Effective Interviewing of Subject Matter Experts

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Planning, organizing, and writing techniques for preparing to interview subject matter experts (SMEs), followed by techniques to actually conduct the interview with a focus on listening, told through a bit of a story line.

Published in: Business, Technology, Education

Effective Interviewing of Subject Matter Experts

  1. 1. Effective Interviewing of Subject Matter Experts Making the information connection Rich Maggiani Solari Communication © 2008 Solari Communication. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Interviewing is research as a social act So… Be sociable Take an interest in the person you are interviewing © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Two Types of Research © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Recovery Adds to your knowledge Can be valuable in its own right At one point, recovery depended upon discovery © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Discovery Sheds new light on a topic Adds to the knowledge base Much more valuable and significant © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Control the Dynamics of the Interview Control the amount and accuracy and completeness of the information you receive Control content, pace, and tone Keep a positive attitude Create a positive climate © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. No two interviews are ever exactly alike since participants make unique contributions © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. The Trail Ahead Prepare and plan Establish a comfortable exchange Let the SME talk Actively listen Guide the flow and content © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. Our Characters © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Our Interviewer: Ann © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. Our SME: Karl © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. Establishes a Foundation © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. Establishes a Foundation Understands the SME’s stature Gets management support Obtains the SME’s support © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. Holds a Kick-off Meeting Establishes the importance of the project Outlines a process for the project Sets a timeline Explains specific goals and objectives © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. Plans the Interview © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. Plans the Interview Does her homework Designs questions Writes questions Orders them Creates a schedule © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. Does Her Homework Reads existing related materials: Technical Promotional Informational Researches related materials © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. Designs Questions that… Elicit facts, anecdotes, and opinions that add a meaningful dimension Uncover facts she must know Are closed-end with brief, specific answers Avoid potential vague ramblings Avoid sensitive information © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. Writes Open-ended Questions Who is the intended audience? What must they know? When would they use the software? Where do they enter information? Why run this process? How does this feature work? © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. Writes Questions That Ask… Only for relevant, factual, specific information For related information One thought per question © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. Orders Her Questions Sequences her questions logically Allows them to build on previous questions and answers © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. Schedules the Interview An amount that can be absorbed and discussed in a period of time One meeting with a time limit, or a series of meetings States a specific purpose: knows what she wants to walk away with? Tells Karl ahead of time © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. Keeps a Record © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. Keeps a Record Takes ample notes Doesn’t let them distract though Or records the interview Asks for permission Tests her recording device © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. Establishes a Comfortable Exchange © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. A Comfortable Exchange Gets to know Karl beforehand Drops by his office; checks it out Looks for clues about his life Introduces herself in person © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. A Comfortable Exchange Connects; put him at ease Begins with small talk, about him Then some easy-to-answer warm-ups Gives ample prompts and encouragement © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. A Comfortable Exchange Is respectful, but not deferential Bad attitude? Considers rescheduling Superiority complex? Ignores it Smiles politely, curses silently to herself, and continues Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t know! © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. Lets Karl Talk © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. Lets Karl Talk Asks general questions: “How do you feel about the software?” Asks closed-end questions: “How long have you worked on this project?” Asks pointed open-end questions: “How do users most benefit?” © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. And Most Importantly, She Listens! © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. Ann Knows Listening Is vital Is difficult Is active (not passive) Requires mental effort Because up to 90% of a message is nonverbal! © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Knows Her Barriers to Listening Thinks ten times faster Hears noise, but must tune it out Curbs overwhelming emotions Doesn’t fidget Is patient © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  34. 34. Knows His Barriers to Listening Outside distractions: email, cell phones, intercom Interruptions Shortage of time; hurrying © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  35. 35. Understand How Her Behavior Is Perceived So she listens with her: Ears Mind Eyes Heart © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  36. 36. She Listens with Her Ears Has an alert body with an open posture Uses expressive gestures Makes welcoming facial expressions Maintains eye contact Keeps a comfortable distance © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  37. 37. She Listens with Her Mind Maintains an alert mind and an open mind Empathizes Is objective Thinks analytically © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  38. 38. She Listens with Her Eyes By observing Karl’s: Body posture Movements Eyes Facial expressions ‘Presence’ © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  39. 39. She Listens with Her Heart Analyzes feelings Notices loudness of speech Notices pace Hears the tone Feels the emotions © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  40. 40. She Listens How Words Are Said Ann: “Tell me what you think about this new feature?” Karl: “Yeah, that was a great idea!” “Yeah, that was a great idea…” © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  41. 41. When Listening, Ann Never… Anticipates what’s coming Interrupts Finishes sentences Criticizes or argues Is biased Stereotypes © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  42. 42. She Knows the Key to Effective Listening Is To SHUT UP! No really, she stops talking © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  43. 43. She Learns to Tolerate Silence… while waiting for the SME to respond. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  44. 44. Ann Finds She Elicits… Deeper thoughts More consideration Juicier facts “I shouldn’t probably be telling you this, but …” © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  45. 45. Guides the Flow and Content © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  46. 46. Guides the Flow and Content Structures the interview: bell curve Keeps to planned questions Rephrases for complete understanding Derails the tangents: “Um, excuse me Karl. That’s an interesting story; we still have much to cover…” © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  47. 47. Guides the Flow and Content Doesn’t impose your view: Not: “So, method A is best then?” Rather: “So, which method is best?” Challenges assumptions Clarifies Probes skillfully © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  48. 48. When Interviewing via Email © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  49. 49. When Interviewing via Email Writes: pointed questions: no repartee Short, formal, to the point Arranges logically and thoughtfully Makes sure they solicit the information you want © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  50. 50. Know Interviewing via Email Is careful, cohesive, coherent so as not taken the wrong way Takes time to think out a response To-the-point responses, no ramblings © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  51. 51. When Interviewing via Email Writes specific subject lines Knows responses can take awhile Requests a receipt to ensure arrival Reminds politely when late Saves emails for future reference © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  52. 52. She Knows What’s Missing via Email Tone of voice Facial expressions Body language Eye movement Remembers: she can always call © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  53. 53. Ends When Finished © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  54. 54. Ends When Finished Summarizes what she has learned Assigns action items Enables follow-up, clarifying questions “Is there anything else I need to know?” “Well then, thanks so much for your time.” © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  55. 55. The Summit © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  56. 56. You’ve Reached the Summit Prepared and planned Established a comfortable exchange Let the SME talk Actively listened Guided the flow and content © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  57. 57. “Everyone has a role in the world, and who is to say which role is more worthy or admirable than any other. Since every person I’ve interviewed has lead a life unique to them, they have something to say about the world that I couldn’t get from anyone else.” –Sebastian Junger, Welcome Stranger © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  58. 58. Contact me at… Rich Maggiani Communication Consultant Solari Communication 137 Lost Nation, Suite 14 Essex, Vermont 05452 802.879.9330 rich.maggiani@solari.net www.solari.net © 2008. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.
  59. 59. Blossoming Flowers © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved. © 2009 Solari Communication. All rights reserved.

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