Boost Your Yearbook Spread With Great Interview Tips

Awesome features within your publication start with well-conducted interviews. For most members of your yearbook committee, this situation is the first time they’ll really interview someone. This means you need to teach them how to host a fantastic interview before you send them off to conduct one on their own. Because this isn’t something that you teach every day, it can help to have a list of best practices that outline how to run an interview from start to finish. Below, I’ll walk you through a few of my own top interview tips that will help your team get the best details for the most personalized features within your yearbook spread!

Set the Stage

Before you contact an interviewee, you need to know your subject matter. This means outlining the focus of your article and understanding how that topic relates to the person you’re interviewing. Do this prep work before setting up your interview to ensure that you know exactly why the individual you’re contacting is an important source for the yearbook spread. Use this information when you ask for a meeting. For example:

“Hi, {interviewee}. My name is {name} and I’m writing an article about {the volleyball team’s state championship win} for the yearbook. As the {coach of the team}, you played an integral role in {the training that led up to the win.} Would you be willing to spend a few minutes next week talking to me about this?

Prep Your Questions

Before walking into an interview, you should have 10 to 20 questions prepared that pertain to your article topic. Include open-ended queries that encourage the interviewee to respond with more than a simple “yes” or “no.” As you write your questions, think about how you can get interesting information that crafts a story your audience will want to read. Addressing challenges the interviewee faced and how they created in-the-moment solutions will pull great in-depth data for your article. Think strategically and incorporate some unique details to get your subject talking. To continue our volleyball example, here are a few questions that could spur a unique take within a piece for your yearbook spread:

  • What challenges did you face at the beginning of the season? How did you overcome those hurdles to ultimately go on to the state championship?
  • What was the team dynamic at the start of the year? How did you work to develop a more cohesive group as the season progressed?
  • What did your team learn this year that will carry over into how the team performs next season?

Be Personable

Your interviewees will open up more when they connect with you. There are a few key ways to make the person you’re interviewing feel comfortable from the moment you sit down.

  • Start with casual conversation: Introduce yourself, tell your interviewee a little about who you are and ask them how their day is going. The more casual you can make the conversation from the start, the easier it will be for them to relax.
  • Don’t be afraid to make comments and ask follow-up questions: Interviewees may think that since you already have all the facts, they can’t really add much else to your piece. Make sure they know you’re interested in what they have to say by adding comments and asking follow up questions like, “That must have been so rewarding–can you tell me a little more?” This also helps you draw more details out of interviewees that are a little less talkative.
  • Smile: Walking into an interview is nerve-wracking! To keep it from feeling like an interrogation, make sure you’re both comfortable. You can easily put anyone at ease by smiling and acting calm and relaxed yourself. It immediately creates a less tense environment for your interview, which makes it easier to get your subject to open up.

Take Great Notes for Your Yearbook Spread

Excellent interviews are only usable if you take great notes. And I can tell you from experience that taking notes in these situations isn’t always easy. You’ll be typing on your computer while they’re talking, and that’s a little awkward. Take the elephant out of the room right away by making a joke about how you’ll try to keep up, but your fingers are a little slower than how fast you can talk! It’s cheesy, but it lightens the mood. Having a voice recorder can also help–use that to get their exact words–but still take notes as the inspiration strikes–ideas of follow-up questions, how to incorporate their ideas within the piece–whatever comes to mind! Don’t try to make your notes perfect–you’ll be able to go back and correct spelling and grammar mistakes later. Remember, your goal is to keep as many details of the conversation front and center, so that you can capture them in your article.

It’s okay if it takes you a few extra moments to finish typing a thought before you move onto the next question. You want to hear everything that your subject has to say, and that’s just not possible if your interviewee has moved onto a new topic while you’re still typing up their responses from the last question. Finally, try to look up and make eye contact as often as possible. This helps you to maintain that personable vibe established at the start of the interview, and encourages your subject to keep talking as you’re writing. And that helps you get the most pertinent information that helps you to craft a brilliant story for your yearbook spread!