Interviews: how do you find THE story?

Interviewing can be tricky. How do you find the story? How do you know if you are on the right path?

In all honesty, you don’t. Interviews are all about luck. If you’re are lucky enough to ask the right questions then you’ll be lucky enough to find THE story.

Ok, it’s mostly about luck, but more importantly you have to listen to what the person you are interviewing is saying. Most times they will let something slip that you have to be attentive enough to pick up on.

Cole Moreton from the Telegraph said “most people are itching to tell you their story. It is bubbling under the surface and you just need to know the tools to unlock it.”

So primed with all this new and insightful knowledge about how to conduct interviews we were given a task. Split into groups of 3, we were told that we were going to interview a man (played by Cole Moreton) who had witnessed a UFO over Camden.

Allocated 15 minute slots for our group to conduct our interviews we began. It has to be said 15 minutes is not a lot of time for an interview but it may be all the time people are willing to offer you. After every group had completed their interview task we sat down together to discuss what we all found.

It was interesting to see that we all had gathered the same basic story which was that a man had seen a UFO and his wife had been abducted.

But it was the finer details that showed how the different groups had pursued the story in different ways and unlocked different aspects to the story.

Some groups had unlocked greater detail about his wife’s abduction, in that she had disappeared and claimed she had been abducted but had a tendency to drink and disappear a lot. She showed up at her mothers the next morning (just in case you’re wondering this story isn’t real).

Others had discovered more details about him personally, that he and his wife had had an argument just before the disappearance. Others got details of him being taken away by authorities to be questioned because he had been standing next to the Prime Minister and heard him say “this confirms what we always knew” (again this is not a real story).

Some completely forgot to introduce themselves or even ask the mans name. Others entered the room and sat behind desks and didn’t make the man feel at ease or accommodate him. And some decided to take the abrasive route of asking him, “Were you drunk?” and “Were you on drugs?” (Not a good move)

One big story every group managed to miss was that he was in Camden to burgle a house. Although we all asked what he was doing in Camden, none of us picked up on his jittery and vague answers and didn’t probe further into this.

So why such different results? Again it’s about asking the right questions and making sure you listen carefully to what the person says. Hearing a hint of something, noticing and asking further questions about it could get you the big story.

But most importantly remember etiquette, don’t judge and make them feel at ease. You don’t need to interrogate them to get the answers you’re looking for.

Feature photo courtesy of Roger H. Goun

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