Being a good listener is the single most important thing you can do as an interviewer. It will help to bring out more honest and interesting answers from the person being interviewed and it will keep your audience engaged and interested as well.
Case in point—a recent post game interview I did with 76ers forward Andre Iguodola after a stunning victory at Boston against the Celtics, the best team in the NBA. After the exciting come-from-behind win, I asked Iguodola what it was like to win a game of this magnitude. Well, I frankly expected platitudes from Iguodola, the usual patter about his young team taking a big step forward by beating a team like Boston on its home floor. Instead, Iguodola was complaining about his team getting off to a slow start, that they never should have allowed themselves to fall behind in the first place and that he (Iguodola) and his less-than-great play earlier in the game was one of the reasons for that.
With that, I followed up with him and asked him to elaborate on the fact that here was his team, the decided underdog, winning a huge game. Yet he felt as though they and he should have played even better. Had I not been listening, the opportunity to follow up and pursue something very interesting and compelling would have gone awry. And viewers who were listening closely would have been miffed at me as the interviewer asking why I hadn’t pursued this fascinating point.
This is not to say you should not do your research on an interviewee or, in the case of a long sit-down interview, have a list of some prepared questions. But when it comes to doing your best job as an interviewer, listening to the answer is right up there with asking the questions!
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