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Conducting an interview for speech support is more than just asking a bunch of questions. In this lesson, you will learn about the techniques to prepare and conduct an interview. You will also learn how to best use your interview information for speech support.

Conducting an Interview

Jason and Percy are working on a group presentation project on Greek mythology. They want to interview a local history professor to get expert testimony for their speech. They’ve done a lot of research already and feel pretty comfortable with their topic, so they decide to talk to the professor without any other preparation. They find the professor’s office, but he’s in the middle of an intense conversation with a student.During the interview, the professor seems agitated, and the boys fumble to find the appropriate questions to ask.

They also discovered that the professor taught ancient Greek history, but his area of interest was primarily Mesopotamia. When they get home, Percy and Jason want to use a particular part of the interview, but they both struggle to remember what the professor said. How could Percy and Jason conduct a better interview next time?Interviews for speeches are question-and-answer sessions conducted with the preparer of the speech and an individual or a group of people in order to gather information to use as supporting materials for a speech. These interviews can either be conducted with experts or with people that have experienced a particular event.

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You can use the people in your class, your family, or a professor you know as an interview for a speech. Interviewing someone about a particular concept or event is a great way to get extra insight on a topic and to push your research into a new direction.As you are conducting your interview, you can use the information you gather as either peer or expert testimony to support your speech. Peer testimony is a statement that comes from someone who has experienced an event or situation. It could be someone who has been directly affected by the topic of your speech or someone that has an opinion on the topic. Expert testimony comes from a person that is a respected expert in the field of your topic, such as a doctor or someone that has conducted a great deal of research in that particular field.In this lesson, you will learn how to prepare the interview, how to conduct an interview, and what to do after an interview.

Before the Interview

First, you need to know how to prepare before the interview occurs. How the interview flows will be determined by how well you prepare. This is something that Percy and Jason overlooked entirely and could have helped greatly with their interview. When you prepare for the interview, consider the following:

  • Determine the purpose of the interview
  • Research your subject
  • Confirm meeting times (and be on time!)
  • Prepare the questions

Make sure you know the purpose of the interview. Ask yourself what type of information you are looking to gather and how that information will help your speech. Sometimes, conducting an interview isn’t helpful if you have better supporting materials for your speech.

Generally, interviews are used to get peer or expert testimony, as discussed earlier.Make sure you research your interview subject if you can. Gather as much information as possible on this individual, so you are asking true interview questions rather than ones you can get the answers to online. For example, Percy and Jason would have avoided finding that the professor’s primary interest was not Greek history if they had researched their subject prior to the interview. Also, researching the interviewee will help you prepare questions that you might not have previously given thought to before the research.Communicate efficiently and thoroughly with your interview subject and be on time for meeting times.

Nothing looks more unprofessional than being late to your own meeting!

During the Interview

There are a few things to keep in mind during an interview:

  • Make your subject feel comfortable
  • Ask questions clearly
  • Listen openly
  • Take notes

First, you need to make sure your subject feels comfortable. If it is obvious that the person you are interviewing is having an off day or has experienced something that is going to distract from the interview, try to reschedule or greet the subject to make him or her feel comfortable while maintaining a professional attitude.Second, make sure you ask the questions clearly when conducting the interview.

Correct pronunciation and articulation of words are important. Make sure you know the pronunciation of words prior to the interview; otherwise, you may decrease the credibility that you have with the interviewee. Also, you may find some of your subjects are hard of hearing, so be sure to make your words as clear as possible.Third, listen with an open mind. Make sure that any follow-up questions or notes that you take aren’t tainted by your bias or perspective. This is difficult to do, but if you keep it firmly in your mind to be open, it will help.

Listening with an open mind will help you gather as much information as possible from your interview and help you understand his or her perspective.Now that you are finished with the interview, let’s talk about what you need to do after.

After the Interview

After the interview, it is important to:

  • Type up your notes
  • Identify supporting materials
  • Follow up

First, type up your notes as soon as possible after the interview. It is possible that you will not be able to decipher or understand your writing or your notes after the interview.

If you type your notes as soon as possible, the interview information will be fresh on your mind and you will be able to complete sentences and understand your shorthand. Also, if you are working with a partner, you will be able to provide legible notes for him or her to use as well.Second, once you’ve typed your notes, it’s a good time to identify the supporting material that you will use in your speech. Again, timing is important here.

It is better to identify these things directly after the interview rather than wait and have to comb through your notes later on. Also, if you don’t have all the information you need for your speech, you will have the time to compensate.Third, follow up with your subject. A simple thank you card goes a long way, and you never know when you may need to call upon this interviewee again. If you have any follow-up questions after typing up your notes and identifying supporting materials, you may need to follow up the interview with an email, phone call, or even a second face-to-face interview.

Lesson Summary

Materials gathered from interviews can provide personal insight and connection for your audience and your research. However, it is important to conduct interviews properly, even if you feel comfortable with the topic, like Jason and Percy. There are three stages of an interview: before, during, and after.During the three stages of an interview, please keep the following in mind:

  • Before the interview: Determine the purpose of the interview, research your subject, confirm meeting times (and be on time!), and prepare the questions.

  • During the interview: Make your subject feel comfortable, ask questions clearly, listen openly, and take notes.
  • After the interview: Type up your notes, identify supporting materials, and follow up with your subject.

Using these suggestions, you can conduct a successful interview and gather interesting materials for your presentation.

Good luck!

Learning Outcomes

You should have the ability to do the following after watching this video lesson:

  • Identify the usefulness of performing interviews as part of your research for a speech
  • Explain what to do before, during, and after an interview in order to conduct an effective interview
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