According to both professional producers and audiences, the most compelling form of audio guides is the interview of a first-person account. While there is definitely a level of emotional intelligence required in the way to interview (think Barbara Walters), an interviewer and interviewee can feel much more comfortable by being prepared and knowing the basic steps for creating the environment for a successful interview.
- Research: Understand your objective for an interview: What do you hope to learn from it? Be led by the theme of your guide. After having done the research of your theme, you may have noted some interesting people who were part of that story. Research their background and their specific personal history to understand their context. You will need to find out how to get in touch with them. If they are deceased you may want to speak to relatives or friends who have personal knowledge of the individual.
- Questions: Understanding someone’s personal history will help ask really good questions during the interview. Write down all the ones you can think of ahead of time so that you can prioritize them in a way that will get an effective response. While you definitely want to hit upon the who, what, when, where and how, you will also want to make sure that you are asking about their personal point of view and how they feel about things. These open-ended questions can tease out some very compelling stories. You may recognize that many television news reporters ask these types of questions.
- Location: Agree in advance where you have the interview. That will ensure that the interviewee will feel relaxed enough to divulge the story while you record properly. Keep in mind that you will want to have some flexibility on how to sit with your interviewee so you can hear each other and get a quality recording.
- Recording: A professional grade digital recording device is not always necessary, particularly with the proliferation of smartphones that have good quality microphones. Ideally, though, you should obtain an external microphone to record your interviewee’s responses. Rode makes a high quality lavalier microphone for smartphones and Audio-Technica has a much lower priced one.
- Editing: Editing software, like Apple’s GarageBand,is an easy-to-use and affordable ($4.99) way to cut and arrange your audio into segments. Understanding what to leave out of your story is just as important as to what to put into it. With the ability to share your clips, you may want to have a few colleagues and friends review your edits so that the final story is the compelling one you wanted to tell.
For a more comprehensive set of guides for developing interviews, check out the American Folklife Center and National Geographic websites.
While interviewing sounds like a major challenge, these basic steps will get you up and running quickly. Let us know what other suggestions and ideas you have.