Long-form magazine stories might take weeks to report, days to write and hours to read. As a result, they are a relatively rare luxury. Few publications have the means to pay a journalist for all that time without a swifter return on their investment--and most people's reading stamina tends much more toward Twitter's 140-character length than the thousands of words that fill a magazine feature.
The same constraints apply in the world of marketing and public relations. Time is of the essence, so it's not typical for a publicist to be able to take a few hours to meet a client in person and then interview him or her for an hour or two--then devote several hours to crafting a news release.
So it's imperative to hone the skill of extracting as many interesting facts as quickly as possible. One offshoot of that trait is the ability to nurture a knack for recognizing a "lede" when it pops up in a conversation. With maybe 10 or 15 minutes to invest in a phone interview, that means you will want to get really good at asking single-sentence (or even single-word) questions to elicit multi-paragraph answers.
Credit for that saying goes to Greg Duncan, an Amway Triple Diamond and leader within World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) who is fond of that line--and employs the principle embedded within it.
One of the compelling factors in favor of speaking a little, and listening a lot, is that you glean much more information, and insight, by letting the other person collect his or her thoughts and then offering the space for those thoughts to come tumbling out. To enable them to keep going ahead with the momentum of sharing, resist the temptation to jump in with any long-winded (or even moderately winded) remarks.
During a lull, one or a few words can be enough to give 'em another jumpstart: "really?" or "tell me more" or "why is that?" are not only simple, they are simply magical in keeping your subject on track.
A few weeks ago, just such a scenario played out between me and someone whose profile I was writing at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge. At first, she had asked me to "tweak" a biography that she had created for her own files. "Tweak" might sound like "tweet"--and with good reason in this case: doing so would have left me with hardly enough detail to qualify the write-up as a biography.
Just give me 10 minutes, I told the woman, massage therapist Jessica Neumann.
About five minutes into our chat, I knew I had the story's "hook." In response to my asking how she had gotten her start in the field, she explained a domestic choice that she faced as a teenager: either do the dishes after dinner or massage her stepmother's feet. And Jessica hated doing the dishes--still does, in fact.
The rest, as the story at TribLocal documents, is history. Jessica is the one who really wrote it--I just gave her space to explain her background and quietly took dictation.