Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Five Rules for a Great Interview

In my last blog I talked about my days traveling throughout the Northeast US capturing stories from interesting rural folks. It was a wonderful time in my life and many of those stories and anecdotes remain permanently embedded in my memory. I would never have been able to share those stories with the listeners of RFD Network without adhering to some basic rules. These rules didn't come from a book or a college class. They are MY rules and they worked for ME. As I look back I realized that these basic Jerry Reed Rules of Interviewing can apply to many of life's situations. So here they are:

Rule #1 – Research and Review

Before conducting an interview, familiarize yourself with the topic. If you go into an interview cold with no knowledge whatsoever, it will show. You need not be an expert but should be familiar with terms and have some basic understanding of the topic you are going to discuss. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to move on to the next rule.

Rule #2 – Relax and Engage

For you to have a great interview you and your subject will need to sound relaxed and conversational. I always engaged in an informal short conversation prior to even getting the microphone out of my kit. It helped to make the subject feel comfortable talking with me and it allowed me to gauge how responsive the person will be to my questions.

Rule # 3 – Ask and Listen

For any conversation to be engaging the two people involved both need to listen to each other. The interviewer asks questions and then needs to stop and actually listen to the response. It may take your conversation in a different direction but that's OK. You can always steer the conversation back with subsequent questions, But, if you are an active listener and engage in the conversation, you'll be amazed how smooth the interview ill go. You can edit it later.

Rule #4 – Capture and Record

This can mean an actual recording or capturing the conversation by taking notes. An actual recording is best, in my opinion, even if your end product will be written. That way there's no mistake what was actually said.

Rule #5 – Be Gracious and Thankful

Politeness and being gracious go a long way. You want to leave favorable impression. I always looked at each interview as an opportunity to build a relationship. It may not be a long term friendship but the person you just interviewed is very likely to share that positive experience with others. And that is part of your reputation under construction. Once you conclude the interview, you need to make sure you show your appreciation for the time the subject spent with you. Just say thank you and mean it.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Use it Up, Wear It Out

Make It Do, or Do Without

I never knew how important those words were when I first heard them. I was interviewing an old country doctor who was still making house calls in the early 80s. The interview was broadcast on the RFD Network not to be confused with RFD TV a very popular TV cable network that came into being much later.  RFD Network was radio network that I developed. When I sold it in 1983 it was providing forty-three radio stations in the Northeast with a daily farm and rural news and interview program. I traveled throughout  Pennsylvania, New York, and the New England states interviewing interesting rural folks about their lives and the things that made them fascinating people with interesting stories to tell. 
Getting back to the doctor, I'll call him Dr. Rose. He was a very conservative doctor with modest means who throughout his career made house calls, once something every country doctor did. He told me interesting anecdotes about some of those house calls. He was fascinating to talk with. He said something that stuck with me and I often share the philosophy with those that will listen. This doctor didn't appear to have much to show for his many years in practice. I don't know what he had in the bank. He said that he operated on a basic philosophy the he learned from his parents during the depression.  If he bought something, he used all of it without wasting any.  He didn't buy new when something he had worked perfectly and served its purpose.  He made do with the things he had and if he didn't need it, he did without.  Hence the phrase: “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without.”
I also met another man in my travels. His name was Gene.  Now, Gene was a dairy farmer who somehow managed to provide for his family quite well during his lifetime.  If you visited his farm, like I did, you would quickly notice that his farm didn't have any of those big blue metal and glass silos that all the other farmers seem to have. Gene believed that he could do quite well without one and therefore didn't burden his farm with the expense keeping his profit margins much wider.  He must have known Dr. Rose, for he seemed to be operating on the same premise only buying what he needed. Add to that was Gene's philosophy of only buying what he could afford.  If he didn't have the cash, he didn't buy the item. He just saved until he had enough to buy it without adding debt. 
I operate my voice-over business on much the same philosophy.  I hate debt and will go to all extremes to avoid it.  That means I have to suffer what I call Voiceover envy. I watch from the sidelines as many of my fellow voice artists traverse the earth in search of the next great voice conference to attend.  Yes, it helps to rub shoulders with your peers and meet new people, something I should do more of. But, when I don't have the cash, I simple don't go. Has it hurt my business? That's hard to tell. From the sound of the tweets and social media posts everyone else has more work than they can handle. I don't believe a word of it. This business had an ebb and flow.  Sometimes there's work and between jobs there are serious dry spells.  If you are one of those that truly has more work that you can handle, I'm happy for you. 
So, I probably won't be winging my way west to faff about or be in the crowd in the one and only conference called – Voice. Regardless how temping the frequent flyer miles are or how much fun that drinking activity at the local waterhole in the pre-conference hours might be, I regret that I'll just have pop open one in your honor as I save the bucks for more important things, like a Sennheiser 416 or a Neumann TLM103.  I might even be able to buy a Neumann U87 with the money I might save.

(Those items I listed are highly desirable microphones for people in the voiceover industry).