Tell Me a Story: Tips for Interviewing and Being a Good Listener by Kristin Fields

Kristin Fields
Kristin Fields

My name is Kristin Fields and I am the editor for AEA’s monthly e-newsletter. I joined the AEA staff about a year ago, and it has been such a pleasure to learn about our many members’ experiences in the field of evaluation.

Our e-newsletter is a chance to share the latest and greatest AEA news, events and educational opportunities with you. It’s also a great place to learn about your fellow members, whether it’s through columns like “The Face of AEA,” which spotlights member experiences, or sharing updates from our many AEA Topical Interest Groups. By getting to know your fellow AEA members, you may find you share a common experience, and down the road they can be a resource to help you solve a challenge. Learning from others is a powerful tool, and with that in mind, I’d like to share a few tips for interviewing. Not a writer? Not a problem. With Evaluation 2018 right around the corner, these tips can also be applied to the many networking opportunities you’ll have between sessions.

Hot Tip: Come prepared with a list of questions.

There’s nothing worse than an unprepared interviewer. When asking someone to take time out of their day for you, make sure you have a list of questions handy. Whenever possible, share questions in advance to ensure a productive conversation. While networking doesn’t necessitate the same procedure, it never hurts to mentally prepare a few basic questions (i.e. “How long have you been in the field? What got you started? What are some of the challenges/successes you’ve faced recently?”)

Hot Tip: Pay attention.

This seems obvious – however, there are so many distractions that can ruin a good conversation. When interviewing someone for a story, it’s important to ask if you can record the conversation. This lets you avoid typing notes as they speak, so you’re fully present and the click-clacks of your keyboard don’t detract from the conversation. While you don’t need to record conversations while networking, similar rules apply: put your device down, maintain eye contact and focus on what the person is saying so the conversation flows naturally.

Hot Tip: Follow up is key!

Once the interview is published, be sure to follow-up with the interviewee and thank them for their time. If applicable, share a link to the article online and encourage them to share it with others, too. In networking situations, don’t forget to get the person’s contact information, and follow-up with a quick note to thank them for their time. This can lead to future conversations and greater connections.

Whether you’re interviewing someone for a blog or making a connection in person, I hope these tips lead to productive conversations and future relationship building.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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