I’ve never been much of a phone person. Long, faceless conversations leave me at a loss for words. Long silences happen while I nod my head, roll my eyes, smile or generally forget that non-verbal gestures are no good over a wire.
This sort of explains why the prospect of conducting interviews for my articles makes me nervous. Right until the moment I pick up the phone and dial the number of my source, I can feel the butterflies somersaulting under my belly button. I confess I often procrastinate before making those calls. I check my mail, do some more ‘research’ on my source, check on M, wipe down a table top that has already been cleaned. Talking to the ‘experts’ makes me a little anxious, especially when I know little or nothing about the subject under discussion except what I have unearthed as research. I worry about coming across as a chump, as someone who is so green that the interview seems like a sheer waste of time for the ‘expert’.
It never happens that way, though. I always get the call done calmly and professionally. Once the first hello is out of the way, my notes and questions guide me until I have all my information and with luck (and some prodding), some really good quotes. I have never felt like a chump after an interview.
The key to a good interview is homework, homework, homework. Prior to an interview, I do a lot of research on my source, the subject of the interview and any other background/related information. I make notes, both on the computer (where I save related links for reference) and in a notebook (which I use during my interview).
Having an outline or guide for your questions is helpful as well. Knowing where you want to go makes it easier to take a diversion if required. And if you’re paying attention, you might go down a completely unexpected path.
Ensure that you have distraction-free time to do your interview. No wailing babies, harassed housemaids or doorbells should (ideally) come in your way. I ask Mr. R or M’s granny to keep him occupied while I’m on the phone. Even better, I schedule interviews for when M is at pre-school.
Writers, how do you tackle interviews?