Monthly Mentor Series is a new thing we’re doing at Toronto Social Review every first Thursday of the month, where we invite luminaries and veterans of the media industry to give insight about their own creative impulses, and tips you just have to live through to know.
For November, we had the pleasure of meeting Sylvie-Anne Jeanson [pictured center], Animatrice/Host from Radio Canada. She has interviewed 5 people per day, for a little over two decades. Below are some tips we learnt from her about conducting an interview like a pro.
3 Best Practices for a Good Interview
Step 1 – Know your shit
Start with a canvas; a beginning, middle and end. This way you don’t forget the flow of the interview, and helps post production when you need to edit the thing, whether video, sound file or article. To do this, you actually have to research your interviewee. No copping out on the basic who, what, how, when and why questions. The more specific you get, the more your subject will catch on that you care. Case in point – Cronenburg won’t give you a straight answer unless you’re specific.
Step 2 – Avoid à la wrecking ball
When you hold an interview, it’s because you want new information, or an explanation. Contrarian discussion is kinda fun if you’re into it, but primarily you want them to open up, even if it’s something you disagree with. Start with easy questions tailored to the individual, yet relevant to the discussion. If you drill into your subject right away, they’ll be put on the spot, and will clench right up. Don’t do a Miley, and ease your way to the middle of the interview where you can slip a pokey question.
Step 3 – Practice your poker face
Keep it neutral! The job of a journalist is to be fair and impartial, yet we are all human. Research [and Sylvie’s experience] shows that your reactions or comments as a host, whether good or bad, affect the direction of the interview, which may mean you come out with a Politically Correct, average-sounding conversation or something totally off the rails which you can’t use for broadcast. In the worst scenario, your interview reflects your own world view, which defeats the entire purpose. Instead, say “Is that so?” or at least go “hmmmm!??!!” which usually ends up with the subject going further to clarify. This, according to Sylvie, is where the juicy bits come from.