On April 6th and 7th, the #SC4EU team traveled to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education to conduct two interviews for our client, the Schuylkill Center. The first interview was with the Director of the Environmental Art program, Christina Catanese. The second was with an artist, Jane Carver, who is involved with the Center’s art program and will be participating in its 2017 Art in the Open exhibition.
Through our group experience, we have learned an extensive amount not only about our client, the Schuylkill Center, but also about how to conduct a professional and successful client interview. We as a group, as well as individually, have become proficient in both the technical and social aspects of the interview process.
Telling a story through social media and digital expression is a difficult task that requires extensive time and patience. One crucial aspect in telling any story is listening and learning about the involved individuals who wish to share their own personal experiences. Through the art of interviewing, our team was able to bring about and display a unique personality and character to the Schuylkill Center.
Below, we have shared our team’s top five tips that will help set the tone for a successful and professional interview. As interviewer, it is our job to conduct research on the client, set the tone for a clear and concise conversation, figure out the client’s why, be an active listener, and, of course, have fun. As a group we have all had to embrace our strengths and work towards improving our weaknesses. Through our interviewing process, we have found that adapting to our struggles and taking on risks when necessary has helped each of us grow and become better students and consultants.
TOP 5 INTERVIEW TIPS
1. Do research on your client.
Before going into any interview, whether you are the one doing the interview or the one being interviewed, it is imperative that you be well informed and knowledgeable about the individual with whom you are speaking. It is important to do your homework and make sure you are prepared with ideas about interview topics before beginning your conversation. The goal of an interview is to foster an authentic conversation between you and your client. In order to do so, it is crucial that you educate yourself about your client's history and why they are important to the work you are trying to accomplish. Knowing more about your client will contribute to a steady flow of conversation rather than a confused social encounter.
Before the Schuylkill Center team went to our interviews, we were adamant about making sure that we knew some basic facts about the individuals that we were preparing to speak with. Our second interview was with a young artist named Jane who we had not previously met prior to interviewing her. To make sure we were well equipped for our conversation with her, our team investigated some websites that featured Jane’s art and listened to some of her recorded songs, and read her written statements that she had posted. This allowed our team to further understand her work. From this, we were able to base our interview questions and direct our conversation on her passions and desires, which created a more productive interview overall.
If it is possible, try to reach out to the person you will be interviewing prior to the interview date. Ask them to share any pieces of work, platforms, experiences, or passions they may have so you can get a feel for where the interview may go. If you do not have access to their professional or personal works, then search their profession or name to see if they have any social media outlets. Educating yourself on the person or organization you wish to speak with will not only settle the nerves but will also help nurture the kind of genuine conversation that you are seeking.
2. Create a clear and concise conversation.
Nerves and excitement can get the best of anyone. Arriving on site the day of an interview can be stressful as there is much to do. Set up, sound checks, and camera placements are all important elements of a successful interview. However, no task or job quite compares to the uncertainty that arises when an interview commences and one is put on the spot. This feeling of doubt and reservation is not something that should make you feel paralyzed or anxious, but rather something to tap into and be empowered by.
One thing that should be established within the first few minutes of an interview are the interviewer's intentions and goals. In order to get these ideas across clearly to the individual that your are speaking with, it is important that the conversation be honest and concise. Setting a clear intention as you sit down in the chair is extremely beneficial for both you and your guest. By being forthcoming and letting your interviewee know what you wish to gain from the conversation, your interview will go more smoothly and become more effective. Your guest will understand your intentions and in doing will become more comfortable at the outset and then more relaxed as the conversation continues. Going into your interview, prepare your mind and think of why you are there, touching on the purpose for the session.
Possible things to say to yourself before an interview begins:
I will actively listen.
I will try my best to make the interviewee feel comfortable.
I acknowledge that both of us may be nervous.
I seek to obtain footage about _____.
At the outset of the Schuylkill Center team’s interview with Christina, we made sure that she was well aware of the group's intentions when she took her seat in front of the camera. We made sure that she was knowledgeable about how our group was going to try to present her story within the client’s overall goals for the video. In beginning the interview process with open and honest dialogue, our interview was able to be informative, consistent and contained both passion and excitement from both the interviewer and the interviewee.
CLIP ONE: CHRistiNA
3. Figure out your client’s “Why?”
As the interview progresses, it will become easy to identify your interviewee’s why. In his 2009 Ted Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” Simon Sinek discusses how the why is an individual's passion or mission in whatever they may be doing. Finding the why of the person you are speaking with is essential to your interview as a whole because it is the core value of what your story is centered around. If you are unsure about what they why is, look for body language and vocal changes in your interviewee. Look for what questions excite them and the theme in which they are centering their answers around. Once the why is found, the interviewer can create a genuine and emotionally invested conversation that branches off of the interviewee’s why. The emotional appeal of statements and clips that may arise from the interview speaks great volumes and will often be the gold points of your project.
CLIP two: Jane
If your interviewee is an artist, probe them about their artwork or upcoming showings. If you’re talking to a child, ask them about the things they enjoy, maybe their favorite book or their pet. If you’re speaking with an author, perhaps it’s a character or upcoming novel that they would love to talk about. It is important to add your own worldview and personal take on the things that your interviewee touches upon. Get involved in their desires and ask questions that allows them to go even further in depth about topics that motivate them. If the person you're interviewing sees that you are intrigued and truly interested about the things they are talking about they will feed off of your positive energy and will in return give you a better and more authentic interview.
4. Open your eyes and ears.
While interviewing Christina, she became increasingly passionate about the concept of education through art programs the center has been introducing, such as the art camps the Schuylkill Center is offering. An excitement and passion erupted in her that could be seen in both her voice and body language. From that moment, our interviewer had to think quick on her feet and ditched all the questions that she originally had planned to create new questions on the spot that fostered and added to this passion that Christina was exhibiting (which is why one should not be wedded to any questions they have in mind and should let the interviewee shape the structure of the conversation). Instead of having choppy and unrelated questions, our interviewer was able to ask a question, listen to the response, and then follow-up based on what Christina was discussing at that moment. Our transition and flow from question to question became seamless and successful. It became a conversation. From then on, our interview became more about the importance of the art program and was centered on Christina's views and experience of how it has positively affected and improved the center and the individuals apart of it.
This “golden moment,” as we called it, was only possible because our group collectively listened to what Christina was saying. Not only were our ears open but so were our eyes. We witnessed how her manner changed and altered itself from when we first began our session. If no one was listening carefully we would have never got the footage and audio that has contributed so greatly to the success of our final media story. By being good listeners and becoming flexible to unplanned situations those pieces of “gold” comments come to the surface.
CLIP THREE: CHRISTINA
5. Embrace the awkward pauses.
Everyone tends to fear awkward pauses that arise when a conversation feels like it is going nowhere or is slowly fading. However, pauses are actually great relaxing and thinking points throughout an interview. Pauses give the interviewee a chance to think and process the question presented and then give an honest and thought filled answer. A pause gives the interviewer time to stop, take into account the interviewees previous answer and then create another question to continue the conversational flow.
If you begin to feel uncomfortable, lean into that discomfort and be aware of those feelings. Recognize how your conversation is going and focus towards the areas you feel are working to their advantage. During pauses take time to refocus and recenter yourself, allowing yourself and your mind to be fully aware and attentive. Eliminate the “ums,” “likes,” and nervous giggles and just take a moment to collect yourself. But just remember silence is okay and is often a sign of in-depth thought that will contribute to a better interview. And if the interviewee doesn’t respond after a while, ask them to talk about what they were thinking during their silence. Often those moments become the most revealing and emotional parts of the conversation.