Everybody knows that most videos are edited—the filmmaker or editor takes the best parts of an interview and creates a succinct and (hopefully) compelling narrative. What we don’t often talk about is the work that goes into crafting questions to elicit stories.
The way you ask a question drastically changes the response you get.
There are countless ways to craft questions, but one word that we use over and over in every interview is moment. When you ask someone a general question like, “How did you get into this work?” you are going to get a vague answer like, “I’ve always loved kids.” That answer could have been said by anyone. There are no details that reveal anything special about this person or their life.
But when you ask the question, “Tell me about the moment when you realized this was the work you wanted to be doing?” you get a much more nuanced and detailed answer. This question asks the interviewee to think back to a moment in their life where there was a spark. Maybe they realized they loved working with kids after a specific interaction where they impacted a kid’s life. That’s the story that’s going to stand out and create meaning. When there are human moments in someone’s story, we are able to truly connect to them and, more importantly, remember their story.
Telling your own story
This same approach is also useful when thinking about one’s own story. Catherine and I have worked with the amazing coach and founder of Point Road Studios, Sharon Lipovsky, for years. One thing she’s helped us to do is identify our own story. This might sound crazy because we are storytellers, but for that very reason we needed someone from the outside pushing us to go deep and get more concrete with ourselves. Much like we do with the people we interview.
The process of telling your own story is important in many ways. For us, understanding where we’ve come from has given us confidence as business-owners and entrepreneurs and helps us feel grounded in our lived experiences. It also helps us distinguish ourselves in a crowded market of other filmmakers. Our story is what makes us unique and different.
4 questions we always ask
In December of 2017 we co-hosted a webinar with Sharon in which we addressed the topic of “Writing the Story of You,” using techniques from both the video storytelling world and the coaching world. We dug deep into four questions and shared our own personal stories as examples:
1. Tell me about the moment when you realized this was the work you wanted to be doing?
2. Are there moments from your early life that you can identify as influential in what you’re doing now?
3. What changes have you observed in yourself over time?
4. As you reflect back on the answers to the previous questions, why is this work meaningful to you?
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