#TipsonTuesday: How to Interview Someone for an Everlasting Footprint

Personal memories and narratives are what your Everlasting Footprint Stories are all about. The Everlasting Footprint Storybook allows you to write stories of your loved ones that capture your fondest memories of them. We all have relatives or friends who with funny anecdotes or thoughtful and poignant remembrances of the person you are memorializing. When you want to capture what someone was like, you need to know how to interview people to get them to tell you those great stories about your loved ones who have passed away.

Each thing that made your loved one unique can be a great story. It could be something about the way the person made everyone laugh, or the way he or she loved to read classic literature. The right interview tips will help you describe a friend of relative’s story about your loved one; a story you can share with other people interested in your loved one’s legacy.

Interviewing perople for an Everlasting Footprint(Photo by Kenneth Freeman)

While creating an Everlasting Footprint for a loved one, you and the others who knew your loved one can collaborate to tell the person’s complete story. By using tried-and-true interviewing techniques, you can involve everyone who knew the person.

You may want to discover something you didn’t know or find another side to the person you write about. You may decide you want to write a themed story, such as the time your loved one spent in Hawaii, or the way the person visited every ballpark near every vacation area.

If you find yourself interviewing someone to help write a Story for a Footprint’s Storybook, consider how to make the interview as helpful and enlightening as possible. It is a chance to connect with someone and to hear about the richness of other people’s lives.

Preparation for Interview

Get Organized

The first thing to do is set goals, listing who you would like to interview for your Story. Some people who live nearby might meet you face-to-face, and other relatives who live miles away might speak to you over the phone. Perhaps some can Skype or Facetime. Prepare the interview to be as personal as possible, and in some people’s case, that may even be email or “snail” mail.

Prepare Your Interview Questions

The most helpful tool in knowing how to interview someone is having your questions ready. When you meet with the person you are interviewing, your interview questions should be outlined. If your Story requires any research beforehand, take notes. Dates, world events, fashion trends – many things can affect how you conduct an interview and tell your Story.

how to interview someone - interview questions preparationHave your interview questions prepared.
(Photo by Tom Page)


Interview Tips

Be Flexible in an Interview

Accommodate for new directions of conversation that you didn’t anticipate. Remember that interviewing is an exchange of information, and if the person begins to tell you things you weren’t prepared for, it could end up as an entirely new story.

Ask Both Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions, Then Follow Up

Open-ended interview questions that require the person you are interviewing to answer with more than “yes” or “no.” Asking open-ended interview questions will keep the conversation moving, and allow the person to elaborate without being prompted.

Some examples of leading, open-ended questions you might consider when conducting an interview for an Everlasting Footprint Storybook are:

“What do you remember the most about … ?”

“What did you think about … ?”

“Can you describe to me … ?”

“What was your favorite thing about … ?”

You should ask some closed-ended interview questions occasionally, if the conversation stalls. It will allow you to probe into a topic without delving too far, and you can always ask the person to elaborate more.

Some examples of closed-ended questions you might consider when conducting an interview include:

“The date of [a particular event, such as a wedding, death, or college] was [a particular date], correct?”

“You were how old when this event happened?”

“And where did you live after that?”

After any of these questions, when the interviewed person answers with a single word or two, you can always follow up with the phrase, “Tell me more about that.”

Make the Interview Comfortable

Let the person you’re interviewing relax. He or she should sit or stand, or even move around, in order to allow the discussion to flow. Meeting in a public place can be comfortable, but the discussion during an interview for a Footprint Story could become emotional and might need privacy.

You may want to discreetly have tissues nearby for any really emotional stories. Successful interviewing requires being prepared on all levels.

Comfortable Interview Space - how to interview someoneA comfortable interview space is important for a successful interview.
(Photo by 
Pen Wagganer)

Be Courteous and Respectful

Considering how to conduct an interview while keeping the person you’re interviewing comfortable, you may want to debate whether to write while the person is talking, write after the interview concludes, or record what the person is saying for later transcription. You should speak with the person as part of your preparation for an interview to decide.

Recording an interview can help you get all the details, but ask for the person’s permission beforehand. Of course, explain about the Footprint and show it to your interviewee if you can, so he or she knows how you will use what is said. Explain how you are doing something for the person you both loved, and how important it is to get all the details correct.    

Be Patient During an Interview

Not everyone organizes themselves easily when preparing for an interview, and some people ramble naturally when speaking. Gently, lead the person back to the story, but let them say what they need to say. Don’t push or rush. The ramblings can be a favor and some of the best interview stories come from diverging off the topic.

Listen, Really Listen

It should be obvious that the biggest of interview tips is something essential in an interview, but: Nothing is as important as really listening. This is the time you want the person you are interviewing to open up. You are trying to get him or her to express feelings, thoughts, and emotions, so you shouldn’t talk too much. Speak only as much as necessary to be encouraging and to keep the dialogue going. Paraphrasing the person’s responses throughout the interview shows you understand, and that you are listening and interested.

Be Enthusiastic

Let the person you interview know you are enjoying the memories. Smile, nod, or continue questions to hear more. Someone who knows that you are enjoying the conversation is more likely to keep going.

Control Your Interview Questions

If the person digresses and what they are telling you will not help your Story, gently steer them back to the question. Be courteous, and suggest, “Let’s talk again about …” or “Getting back to what you said before about …”

After your interview is done, remember to thank the person. Seasoned writers’ interview tips include compiling any notes as soon as possible, while the details are fresh in your mind. Be as accurate in your interview notes as possible so you don’t encounter difficulties in the future. The preparation for interview publication begins as soon as the interview is over, so spending time organizing your thoughts for the Story now will make printing the Story on the Everlasting Footprint Storybook quick and easy. With the information you gathered, you can now write the story that pays a great tribute to your loved one.

hug after an interview to say thank youExpress your gratitude after an interview with a heartfelt handshake or hug.
(Photo by 
Tania Cataldo)

Learning how to interview someone is a process, and it may take several interviews before you are comfortable with your own style and interview techniques. Remember that these people whom you interview are also looking to commemorate and celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones, and you may be helping them heal in their own grieving process. Sharing the Stories of your loved ones’ lives on an Everlasting Footprint Storybook enriches and honors their lives like nothing else, and that is well worth experiencing some growing pains while learning how to conduct an interview.


About Cindy Readnower

Cindy Readnower, MBA, specializes in sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship. An award-winning certified Life Coach, business consultant, and publisher at Skinny Leopard Media, she helps writers produce and promote their books. She is a newspaper columnist, author of "Inherited Secrets," and a blogger.

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