Stop, look, and listen
Baby, that’s my philosophy. When it comes to interviewing a subject, it’s important to stop, take a pause. Allowing your subject time to recollect their thoughts is a valuable tool in an audio interview setting. Even though the interview will record only audio, an expert interviewer will also take time to look at their surroundings to ensure their subject is comfortable. Most importantly, listen to your creative process. Listen to radio you like, and listen to your own content.
According to J. Carl Ganter and Eileen E. Ganter, the authors of Sound in the Story, silence
equals reflection. Because we’re afraid of silence, we often don’t let people speak. In an interview, if there is a pause, we have a tendency to jump in a fill it. If you feel the urge to do so, STOP. Let the subject reflect on what he or she was talking about. Sometimes there is a beauty in silence. Giving your subject time to recollect allows you to get a good sound bite for the audio recording. If needed, you can always edit the pause out later.
Look at where you’ve positioned the microphone. You want the subject close to the microphone, ideally about four inches away. Do not let the subject hold the microphone. as it may make him or her uncomfortable or feel that they are controlling the interview. You direct the questions, so you should control the interview.
Take time to build a rapport with your subject. If he or she balks at the microphone, make them feel more at ease by looking the him or her in the eye. When your subject is talking, eye contact helps to demonstrate your attentiveness to the subject. It’s important that your subject feels like you care about what he or she is telling you.
Listen to your voice, listen to your subject’s voice, listen to the environment around you,
even listen to other audio programs that you like. Once you get an ear for a type of sound you think is good, use it. In the words of Austin Kleon, steal like an artist. Nothing is original, we all use each other’s content to spark new interpretations of old ideas. Even the Ganters note that “it’s all been said before.” More often than not, journalists have to write on the same news events. A good journalist will report the same facts in a unique way.
For example, the Ganters write…
As your subject talks, listen for both the content of what he or she is saying and for the quality of the sound. Is there distracting background noise? Did you subject complete his or her sentence or thought? If you find that you may have missed something important that your subject said, simply ask him or her to rephrase their thought.
Your most important job as an interviewer is to tell a story. You use your subject to help you paint beautiful pictures with the spoken word. So go out and start stopping, looking, and listening.