Hello and a very happy springtime to you! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog on the Writing Craft. This time, I thought I'd go "behind the scenes" and offer some tips on conducting interviews when either you or your subject (or both) don't have oodles of time to sit and gab.
Although this might seem like a narrowly focused topic, it's not. On more than one occasion, I've had to interview subjects of articles, books, or blogs and been very, very pressed for time.
How do you get everything you need out of an interview that's short and, perhaps, conducted in a difficult environment (say, a crowded hallway or a parking lot)? Here are some tips:
o Prepare very well beforehand. Sometimes, the shorter the interview, the longer the preparation. If you are interviewing a person about him- or herself, find out all you can about his or her background prior to the interview. For technical subjects, don't just brush up on the area, bore down deeply so that your subject doesn't have to explain basics to get to the heart of the matter.
o Be well-equipped. Make sure that you have a pen with ink (I kid you not), appropriate and adequate paper, a hand-held microphone that you know how to use and that has fresh batteries. Turn off your cell phone and put it away during the interview.
o Know exactly how much time you will have. Wear a watch. Respect the time (often, subjects will give more time than originally allotted, especially if they appreciate the way in which you conduct the interview, but don't count on it).
o Know exactly what you want to ask. Phrase the questions so that they can lead to more than monosyllabic answers - but always keep in mind the time-frame in which you are working.
o Keep small talk, greetings, and other social conversation very short. Be polite, but not effusive. Get right to the interview.
o If your subject has only a few minutes, refocus your questions to cover narrower ground and ask if you can followup when he or she has more time.
o Leave the interview with a way to follow up with either the person you interviewed or his or her representative. Although the interview may be short, this may not negate the need for getting more information or answers in order to do a thorough job in the piece you will write.
I've had very profound interviews that have lasted only five or ten minutes. I hope that these tips will help you when you are time-constrained, but curious, too!
Blessings of joy and peace,