I've done many phone interviews or in-person video interviews with clients so let me share a few oral history tips from my experience. But first a word of encouragement. There is nothing like getting to know another person deeply. I would urge you to interview a relative, friend, or neighbor. Create an oral history recording as a volunteer service project. Just be sure you do it without delay.

L = Listen. Listen carefully and be patient. Try not to interrupt and don't draw attention away from the person you are interviewing--especially if the interview is being recorded. You may have a follow-up question you want to ask, but stay quiet as much as possible. There could be pauses as your storyteller thinks about what he or she wants to say. When your subject has finished his or her thought, it will be a good time to ask the next planned or impromptu follow-up question. (The Life Story Journal would provide great questions to help you get started.)

I = Investigation. In preparation for the interview, be sure to talk casually to get to know the person you are going to interview prior to the recording. This will help you gain a sense of what direction the interview may go. Also, ask other people about the person you are interviewing. For example, if you are going to interview a senior community resident, ask people that live or work there is there are stories this person likes to tell. You can incorporate these into your interview. If your subject is a World War II veteran, it would be a good idea to know about the time and place where he or she served so you can research it in advance.

F = Find Values. Behind many stories is a hidden or not-so-hidden value. See if you can draw out the deeper meaning of what your storyteller is remembering. Was this person encouraged to go to college since he or she was a small child? Education was most likely an important family value. Families may value religious beliefs, equality for all people, or public service. Many times a person being interviewed may not really think about his or her family values being part of the stories. You can help them make the connection between memories and values, thereby making the interview have even more impact.

E = Emotions. Be ready for the possibility that emotions may be uncovered as stories from the past are told. It's been said that, "Eyes are the windows of the soul." You may ask a question that touches someone very deeply. Your subject may want to talk through why they feel so strongly, and they are counting on you to be a good listener. You may also find that your subject would rather not talk about certain topics and that's okay too. Regardless, it is always a good idea to have a box of Kleenex on hand during an interview in case tears of happiness or sadness do come.

B = Be Prepared. If you are using recording equipment, test and ensure your recording equipment (web access, audiotape, videotape, digital recording equipment) is working properly. Ensure that you have a comfortable, quiet place to conduct the interview. Turn off the phone, TV, or other potential distractions, and ensure that other people will not be interrupting. Have some blank paper and pencils/pens for jotting down follow-up questions that come to mind during the interview.

I = Interest. Express interest in the person you are interviewing. The smile on your face and the light in your eyes will encourage the person to keep talking. Some people think their average life isn't interesting, but you can convince them otherwise by your response to their stories and experiences. Everyone has a story to tell, and extraordinary things do happen to ordinary people. Through sharing memories, the person may see all that they have accomplished and see the "big picture" view of his or her life.

O = Open-Ended Style. Open-ended questions (like those found in LifeBio's Life Story Journal, Memory Journal, or at LifeBio's online template) should lead the person you are interviewing to explain their memories or experiences in more detail, resulting in very few, if any, basic yes or no answers. If a subject answers a question very briefly and you think he or she should elaborate, a good follow-up question might begin with "How..." or "Why?" The DETAILS of his or her stories should come through with these types of follow-up questions.

Also, be Open to what may happen in the interview. You may not get through all the questions you planned, or you may find your subject has much to say about one particular topic. You may also need to help your subject stay on track through the structure of your interview. It's important to go with the flow and have fun too!

For more help or information or ideas or a journal with questions to help you get started, please call 1-866-543-3246 or email us at LifeBio at info@lifebio.com. http://www.lifebio.com/.