Copywriters spend a lot of time interviewing people - the client, the client's customers (for case studies) and industry gurus (for articles). Personally, I like to use the telephone. It is so much less an intrusion into a busy person's working day and therefore easier to gain agreement for an interview. It is so much faster getting to the point. I normally tape record the interview, with agreement, and transcribe it later. Taping an interview makes it so much easier to listen.
Understanding the power of Open and Closed questions
Closed Questions are those that prompt a Yes or No answer. Yet they do have their place.
For testing understanding (asking yes/no questions) "So, you are happy to be quoted, provided you have editorial sign-off and control before publication?"
For setting up a desired positive or negative frame of mind (asking successive questions with obvious answers either yes or no ). Are you happy with your current supplier?
They are very much to the point, so they are used when an interviewee is being evasive (listen to experienced TV interviewers confronting politicians).
Open Questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No.
They invite a descriptive, a fuller response. For example, using a closed question: "Did you have good weather on holidays?" might invoke a simple "Yes." That could mean anything from snow to sun to wind, depending on the type of holiday. The Open Question ''What sort of weather did you have on holiday?'' might have elicited the response ''Fantastic! We had the best snow ever for skiing.''
They will reveal opinions and feelings.
They get people to evaluate their views/feelings/opinions
They encourage conversation (helping us achieve a good listen/talk ratio). Listen to professional TV interviewers and they will make considerable use of Open Questions early on in the interview.
They gain time - time to think.
How, under the pressure of an interview, can you easily ensure that your questions are Open Questions?
Easy - they usually begin with Why? and How? "Why did you change your supplier?", "How did your Widget change your life?
There are two other ways of using questions - the directive question (used to test sincerity or to redirect the conversation) and the reflective question (useful in getting the interviewee to expand further on what they have said). But they are a subject for a future blog.