As college students so focused on our future of becoming adults and establishing a career, sometimes we can lose touch with our inner child. We are molded into becoming mature adults who can speak professionally to other adults, and yet we forget that we also need to know how to relate to children. Of course, aspiring teachers or psychologists are taught how to interact with children, but what about Communications majors, Marketing majors, and other students?
After signing up for Beautiful Social, we were given our client: The Bridge of Books Foundation, which collects and distributes books to underserved communities. Their job is simple: provide books to children, no strings attached. Many communities have benefited from this foundation and we had the privilege to visit one such community, the Maurice River County School District.
We knew ahead of time that we would be interviewing Wally Kappeler, the Chief School Administrator and possibly a student. We prepared for our interview with Mr. Kappeler and discussed how to best conduct this meeting. However, once we arrived at the school, we were surprised to find that we would not only be interviewing Mr. Kappeler, but seven students.
Interviewing children is different than interviewing an adult, and we learned that first hand. Through a few trial and error questions, we figured out how to best relate to the kids to get them to answer and engage with the questions. If you need to interview children, here is our list of tips to make you an expert!
Tips for Interviewing Children
1. Get to know them.
The time it takes to set up the equipment and test that the mic is working is the perfect time to talk with the kid. Ask them their name, what they like to do, what their favorite animal is, etc. Most importantly, tell them about yourself, too! If you can find something in common with them, it will be easier for them to warm up to you and be more confident in answering the interview questions.
2. Be confident!
Children are easily influenced, so if they sense that you are confused or shy, they most likely will be, too. Know what you are talking about, and reassure your confidence in the subject by explaining why the cause being spoken about is important to you. If you explain why you are interested in promoting the specific cause, the children are more likely to think about why they are interested in promoting it as well.
3. Tell them it is OK to be nervous.
The odds that these young children have been filmed and interviewed before are slim, so it is almost inevitable that they will be nervous. Calm their nerves by ensuring them there is nothing to be worried about. Empathizing with them and admitting that you may be a little nervous as well may make them feel better!
4. Plan the purpose of the interview in advance.
It is not always recommended that one come entirely prepared with pre-set questions for an interview, but it is imperative to have a general idea of what needs to be accomplished during that designated time. The questions should not be predetermined since a natural flow is needed to create a candid feel, but ideas of questions that relate to the most significant concepts should be developed ahead of time so that the interview is productive and useful. Since children are often less likely to form their answers in a way that restates the question, make sure to plan what type of answer is needed from the child getting interviewed so that it can contribute to the overall consistency and message of the production.
5. Keep eye contact.
Keeping eye contact in any interview is important, but especially one involving young children. As many know from experience, children are often distracted by their surrounding environment. It is essential to maintain eye contact throughout the entire interview so that they are focused on the interviewer and his/her questions directly. If they are inattentive, the interview is likely to be less successful or meaningful. In order to provoke emotion and consistency, all interviewees need to have their undivided attention on the conversation. Eye contact makes this much easier, helping to focus the child on only the interviewer.
6. Start by asking simple questions.
It is hard to casually drift into conversation when, as the interviewer, you know exactly what you want to talk about. However, with children you need to ease into it. Talk to them casually like you did before you pressed record. This will make the conversation feel natural, and when it comes to the important questions, kids will feel comfortable giving an insightful answer.
When interviewing young children, it is important to stay calm, patient, and focused. Getting distracted is more common when surrounded by energetic kids, but maintaining control is essential in order to produce a great interview. Beautiful Social has exposed the consultants of the Bridge of Books foundation to a new and unfamiliar type of interview by involving younger students. However, many of the tactics for interviewing them can be applied when interviewing adults. We hope that this advice is helpful to other Beautiful Social consultants when they interview their non-profit clients!