The secret of great interviews is preparation. No, I don’t mean preparing yourself, I mean preparing the person you’re going to interview. A good interview is in many ways a collaboration between interviewer and interviewee. Here’s how to make sure your subject is as ready as you are.
1. Try to arrange your interview at least a day or two ahead. If your subject can mull it over a little, you’ll almost always get longer and more thoughtful answers to your questions.
2. When you call to set up the interview, be sure to mention the publication you’re writing for. If your subject has never heard of it, explain what it covers and what kinds of people read it. Your subject can then tailor his or her answers accordingly.
3. Also on that first call, give your subject a general sense of what you want to talk about. Resist the urge to provide the actual questions, though, or you’re apt to get stale, over-rehearsed answers in return.
4. At the start of the interview, briefly remind your subject of what you’re writing about and for whom. If the interview strays into unplanned areas, that’s fine too. So is calling back with a few follow-up questions if they occur to you after the interview. By then, of course, your subject will be even better prepared.
For more advice from Daugherty, check out his book You Can Write for Magazines. To order, call toll-free book 1-800-289-0963.