If you work in software marketing, you'll know that a 15-minute chat with a technical expert can be the difference between a piece of content that resonates with your target audience, and one that falls flat.
You'll also know that technical resources - whether they're business analysts, solution consultants or developers - aren't easy to pin down. If they're not out on client sites, they're running training sessions, building solutions or resolving customer issues.
Getting a technical resource in a room for an interview can seem more difficult than extracting your own wisdom teeth. So if you’ve convinced one to talk content marketing and scheduled a time to meet, good job! That's half the battle won.
The second half of the battle is using that time wisely. You don't want to have to go back for clarification or schedule a second meeting if you can help it.
Here are my top five tips for getting the most from your next interview with a technical resource.
1. Be prepared
Talking shop with a software developer? Discussing client challenges with a business analyst? Either way, it's best to arrive prepared.
When I meet with technical resources, for example, I begin by explaining:
- The meeting's purpose - i.e. "I'd like to talk to you about the latest SharePoint release so we can share an update on our company blog."
- Why you need the interviewee's expertise - i.e. "As our top SharePoint consultant, you're the expert in this field. Can you take me through some of the key features in version XX?"
- The intended audience - i.e. "This is a high-level piece targeted at existing customers. The aim of this piece is to explain the benefits of upgrading to the latest version. It doesn't need to be over-the-top technical."
This helps the interviewee understand their role in the meeting and the type of information that you need. Providing context at the beginning will also prevent the interview going off course later on.
2. Focus on solving problems
With limited interview time, keep the conversation focused on topics that:
- Are relevant to the target audience
- Solve real-world problems
If your technical expert gets carried away discussing the finer details of a solution or product, it's your job to get them back on track. I usually do this by asking customer-focused follow-up questions, including:
- What does this mean for end users?
- What are the benefits or downsides of XX?
- To whom would you recommend this solution?
This is a gentle way to nudge your interviewee in the right direction without disrupting the interview flow.
3. Inject fun and enthusiasm (caffeine helps!)
Most people already attend enough stuffy, boring meetings. There's no reason yours should be the same.
Make your interviewee a coffee and talk things through at their desk. Buy them lunch at the sandwich shop across the road. Do whatever it takes to convince them to sit down and share their knowledge with you.
Remember, if your interviewee enjoys the experience, they might even tell their technically-minded colleagues that it's worth making time to chat.
4. Record the conversation
The last thing you want to do is put words into people’s mouths or misrepresent them. At the same time, you also don’t want to interrupt the conversation by pausing to scribble notes in an exercise book, or appear disengaged while typing away on your smartphone.
Unless you're also creating podcasts (in which case you'll want to buy a decent USB microphone), you don't need fancy or expensive recording equipment. I use the free voice recorder app on my iPhone.
5. Thank them for their time
It's a no-brainer to thank your interviewee at the end of the meeting. But you should also send a quick thank you email when the article is published. And don't forget to ask for their feedback!
In summary, your interviewing efforts will be much more effective if you;
- Do your homework and come to the meeting prepared
- Focus the discussion on business problem / solution
- Make it fun
- Record the interview
- Thank them and encourage feedback.