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How do I prepare an interview technically?




  • Make sure that your interviewee feels at ease. An oral history interview should therefore preferably take place in the interviewee’s home. Interviewees should preferably be seated where they usually sit in the house.
  • Do not sit too far apart.
    Avoid raising your voice and losing eye contact.
  • Do not sit too close either.
    You will invade the interviewees’ personal space and make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Make sure that light falls on the interviewee’s face.



  • Be aware of things that can spoil your recording. Turn off the telephone, TV and radio. Look for ticking clocks, purring cats and anything else that could disturb a recording.
  • Reduce noise from outside the room. Close doors to other parts of the house and, if there is traffic noise, close windows wherever possible.
  • Do not, for example, allow the interviewee to sit with rustling paper in hand.
    A microphone does not distinguish between sounds and therefore picks up disturbing noises just as loudly as speech.
  • When recording an interview it is much better to use a separate microphone than the built-in microphone of the video camera or audio equipment.
  • Make sure that you cannot trip over cords. Do not lay cords near doorways or in places where you could trip over them.
  • The closer the microphone is to the sound source, the better the quality of the recording.
    If you are using a table microphone, point it at the interviewee and place it as close as possible to the interviewee.
  • If using a tie-pin microphone, position it about 15 cm below the mouth of the interviewee.
    Make sure that the clothes cannot rub against the microphone. Microphones with alligator clips are best for this.
  • Record and play back a few seconds of audio to make sure everything works before you start the interview.



  • If you are using video you should also think about how you are going to portray the interviewee.
  • First of all you don’t want direct light in the picture. Avoid backlighting from windows as this makes it difficult to find the right camera setting for exposure.
    If you use artificial light you are more flexible.
  • You want to see as much of the interviewee’s face as possible, in order to register emotions as well.
  • Place the camera next to where you are sitting as the interviewer, or just behind your shoulder.
  • Avoid using auto focus.
    Zoom all the way in to adjust the focus manually and then set the zoomed out position for the shot.
  • A close-up may look interesting, but it can put your interviewees out of frame if they move.
    A more zoomed-out shot is safer if you are the interviewer doing the recording yourself.
    A more zoomed out shot is also interesting because you can see any gestures the interviewee might make.
  • If there is a second person to operate the camera, they can keep an eye on the image and the sound, so that the interviewer can concentrate on asking the questions.
  • The person operating the camera wears headphones to check the sound quality