It is no freakin’ fun, I can tell you that.
It’s also inevitable. If you’re a content creator who conducts subject matter interviews, it will happen — if it hasn’t already.
And most of the time, this is the form it takes: Those interview questions you took great pains to craft come apart at the seams because what you’re asking, it turns out, is not relevant.
Preparation is the antidote
Back in her writing days, Grace Wright had it happen enough to know that there’s no substitute for good preparation.
As long as it is crystal clear in your mind what an interview must reveal, the questions don’t matter and the conversation can be salvaged. Tell your subject: “Here’s what happened. My interview questions aren’t going to work. But here’s what I need to know. Can we talk it through together?”
Most of the time, they’re happy to help. In fact, these conversations end up being some of the best ones we have owing to how organic they are.
Do a little dissecting
When you realize your interview questions aren’t going to work, it can be a moment of panic.
I tamp down that panic with a show of transparency: “I’m afraid my questions aren’t going to work for this,” I tell my subjects. “But here’s what I was going to ask. Can you tell me where I’ve gone wrong?”
This serves two purposes.
First, it’s live feedback from someone we ordinarily do not get it from.
Second, these in situ dissections have a way of revealing the answers I had hoped to get anyway.
So, if it happens to you, know that not all is lost. Be prepared, know the strategy and level with your subject if something’s off.