancel on you last minute. Don’t get discouraged by this – there’s always someone else on the list. (Oh yeah, make sure you’ve found MORE people than you think you’ll need, just in case this happens).

• When you finally do swing an interview, prep your interview questions beforehand. Organize them on a paper in the order you are going to ask them. Things will run more smoothly if you go in knowing what you want to talk about; and if your questions easily transition into one another.

• Do NOT meet your interviewees in a pub. Your little RCA voice recorder will have a very hard time picking up what they’re saying amidst all the background noise. Opt for somewhere quiet – like a coffee shop.

• Another note about the voice recorder: if it takes batteries, always make sure you put fresh ones in BEFORE you start the interview. There is nothing worse than having to scratch down quotes verbatim because your recorder stopped working.

• Keep track of the timecode on the recorder when your interviewee says something you might want to use. That way, instead of having to listen back to the entire 45 minute interview, you can fast forward to the juicy quotes.

• As much as they may be awkward, pregnant pauses are a good thing. Not only do they let you catch up if you’re taking notes, these pregnant pauses are a good time for your interview subject to collect THEIR thoughts and add in anything they may have missed.

Once you’ve mastered interviewing, the rest is easy….

(Yeah, right.)

 

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