We had such a great time during our April meetup with journalist & public radio professional, Katy Sewall, as she spoke on the topic of interviewing. The meetup took place on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Rome at the Alembic restaurant in the neighborhood of Trastevere, as we welcomed a packed house full of bloggers, writers, and photographers. During the presentation, Katy gave us practical tips & tricks we can use for interviewing- not only in a professional setting, but also when having day to day conversations with others.
To become a better interviewer, Katy spoke to us about how to bring out personal stories of the people we encounter, how to mine for more depth in their answers, how to create a narrative arc in our questions, and even find out about the common mistakes interviewers make. Katy Sewall is also the host of the internationally known podcast, The Bittersweet Life, alongside co-host Tiffany Parks. Together the duo discuss expat life, repat life, travel, and try to answer some of life’s biggest questions, with some guest interviews along the way. To tune in and subscribe, click here.
To summarize the conversation on how to be a good interviewer, here are some of the tips Katy spoke about:
- Always make sure to research the person you are interviewing to ask relevant questions on their story.
- Organize your interview depending on the narrative arc you want to take, be it chronological, subject based, personal story, etc.
- Listen! This is probably one of the most important things you can do to have a great conversation with anyone. Listen to what is being said and what isn’t being said.
- Bring out personal stories. Listeners always prefer to listen to real-world stories rather than white noise.
- Keep the focus on the interviewee. You are there to guide the interview, not to be the focus of attention.
- Lead with who, what, when, where, why + how. These type of questions can bring out the most powerful answers.
- Write out your questions but never read directly from them! This will just help to give you an idea of what to ask.
- Curiosity, empathy, intention. Never be judgemental or assume while interviewing. Be open & curious.
What to Avoid:
- Avoid asking more than 1 question at a time. Keep your questions simple and make sure interviewee focuses all their attention on answering 1 question in full.
- Avoid tough sounding questions that start with Did you & Have you, for example. Answers to these questions usually don’t get any depth.
- Avoid guessing at answers. Questions that assume something don’t leave room for much of an answer except yes or no where the interviewee will either agree or disagree with you.
- Avoid either/or questions. This limits how the guests responds and doesn’t give them much freedom to construct their response.
- Don’t be afraid of silence. Give the guest time to think about their answer and how they would like to respond. Try to refrain yourself from asking a follow-up question during the silence, because often times it’s not as strong as the original!
- Don’t interrupt unless absolutely necessary(if you are running out of time, guest is droning on & on, etc). Interrupting others is rude for everyone and annoying to the viewers. Make sure you are not that person!
The evening was full of jam-packed information and insights from Katy. We provided each guest a physical hand out of the points above so that they may make their own notes while she was presenting on the topic.
Everyone was thoroughly engaged throughout and asked insightful questions during the Q&A portion at the end. During the presentation, there were also drinks and aperitivo being served to satisfy all palettes. We would like to thank Alembic again for allowing us to host our meetup at their cocktail bar. It’s a perfect place to grab a drink or aperitivo in Rome. To check them out, you can visit their website, or follow them on Instagram!
We couldn’t have had the event without the support of the ladies from The Bittersweet Life podcast, Katy & Tiffany. After being the social media intern for them for many months, it was great to finally be in the same place together, as Katy currently lives in San Francisco. You can find them on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter. Also be sure to listen in on their podcast & subscribe to support the show!
If you live in Rome and would like to join us for future events, make sure to follow us to be in the know of everything happening in the eternal city. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Hope to see you around Rome,