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The Write Stuff October 2019 Volume 15 Issue 10

Too Scared to Ask?

With a nod to Halloween, I focus this month on something many people find scary: interviewing. It’s an art to draw out information from people, and I learned it while studying journalism. Having this ability is one of the reasons I’m confident I can write about anything — because all I need to do is gather input from those in the know.

You may think interviewing in the business world is limited to the job search process, but you’d be wrong. There are any number of times when you need to learn something from another person, and while you may think of it as merely asking questions, you’re really conducting an interview.

Here are five tips to do it better:

  • Do your homework. It’s never a good idea to go “blindly” into an interview situation. Get some background on the person you’ll be talking with and learn a little about the topic at hand.
  • Make the other person comfortable. Many people don’t like being interviewed, but your behavior can change that. Be relaxed, open, upbeat, and curious, and it’s likely the other person will follow your lead.
  • Prioritize conversation. This is another way to get people to relax — don’t ask a prepared list of questions, which can make it feel like an interrogation. Certainly know what information you want to learn, but discover it using the art of conversation.
  • Don’t shy away from tough subjects. If you want to learn about something controversial or decidedly negative, don’t lead with that. Develop a rapport by conversing and then be confident enough to work in the tough question.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Stay away from questions that can be answered with a yes or no. For instance, ask, “What has 2019 been like for the company?” rather than, “Has 2019 been a good year for the company?”

Should you record interviews? I’m not a fan of that — but I’m a really good (and fast) note-taker. If you don’t think you can keep up, recording is an option, but know your writing process will be longer as you replay the interview.

And, one thing I do that seems to set people at ease is tell them upfront that they’ll be able to review what I write. That’s a no-no in the journalism world, but perfectly acceptable for most  business writing.

List “Etiquette”

The word including means “containing as part of the whole being considered.” Thus, our product comes in four colors, including red, blue, black and purple is wrong, since all the options are listed. You could write our product comes in four colors, including red and blue, or our product comes in four colors: red, blue, black and purple.

How about using including but not limited to? That might be appropriate in a legal document, but in typical business writing, it’s clunky and unnecessary.

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Print is back — if it ever even left. Make a deeper impact at networking events, trade shows, and sales presentations by sharing your brand story and offerings in a clever way that’s concise and comprehensive — and fits in a pocket (or pocketbook). Check out Website in a Pocket to learn more.

Published On: October 15th, 2019 / Categories: 2019 /

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