Interviewing and Soundbites

Yesterday on KQED’s Forum their guest was Brooke Gladstone from On the Media. I was struck by this quote, early in the broadcast.

I will ask a question…maybe 5, 6 times, and the person we’re interviewing gets around to answering bits and pieces of it after every iteration and we will sometimes assemble all those answers into one.

This is the art of the interviewer — probing, following up, asking again, in order to get to the answer, eventually. It’s why interviewing in teams is tricky, because the other member of the team needs to know what’s in your head, to give you space to ask that question over and over again til you get to it. Regular people do not speak in soundbites.

We also see this over and over again when we’ve synthesized conclusions and we go look for supporting video data to share with our clients. It’s just not there as some obvious artifact. That’s why, of course, our recommendations come from synthesis — insights are not sitting there waiting to simply be scooped up, they have to be assembled from a variety of sources.

I am envious of those with amazing audio/video editing chops who can use the data to more closely approximate what we want to say; but at the end of the day, the big ideas rarely come out of people’s mouths directly.


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