Tips for Interviewing and Telling Good Stories

Telling stories is hard. Getting people to tell them can be hard too, but once you do, there is nothing as captivating. Recently Tim Ferriss interviewed Alex Blumberg of Gimlet Media on how to tell and elicit engaging stories. The interview is specifically geared toward giving advice to podcasters on how to get people to tell good stories, but can also be used to help you relate information in a way that people will identify with.

Blumberg’s goal when editing a podcast is to draw in his audience with memorable stories. We’re “hard-wired” to want to hear a story and if you can do that with your content, people will listen. He suggests learning to “listen to your own boredom.” In personal interactions we try to meet people halfway to understand their perspective and maintain interest, but the Internet isn’t a personal interaction. If you’re feeling a twinge of boredom or drifting while editing your content or speaking, chances are, you have already lost your audience.

In the same vein, when you are reviewing your content, be aware of any feelings of confusion. The axiom applies here as well: don’t assume people will meet you halfway. Even a subtle feeling that what you are working on might be confusing is an indication that it will be very hard for your audience to follow. Stop and clarify.

Blumberg also has a couple specific techniques and questions to use when interviewing to help get you to that moment where someone tells a story with real emotional appeal. A question he finds useful is “what do you make of that?” It is a little awkward to ask, but it is open-ended and tends to draw out people’s feelings on a subject. He also asks “why is this story meaningful to you?” After using these questions he suggests you “sit back and shut up.” Let your interviewee talk, give them time and you will the story you are looking for.

Part of the interview comes from a Creative Live class that I haven’t seen ($99), but looks interesting.