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7 tips for conducting great interviews

First in a series of seven blog posts on interviewing techniques for nonfiction authors.

#1: Find out what makes people tick

You may be no Trevor Noah or Anderson Cooper, but there are still plenty of reasons you might want to interview someone. If you are writing a nonfiction book, you may want to interview industry leaders, peers, or people who are wrestling with the problems that your book sets out to solve. Perhaps you want to include a case study as the lead-in for each chapter, or some small anecdotes that you can scatter through the text to demonstrate specific points in your message, or an expert perspective to add validity to your argument.

Along with all of those reasons to conduct an interview, there are just as many different flavors of interviews: they can be an interrogation, evaluation, or entertainment.

My own specialty is revelation, digging into people’s stories, and understanding their motivations—finding out what makes them tick. This kind of interview is not about catching someone out or tricking them into a tell-all. Quite the opposite. It’s based on trust, and your subject needs to willing to open up with you.

In this blog series, I’m going to show you some of the ways I encourage that to happen.

First up, forget about what you are about to do even being an “interview.” That label might feel too formal for everyone involved and put you all on your best behavior. We don’t want that. Instead, think of it as a conversation with an agenda.

Come up with two or three specific ideas you want to explore. Maybe you want to know more about an economist’s research into millennial spending patterns, or middle-level managers supporting diversity in their workplace, or how your boss came to set up his first business straight out of college. Then just dot-point the areas you want to talk about.

Don’t write down any questions, though. I’ll tell you why in my next post in this series.

If you’re at the planning stage for your book, sign up for my free email course What Drives Your Story? It will give you the rocket fuel you need to propel your book-writing energy! Or my free email course Make Your Book Stand Out to put your book head and shoulders above the competition.


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