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Writing

EASY TIPS FOR CONDUCTING AN INTERVIEW

Does the idea of doing an interview make you shake with fear?

If you're a nonfiction writer of magazine articles or books, you must get past that fear. Interviewing is a necessary skill to develop.

There are three steps in doing an interview: preparing for the interview, the interview itself, and digesting information from the interview.

Preparing for the Interview

Contact the individual, and set up an interview time. Set up a time and place to meet. Try to have the interview at either the person's office or home. If you can't meet, set a later time for a lengthy phone interview.
Do research. Before conducting the interview, do some background information on your topic. You don't want to go to the interview sounding uninformed. If you're doing a profile of the person, learn as much about him or her as possible. Ask him for a resume; look up magazine articles about him.
Prepare questions. This is one of the most important elements in preparing for an interview. Make as long a list of questions as possible (you want to have enough for those quiet standstills during an interview) and make the questions open-ended (ones requiring more than a "yes" or "no" response). Ask a wide range of questions on everything from his career to his family to his hobbies to the topic in question.
Gather your materials. Take notebooks and writing utensils; take a tape recorder if you like to use one; take a camera if there won't be anyone else providing pictures.

The Interview Itself

Start casual. Start the interview with casual conversation - to relax the person. Talk about his day or something in his house (or the weather!).
Take notes. Learn to do "shorthand" notes so that you're not spending all your time writing in your notebook. Use abbreviations and other methods to make the note-taking process easy. As you take notes, mark anything that jumps out at you (of, for example, he uses a good quote, make a big checkmark by it). I prefer to use a cassette tape/recorder too and then I've always got the tape to back me up if any questions arise.
Stay in control of the situation. Don't let the individual veer onto topics that have no bearing on your topic. If he goes into tangent topics, bring the discussion back around in as casual a way as possible.

Digesting the Information

Organize your notes. Transcribe your notes into a more legible form once the interview is over. As you go through your notes, highlight anything that you especially like. Then let the material sit for a day or two, and then go to work on it.
Thank the interviewee. Write a thank-you note to the individual or give him a call. Let him know that you appreciate his time. Tell him you'll send him the published piece.