Having written for a variety of different industries, I have one role model I try to follow each time I’m doing an interview: Luke Skywalker.
A hero of the Star Wars universe, Luke faces a number of trials, tribulations and temptations, often accompanied on his adventures by R2-D2, a most resourceful robot companion. R2-D2’s sounds and vocal effects – his indecipherable beeps – are a completely different language to the untrained ear.
Luke Skywalker may be able to use a computer terminal or translations from C-3P0 to understand R2-D2, but as a writer, you’re likely on your own when it comes to speaking the same language as your sources. This becomes even more of a challenge when you’re working with complex concepts or terminology.
But when you’re interviewing someone for a story, there are a few simple ways that you can get the information you need to write a story that will connect with your audience. Start out with these three recommendations:
1. Do your research
One of the best things you can do to show appreciation for your source’s time is to come prepared with informed and thoughtful questions. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’ve showed interest in what they do and what they know – and will feel more comfortable and relaxed as a result. If you’re confused about a certain idea or concept, don’t worry. Ask for clarification or even a real-life example that may help provide more insight and illustrate in greater detail. The key is to be simple and clear about what you need and then let the discussion happen naturally.
2. Appreciate the silence
Make your interview a conversation, not an interrogation. Immediately after you’ve been given an answer you may feel the need to fill up the empty space with another question. Resist the urge to speak again. Give your source an opportunity to reflect on what’s been said and then explain in further detail. When you offer too many of your own comments or recommendations, you don’t give the other person time to think and explain the topic further.
3. End with a flourish
After you’ve got the answers you need, thank the person for their time and then refer back to something that you found interesting in the discussion. Spending a little extra time at the end of an interview to go over the subject matter again might help your source find the right word or phrase that summarizes the idea perfectly.
Follow these recommendations and your readers will be asking for a sequel.