At the fourth edition of The Power of Storytelling, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and veteran coach Jacqui Banaszynski offered a few interviewing tips to help reporters become better listeners and tell better stories.
- Use all of your senses, they are a very important part of the way we report: smell, sound, sight, touch, body language, tone of voice, how we move.
“It’s the things we don’t say when we speak, the stuff that exists between the lines, in the silences. That’s the other way that we communicate.”
- The most important one is the sixth sense: emotion, that part of ourself that is uniquely human.
“The sixth sense is the thing that allows us to ask the question that our readers or viewers will most have, the question that we all would have, as normal human beings, who wonder how people get through their lives.”
- The interview is a full body sport, a totally immersion event.
“And if you interview well, listen well, you come away from situations fairly exhausted.”
- Don’t be afraid of the question that you think would be uncomfortable for the other person.
“If you ask questions like this, with context, with genuine openness, without judgment, without presuming the answer, and if people know why you’re asking those questions they often will answer and they often will answer in ways that amaze you.”
- Ask people to show you photos.
“An amazing thing happens when you ask to see a picture. People will tell you stories about what’s going on in the picture.”
- Use storyteller questions.
“Storyteller questions are questions that help put people back in the movie of their own life. We live our lives in scenes.”
- Don’t be afraid to probe.
“That doesn’t mean you have to be pushy, but it means that for every question you ask, there are layers upon layers upon layers behind that question that you can help people get into by asking additional questions.”
- Slow down, don’t rush.
“We rush into a situation, we start asking questions because we’re fearful that we’re imposing on people’s time, we’re nervous about our own insecurities, we’re afraid of looking stupid, so we rush. Instead of stopping and explaining ourselves, telling people what we’re doing and why we want to do it and how we’re going to do it and giving them time to figure out what they might want to say.”
- Believe in the purpose of what you’re doing.
“You have to believe that this work matters. You have to understand what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to do it because unless you believe in the work, you won’t fully immerse yourself. You won’t be fully present for people.”
- “And the last craft trick is strictly that. Be present, be fully present.”
The fourth edition of The Power of Storytelling took place in Bucharest on October 17-18. Read more about how it went and what we’ve learned here.