For those like me that found the school’s English Curriculum too constraining, and instead sought the buzz of joining the world of the free press, what better way to boost yourself to the level of the ‘somebodies’ than to interview the ‘somebodies’ themselves.
Visualise the spectacle that was the look on a 15-year-old’s face when confronted with the news that Jim Broadbent not only read your email, but has agreed to meet you for an interview.
The initial minutes of excitement were great, but then the reality kicked in that…
It’s pretty clear that mentally, I was not prepared, so here’s “how to interview big names and avoid looking the amateur you really are”.
1 – “What did you say your last name was again?”
When confronted with a schoolchild and a notebook, they’re probably not expecting much, but asking questions that could instantly be found through a quick google search will say a lot to the interviewee about your commitment to your work, no matter how old you are.
Prove you’ve done your research and use it to make the most of your time with them.
2 – Draft out themes to explore, rather than specific questions.
Reading off your questions like a script will only damage the fluidity and spontaneity of the conversational tone you’re so desperately trying to create.
I found this also worked to ease the nervous shakes in my voice as it provided me with more control of the conversation’s direction and broadened the explorable topics.
3 – An awkward silence probably isn’t as awkward as you think. BREATHE!
Realistically, if you were dive straight into your next question before your guest has even managed to spit out their last syllable, you’re implying that you’ve already got the information you need and that they’re wasting their time by expanding their answers.
It also suggests that you haven’t listened to a word they’ve said for the last two minutes, distracted in preparing your next question. Silence suggests reflection. Don’t attack them.
4 – Shorthand isn’t your first language, don’t fool yourself.
Misquoting a controversial opinion can be harmful to the reputations of you both. Ask for their permission to record the interview. It shows you came prepared and allows for greater accuracy when dropping in quotes later on.
This also saves the awkwardness of writing down their answers word for word and leaving them hanging. Tried and tested. Nope. 0/10 Would not recommend.
5 – Ultimately, give yourself a break. You have to start somewhere.
Even if you feel you’re coming across as un-professional by asking for that autograph, your capacity to prepare and successfully conduct an interview will present an inner confidence that is undeniably respectable.
You’re a journalist the moment you begin your research. Embrace that. Mistakes aren’t always permanent, but negative experiences are always a valuable source of reflection and growth.
Shout out to James and Mrs Hobson