What to Expect at a StoryCorps Interview
A StoryCorps interview is 40 minutes of uninterrupted time for meaningful conversation with a friend or loved one. What are the questions you want to ask and the memories you want to preserve? No matter how well you know your storyteller, a little preparation will improve the quality of your interview enormously.
When you arrive at your session with a friend or loved one, a trained StoryCorps Facilitator will meet you to explain the process, make you feel comfortable in our recording space, and sit with you during the interview session. If you come alone, the Facilitator will conduct the interview.
The six basic steps to a StoryCorps interview
(2 minutes): The Facilitator will provide some background information about StoryCorps, explain his or her role in the interview process, and answer any questions you might have.
(8 minutes): The Facilitator will walk you through the paperwork, which asks for basic personal information such as name, address, and ethnic background.
3. Sound check
(5 minutes): Once you and your interview partner are ready to proceed, the Facilitator will make sure you are positioned well for recording and check the audio levels.
(40 minutes): Use your prepared question list, but remember they are just suggestions to get you started. Trust your instincts. When you hear something that moves you, ask more questions. Sometimes your storyteller will need “permission” to explore a certain topic; you can simply say “Tell me more.” Feel free to ask questions in whatever order feels right, and don’t let them constrain the conversation. Real moments are the best moments.
Some tips for helping the conversation flow:
- Look at your storyteller’s eyes, not the microphone. Stay interested and engaged.
- Be yourself; you can laugh or even cry with your storyteller.
- Emotional questions like “how does this make you feel?” often elicit thoughtful responses. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Be curious and honest and keep an open heart. Great things will happen.
While you and your partner are talking, the Facilitator will take notes, keep time, and monitor audio. Facilitators are not interviewers, though they may ask a question during the recording.
5. Release Options
(4 minutes): Our facilitator will explain the release form, which allows StoryCorps to keep one copy of your recording and send another to the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. After your recording has been archived, StoryCorps will send you a digital copy of the interview for download.
(6 minutes): Finally, the Facilitator will take photos of you and your interview partner, both together and separately. These photos will be included in the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
More Tips and Suggestions
- Arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time.
- Go to the bathroom before you come. Unfortunately our recording booths are not equipped with bathrooms.
- Bring a list of questions with you. If you need help, read our Great Questions.
- Bring a bottle of water for you and your interview partner.