Thursday, August 1, 2013

MC perspective: How to talk to people

MCC Michael Jones

In the summer of 2011, I was in the living room of retired Commander Harry Ferrier. He flew in the only Avenger torpedo plane to return from an attack on the Japanese fleet during World War II.

As I sat behind my camera, I watched as MCC Michael Jones conducted the interview.  Keep in mind, over the years Ferrier had talked to many interviewers.  He's in several high end documentaries.

Click the link below to watch our short piece, and get ready for what happens at about three minutes in.

Midway Memories

Let me tell you, when he revealed that information for the first time on camera....that's what you live for as a journalist.  That kind of interview doesn't happen easily.  Chief Jones sat down with him, and the first thing he said was "Tell me your story."  After Ferrier talked about his experience in the Avenger, Chief began his interview.  Because he was patient, he was able to reach depths of this great man that no one before him had been able to.  Total interview time, over three hours.

Watch this full-length documentary, and be on the lookout for Commander Ferrier's parts.  Do they sound familiar?

The Battle of Midway

Over the years, I've identified my strengths and weaknesses.  I'm really good at adapting to people and making them feel comfortable  Thus, my interview technique is very solid.  Tell you right now, I'm in awe of Chief's interviews

People skills are huge in this business.  Chief recently wrote in with some advice on how to talk to your interview subject.


1. Genuinely care about the subject you're covering - always take the approach that you are learning something new, first-hand from your subject.

2. Ask the questions you'd like answered - imagine yourself watching the end product on TV. Would you change the channel? 

3. Put in the time - your subject may think they know what you want to hear. Let them tell their piece in its entirety. Go back and then re-ask your questions. 

4. Maintain eye contact - the soundbites will look better if the subject doesn't feel as if you're taking a survey. Give your viewers a glimpse into a very interesting conversation. Make them wish they'd been there while feeling glad you were there instead. 

5. Allow for a pause at the end of each answer - this gives you extra footage for transitions later. Achieve this by honing your non-verbal cues: nodding, and most important, eye contact.

"You're great at interviewing!  No, YOU'RE great at interviewing!"

Location:  Savannah, GA    Miles traveled:  4,649

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