I recently broke a bad habit. I’ve known for many years that it was bad for me but I just kept going back. I just couldn’t stop watching Today. Not to date myself… but back in the day… you could easily catch an interview with a world leader. Today, the focus is on reality television stars, supermodels and their divorce drama or the latest YouTube sensation. Riveting. However, for me the tipping point was the recurring practice of an interview technique that essentially ignores the interviewee.
A completely hypothetical but altogether possible interview…
Matt: How long have you been wrestling alligators in a tutu?
Interviewee: Ever since I was a kid growing up in the swamps of southern Louisiana.
Matt: So, where did you grow up?
In this moment our friend, the tutu wearing alligator wrestler, trips over his confusion and then settles into the realization that the person interviewing him wasn’t listening…translation…he doesn’t care. And just like that it’s over. No connection… no content.
An interview is basically a conversation with an agenda. You should know your subject matter and all the ground you have to cover, but how you cover that territory should be a very fluid process. It all starts with the simple act of listening. Just listen… and then ask questions based on what you hear. You can eventually get to the next “official” question on your list. But in the meantime, you may stumble across something wonderful, meaningful, relevant…and it is there, in the unexpected, that the magic moments live.