Questionnaires are one of the most important tools for a personal/corporate historian. A well-designed questionnaire is based on thorough research on the information gathered through initial interactions with the client, the material he/she shares, as well as information available in the public domain. Armed with a well-researched questionnaire tailored to suit the profile of the interviewee, the available time, the interview setting, etc. the interviewer starts the interview. The initial questions are all about breaking the ice and dropping the guard…to draw the interviewee into a mood where he/she starts sharing pieces of information the interviewer is looking for, in an anecdotal form. Anecdotes make the best stories. Impersonal and cold information is of little use. The body language of the interviewer and the warm, empathetic responses/reactions to interviewee is another key factor to get the best out of the conversation. Long pauses are very good and shows that the interviewee is in the zone.
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