The first in a series of seven blog posts on interviewing techniques to draw out people’s most authentic stories.
You may be no Oprah Winfrey or Jay Leno, but there are still plenty of reasons you might want to interview someone. Try these for starters:
- Preserving family memories by recording the stories of your parents, grandparents, cousins, brothers, or sisters
- Catching the story of your organization, to show your employees or a wider public how its particular culture was formed
- Collecting “user stories” as case studies to run on your website or in your newsletter
- Leading a panel discussion at an industry event
- Even interviewing a job applicant …
- Or developing your social skills by getting good at asking questions (this is for you, fellow introverts).
Along with all of those reasons to conduct an interview, there are just as many different flavors of interview: they can be interrogation, evaluation, or entertainment.
My own specialty is revelation, digging into people’s life stories and understanding their motivations—finding out what makes them tick. This kind of interview is not about catching someone out or tricking them into a tell-all. Quite the opposite. It’s based on trust, and your subject needs to willing to open up with you. In this blog series, I’m going to show you some of the ways I encourage that to happen.
First up, forget about this being an interview. That might feel too formal for everyone involved, and put you on your best behavior. We don’t want that. Instead, think of it as a conversation with an agenda.
Come up with two or three specific ideas you want to explore. Maybe it’s your aunt’s career as a nurse, or your sister’s year of traveling through South America before college, or how your boss came to set up his first business. Then just dot-point the areas you want to talk about.
Don’t write down any questions, though—I’ll tell you why in my next blog post in this series.