More than ever, companies around the world understand the importance of thought leadership in enabling growth and driving trust among customers and partners. Within a company, no one is better placed to communicate expertise than the experts themselves – be they R&D personnel, key account managers, or internal innovation leaders.

Nevertheless, these ‘thought leaders’ are often too deeply immersed in their particular field or specialism. They don’t really understand how to communicate their message effectively with people who don’t possess their level of understanding.

At Baxter Lawley, we regularly interview experts to deepen our understanding of a topic before writing to showcase an organisation’s thought leadership. Here are our top tips on how to interview an expert successfully.

  1. Do your homework

An obvious point, of course, but there’s simply no substitute for reading up on the topic before the interview. Same goes for researching the expert, and the trends of the industry. Your interviewee is likely to be busy – do him or her the courtesy of having the basics under control. Have your questions planned before picking up the telephone or starting the Skype call.

  1. Plan the piece

Have a clear goal in mind before the interview. Understand the channel you plan to use – whether that’s a magazine, journal, or online platform – and always keep your audience in mind. Equally, make sure you communicate the deliverable’s parameters to your expert and don’t forget to manage their expectations accordingly – but be flexible enough to incorporate new ideas and adjust your narrative as needed.

  1. Break it down into Lego blocks

Mark Twain once said, “If you try to argue with a fool, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Much the same applies to interviewing experts. Instead of letting a narrative run on and on in one direction until you’re drowning in detail, break it up into chunks and make comparisons and links to everyday concepts. “Modular technology”? It just means Lego blocks.

  1. No surrender

When interviewing an expert, victory or defeat will largely be determined by your attitude and your willingness to fight to understand the material. Don’t sit back passively and wait for your moment to ask the next question; keep trying to make connections. And – above all – never concede defeat by switching off.

  1. Now repeat back to me

Before finishing the interview, take the opportunity to paraphrase the basic story back to your expert. Answers to all the key narrative questions – who, why, what, where, when, how – need to be clear in your mind. If not, it’s best to speak up sooner rather than later.

 At Narrative Labs, our team of native-English copywriters have deep experience in interviewing experts and developing engaging, readable narratives out of complex exchanges. From futureproofing cryptocurrency platforms to integrating aramid materials into airfreight containers, and from seed coating technology to the use of agent-based modelling in industrial transitions, we help experts tell their story convincingly across an extremely wide range of topics. Get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you.