I never talked to strangers until five years ago when I did some newspaper reporting.(internal link) That changed me. I was forced to ask questions, the best I could think of.
Turns out that nearly everybody is interesting if you find out what they are interested in. Most people want to talk, they just aren’t asked. The more I asked about them, the less I talked about me, the better the answers got.
Reporting was a license to inquire and I could never have anticipated such results. Now, I can engage almost anyone. And I learn from everyone.
Most local weekly papers will take someone on if you come up with original ideas. (internal link) The pay might be only $25 an article so consider it resume building if the money matters. Mostly, though, it’s about you learning to ask enough questions to build a story.
Get a professional microphone. I see too many reporters holding up a cell phone to someone’s face and I don’t like that. You’re intruding on someone’s space. Someone being interviewed expects a professional approach.
My newspaper didn’t have press badges so I made one myself. People expect you to identify yourself. That’s common courtesy.
Notice Sponge Bob on the lanyard. That might not seem professional. I once interviewed a school superintendent. His school district was so concerned about our meeting that a district representative sat in on our interview. I don’t know if he was a lawyer or if he was recording what we said.
As all three of us sat down, the representative commented on Sponge Bob. The superintendent smiled knowingly. “That’s the icebreaker.” Exactly. Very good. This potentially difficult interview hadn’t started yet and already both of them were talking.
I hope you get people talking, too.
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