10 Lessons Learnt From Hosting My First Group Interview
You may have been wondering where I’ve been and why I haven’t posted in a while and now I’m going to give you the answer.
The reason is because I’ve been putting together a huge group interview on reader engagement, a follow up to my recent post on tactics, tools and examples of great reader engagement.
So far we’ve got contributions from Seth Godin, Neil Patel, Ted Rubin, Mark Schaefer and more.
I’m planning a lot more of these in the future, and this first interview has taught me a lot – now I want to share what I’ve learnt with you all.
What I’ve learnt so far…
Planning is key
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
I started with a topic that I had already been talking about (reader engagement) and picked out some straight forward questions that would provide the people I was planning to approach, the opportunity to expand and give some really great answers.
Questions that are too restrictive can be difficult for people to answer and relate to their own experiences – and its peoples experiences that you will benefit from more than anything else.
Knowing my market already I had a picture in my mind of the types of people I was going to approach, so I made a list and started emailing.
So the process to follow here is –
- Identify your target audience
- Identify what they need to know and what types of questions will make the biggest difference to them
- Make a list of industry influencers that have experience with the topics that your questions focus on
- Start contacting!
You need a deadline
If you don’t give a deadline, it’s a struggle to convey a sense of urgency.
Those that have some time will get their responses to you fairly quick, and others may forget or not see it as though it’s that urgent and then it gets pushed aside and your response rate will fall through the floor.
You need to get a balance here though, because having a rigid deadline can also cause your response rate to fall as the people you contact will have busy schedules – by being flexible with your deadline it may mean the time to get all your responses in increases but you’ll open yourself up to more responses.
A lot of people I asked to get involved in the interview are very busy people who get requests like this a lot and they are usually the ones that won’t be able to take part if your deadline isn’t flexible.
So, set a deadline but be flexible.
Timing is everything
This does tie in quite a lot with your deadline.
You need to have a rough time frame in mind, but you need to make sure you give people enough time to get back to you with answers.
Similarly, you can’t give them too much time otherwise they may just never get back to you.
What you need to remember is that most people have a schedule, they have a life outside of what they do professionally and they may speak at events for example – it may just be the case that the timing of your group interview just won’t work for some people.
That’s not to say that you can’t ask them to take part in the next group interview you do though.
What you also need to bear in mind is that a group interview takes a lot of time to prepare, especially if it’s on a large scale – but you also need to give time for yourself to prepare because the entire process involves sending a lot of emails and some negotiating.
You’ll then have proof reading to do if it’s in text form and then you’ve got to publish, promote it and notify everyone who is involved that it’s now live.
So while it’s important to remember to give the experts who take part, time enough to take part in the group interview, you need to give yourself enough time.
Know when to draw the line
There are a lot of people that I wanted to take part in this group interview that I couldn’t get hold of or were busy at the time, there’s no guarantee’s and people will keep saying they’ll get back to you and then life will get in the way.
That’s totally understandable, it’s easy for us bloggers and marketers to forget that there is an outside world (or maybe that’s me).
After all, I am a work-aholic and I occasionally have to get dragged away from my computer (only joking, it doesn’t get that bad).
We can keep hanging on and extending deadlines and still something will crop up that’s outside someone’s control so you may just have to go for it.
Remember, it’s not the end of the world and you can always do more group interviews or add a response on after it’s gone live (of course that’s not the best thing to happen, but it’s still an option).
You could always do a part 2 post and then combine them later on.
Don’t let setbacks or rejections deter you
You will get people who say no, people who don’t respond at all, people who would like to if they weren’t too busy and people who say they’ll take part and then don’t get back to you.
Ultimately you need to remain patient, because if you set it up right then everything will come together in the end.
If you find you’ve gone way beyond your initial time frame, so what? Sure it would be nice to get everything together, publish it and promote it but things don’t always go to plan.
If you put the effort in and see it through to the end then it will come together, a little later than planned maybe but it will come together.
There are more ways to get in touch than email
I found that there were a number of people I wanted to get involved in this group interview that were strangely difficult to get hold of by email.
So don’t forget, you’ve always got social media too.
I did do the bulk of my contacting through email because that was just easier because I could include an explanation of the group interview and the questions I wanted respondents to answer but for those that were difficult to contact Twitter was definitely the way forward.
Shoot for the stars
There were a few people I asked to participate in the interview that I never expected to take part, let alone even respond to my email.
It reminds me of a phrase my mum always used to say – “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”.
And that is so true.
For example, when I was at a restaurant with my girlfriend a few weeks, we got on to the subject of this group interview and one of the people we mentioned was Seth Godin.
So, I thought why not, right? What’s the worst that could happen?
Within about 10 minutes of sending the email to Seth Godin, I had not only a response but a response to my questions.
Sell the benefits
The people you want to interview probably haven’t heard of you and most of them are going to be time poor and your group interview is probably going to be awesome, get lots of shares, links and traffic but they don’t know that.
Telling someone that you want them to be part of a group interview with Seth Godin and some other big names has an over whelming effect on people.
For those that maybe aren’t world renowned published authors, it’s authority by association both in perception to themselves and anyone that checks out the interview.
Follow ups aren’t always a bad thing
I’m usually not one for follow ups, I prefer to let people respond in their own time but due to time constraints that I put myself under, I felt compelled to send out follow ups and while I felt like I was nagging a few people I was able to boost my response rate by using follow ups.
There were a few emails that didn’t get through and a few emails that were missed entirely which is understandable considering the volume of emails that the people I was targeting must receive on a daily basis.
Remember, that like with a lot of other things in life, balance is the key – don’t go overboard with follow ups, but don’t skimp on them either.
One of the problems I did face with having to follow up with so many people is remembering who to follow up with and when.
The answer is a tool called Follow Up Then, when you sign up you can CC or BCC emails to a FollowUpThen.com email address that will send you reminders depending on which email address you send to.
Too many responses? Never!
How many is enough? I don’t think you can ever have too many responses to a group interview.
The more responses, the longer it will take to put together and the more effort you will have to put in, but it will be worth it.
The group interview will be the biggest post that I’ve ever published by far, once it’s ready.
That means, way more actionable information than any other post you’ll have read on Blogging Wizard before now – and everyone that’s taken part is an expert and done something truly amazing in terms of reader engagement.
The upcoming group interview will be the first, but there will be more to come in the future.
I’m excited to see how well this goes and I’ll be looking to you all for feedback, because at the end of the day the aim of this is to help you build engagement on your own blogs and ultimately be more successful online.
The important thing is that you take action, not dive in head first but really think about what you’re doing and then make a move and take action.
If you have any suggestions for future topics for group interviews, I’ll be happy to hear them, just let me know in the comments what you’d like to see.
Image used under license from PhotoDune.
About Adam Connell
Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard. Previously Operations Manager for a UK based marketing agency, Adam now helps others to become more successful online. Get more from Adam on Google+.