Do not accept jargon – and definitely no Latin
In some ways that’s a huge part of this blog – but in brief: almost every bit of jargon has a simple everyday equivalent. Sometimes jargon is helpful but more often it is esoteric and euphemistic.
Have the interviewee repeat your question
Try to get the interviewee to repeat back your question in their answer. This will help with the editing. For example, you ask, ‘What do you think about the latest budget?’ The interviewee should say: ‘I think the latest budget is a disaster!’. It’s hard to use answers like: ‘It’s a disaster!’, without hearing your question. Also try to avoid them saying ‘as I said before’ – chances are you won’t show what they said before.
Introductions: be engaging and inclusive
If you are producing a standalone interview, you need to do an introduction. Think of your interview as a story round the campfire. You want to achieve two things with an introduction:
- Entice people to want to hear the story.
- Bring as many people as possible to the same level so they are starting from the same point.
Our format is to ask ourselves: What’s the problem? Why should anyone care? Within that – what do people need to know to understand the problem and to care about it? This should be as simple and direct as it can be.
Note that sometimes you can edit around this, sometimes not (see our golden rules.)
Emphasise the key words in a question – your interviewee will naturally mimic this emphasis and it will help retain the message with the audience.
Examples: ‘What has happened to resource-rich economies over the last 20 years?’. If someone just hears the words: ‘What happened resource-rich economies 20 years’ they will understand the question.
Keep it present: the present is far more engaging than the past
If you start a question with: ‘You brought together 40 years of professional experience in a book’, you are putting something in the past tense. The past could be yesterday or it could be 2,000 years ago. ‘St. Paul brought together 40 years of professional experience in a book… known as The Epistles’. Either say: ‘You bring together 40 years of professional experience in a new book’ or ‘You have brought together 40 years of professional experience in a new book’. This suggests the discussion is still relevant.
Benefits not features
A lot of people want to talk about detail first – it’s what they do day-to-day and are most comfortable with. In sales this is known as talking about ‘features before benefits’ – the audience doesn’t want to know about someone’s research so much as what it means for them – or what they care about. (Yes, some people care about the research for research’s sake but these will be a minority – even researchers want to know ‘what’s in it for me?.)
Sometimes you can see the answer that your interviewee is hinting at but not getting into a soundbite (particularly if English isn’t their native language). Be careful in suggesting an answer – you don’t want to be seen as putting words in their mouth. We use the phrase: ‘Perhaps I could make a suggestion?’ Once they answer ‘yes’, we then give a quick example: ‘I can see you want to say something about government spending, so perhaps an example could be: ‘negative interest rates means there has never been a better time for governments to spend – provided they spend on investment for the future’ – or something like that. The ‘something like that’ is key. We have asked for permission to give a suggestion, then given the suggestion, then given them permission to ignore our suggestion or edit it into words they feel comfortable with.
Ask for final comment
At the end of the interview, always ask the person if they have any final thoughts. Ask them if there was anything you missed. This can sometimes bring out some great information you hadn’t thought to ask about. It also gets a more relaxed answer as the interviewee knows that they have covered the key points already and can often summarise them with a punchy conclusion.
Have we covered everything? We welcome feedback on this list – so please get in touch with suggestions of items not covered.