Step 2 - To Set the Atmosphere for a Productive Conversation or Interview...Do Your Homework

Now that you've set the ground rules for your conversation, the next step to set a productive atmosphere is to do your homework. By this, I mean to study and understand who you will be talking with. From the New Yorker magazine article about Terry Gross I mentioned in an earlier blog post , the author writes,"What often puts those guests at ease is Gross’ understanding of their work." Another way of explaining this trait of Terry's came from the answer to a question I once asked of John Burnett, an NPR reporter and colleague of Terry's , at a speech he gave in Austin. I asked John, "How does Terry Gross do it? How does she consistently, interview after interview, conduct such quality interviews, asking such great questions and getting such informative answers?" John's answer was simple, "She has no life!" After a chuckle, he explained, "No one does their homework better than Terry Gross. If you go to her apartment, her bed is covered with books and articles about the next person she is going to interview."

There is no doubt that knowing the person you are talking with helps to make for a more productive conversation. But if you are going to be talking with someone who you've never met before, then do some simple homework on the internet using search engines like Google. It's amazing (even scary) how much is out there about us and others. The more you know about someone as you enter into a conversation, the more they think you care...and that is huge. One of my favorite expressions is, "People don't care how much you know if they know how much you care."

The best thing about this kind of homework is that it's fun. Searching for information about someone is like going on a treasure hunt. You will find, unexpectedly, things about people you didn't know...things that make them much more interesting to talk to than you ever imagined! To make your homework and the conversation you will have even more productive, see my next blog post "Sincere Interest and Genuine Curiosity."