T&D lessons from an interviewer at the FolkFest

Should you need to find me during the 3rd week of July, for the past 30 some years I’ve been spending it volunteering for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

After a full day of multiple stages sending their musical notes adrift on the salt tinged air, when the sun is setting, kissing the mountains goodnight, with the accompanying beat of the ocean waves, there is nothing that can match the evening concerts.  It’s a community minded, environmentally responsive, family friendly event with music to please every ear.

This year was no exception, as I helped to arrange media interviews.  Through my volunteer work I’ve come to know Dinny from co-op radio, host of What the Folk, as each year, she too returns for more musical hits.  This year I interviewed her about what she’s learned about the art of the interview.

1. Two is the magic number:

  • Denny has an interesting research process.  She does lots of research about the performer she’s interviewing, as much as possible.  Then she condenses her notes into  points that are no longer than 2 sentences.  Then she condenses each sentence into two words.
  • Implication for training & development: research your training topic of course but pay attention to how you craft your training agenda.  Simplify.  Can each of your learning objectives be summarized in 2 words?

2. Listen

  • Denny suggests listening, really listening, instead of thinking about your next question
  • Implication for training & development: okay listening is obvious but how many of us while we’re teaching and a participant asks a question, are really thinking of what we’ll say next?  This is classic Stephen Covey, the 5th habit in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; seek first to understand before being understood.

3. Timing

  • Denny plans to ask 6 questions in a 15 minute interview.  Period.
  • Implications for training & development: when I teach training trainer workshops the most oft mistake made that I see when participants start practicing is mis-use of time.  Something happens when we’re up in front of a group, our clock tends to s….l….o….w   down.  We think we can somehow magically fit 2 hours of content into an hour.
  • One of my pet peeves when I’m taking a workshop is the trainer stating in a breathy, rushed voice, “we have a lot to cover so let’s dive in”.  Yikes.  “I don’t want to feel rushed in my learning” I start grumbling to myself.  I get annoyed and my learning suffers.
  • Advice?  Stop!  Manage your time.  Period.

4. Engage your interviewee through their passion:

  • When interviewing an artist Denny starts with asking them something that relates to their passion – whether about their unique guitar style or unusual way they first got into music.  It demonstrates she’s done her research, shows respect and hey, everyone loves to talk about their passion.  Also don’t be afraid to get a little personal she says.
  • Implication for training & development: no matter if you’re teaching a group how to make widgets, communicate better or use a new computer system, start with what engages them, what is interesting to them.  Classic adult education as well as popular education.  This provides a hook, engages the brain for learning (and makes things waaaaaaay easier for you).

So there you have it, learning about training & development via a sunny patch at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival with insights by interviewer Denny.

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