The Scream
Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” from BlouinArtInfo’s website article pretty much sums up how I felt about interviews at the start of Eminent Person Project.

This will be a lengthier post, so I’ll provide a directory at the beginning, and you may skip to whichever parts you wish. It will be a guide to the interviewing process as well as a reflection on my interview.

1- How to get an Interview
2- Preparing Questions
3- Conducting your Interview
4- Reflection on my Interview

1- How to Get an Interview

Not everyone will be able to get an interview on their first try. Some people may not be able to get an interview at all. But relax. There are several things you can do to optimize your chances of getting an interview. First and most important: Don’t start too late. You need time to find people to talk to, prepare an interview invitation, and you DON’T want to be sending emails the day before Night of the Notables. Try to start at least a week before you do your speech; I started emailing 13 days before my speech and I snagged an interview just barely in time to write in all the information.

Secondly, email EVERYONE who could possibly have any knowledge of your person. University proffessors from UBC and SFU are a good place to start if your person has no organizations to be associated with. If your person is already dead, there may be a memorial website with contact information. If they’re alive, try to interview them or their family members. I sent out emails to 22 contacts, and got one interview, but it was totally worth it. Don’t give up if no one is replying! Try digging a little deeper to see if there’s anyone you know personally (a friend, teacher, friend’s parent, etc.) you could interview. If no one replies, at least you can say you tried.

Be sure to ask for any other contacts or resources the person you email knows. I got many great resources and a couple of contacts from emailing people who I could not interview! Make sure your email invitation is pleasant but informative. It should say a bit about your project, your person, and why are emailing them. Below is my own invitation as (somewhat correct) example.

“Hello! My name is Vanessa Giannopoulos. I’m a former Pathfinder and grade nine student at Gleneagle Secondary School, in the TALONS program (to link to the TALONS blog: ).

For a school project, my class is interviewing people on an “Eminent” person of their choice. I chose Lady Olave Baden Powell because I admire her tenacity and hard work to support Girl Guides. I’m very interested in the way she affected and influenced acceptable social norms for girls in Great Britain. I contacted you in the hopes that I could interview you about Lady Baden Powell and her area of work.

If you or anyone you may know is comfortable with this topic, I would love to be able to interview you (by phone, email, in person, or whatever else works for you). I am grateful for any amount of time you can spare to help me out. It would be very much appreciated and quite exciting for me!Although the project is due on November 20th, I would be honoured to have your help in this endeavour. It is a great gift.

Thank you so very much for your time!  –  Vanessa Giannopoulos”

2- Preparing Questions

While your are waiting for your contacts to respond back to you, it’s a good idea to prepare some good interview questions. In class we talked about using open-ended, “fishing” questions rather than yes-or-no “shooting” questions. Another important aspect to keep in mind is that you want information that you cannot get from a website. When you ask people questions, make them personalized, so you can say “what do you think about this?” and get a response only THAT PERSON could give you. Also, keep in mind that your interview shouldn’t take up too much time, and often people ask for ten or less questions, in my experience. I used eight questions. So what you need are several quality questions to cover the bases in a short amount of time. Some good places to start are: In your opinion, what was (your person)’s greatest achievement? From your knowledge, who was their greates influence? If you had to teach someone about (your person) in one minute, what would you say? Remember to ask follow-up questions as well. Often these lead to a better exploration of the topic, and in turn, of your person, which is what we’re really after.

3- Conducting your Interview

Congradulations! You’ve gotten an interview! By email, it is usually pretty simple to conduct an interview. If you’re lucky, you might be able to ge a chain of emails going with follow-up questions, or even a live chat. I don’t know much about Skype, so I won’t go into that. But in the case that it’s just text on a screen, be super-aware of your tone and how you come across. Remember your P’s and Q’s (pleases and thank you’s)!

Over the phone interviews – I’ve never done one of these, but I would imagine it would be a lot of careful listening and response. Follow up questions are easy in this one! Just be sure to schedule enough time to complete your interview without seeming rushed, and maybe keep a glass of water nearby.

In person – Here’s the one I did! This one scared me a ton at first. My dad’ll tell you how I was: worrying about what to wear, how to talk, how to make it a comfortable setting without seeming unproffessional… don’t worry! Now that I’m through, this is a guide for in-person interviews. Dress as you normally would, no tuxes or fancy dresses, but make sure your clothing is clean, not to tight or baggy, and in good repair. You want to look respectable. Try avoiding big hoodies as well, and don’t wear a hat. Make yourself clean too. Make sure you know your contact’s name and title (a Ms., Mrs., Dr., Mr., etc.) Try to keep eye contact while interviewing your person at least half the time. You want to know what you’re writing, but don’t hide behind your notebook.

In all interviews, you need to thank your contact for their time and generosity to help you out with this project. Sending a thank-you card in the mail isn’t a bad idea either – try to add your own message or drawing to a card (or make one yourself) to make it more personal. Don’t forget about your contacts after your interview, because who knows when you might want to speak to them again?

4- Reflection on my Interview

I was very lucky, and I got to interview the archives committee of BC Girl Guides. Several of the woman had met Lady Baden Powell, and had participated in the Canada tours. I am extremely grateful to them for helping get a good grasp of her character and manner of being.  These women had  great insight on the shared motive of World Peace from Lady and Lord Baden Powell, and I am very thankful they let me sit in on one of their meetings to share in the rich heritage of Girl Guides they have painstakingly preserved. They provided a fresh spin on Lady BP  as a woman who inspired and led Girl Guides with a vigor as freesh and spunky as she was, never taking no for an answer though being tricky to deal with. It was a true account, with nothing omitted or blown out of proportion, made up of real memories.

This interview was worth more than at least half of my research, because I got to explore what Lady Baden Powell ultimately achieved and why, focused on how she was eminent to the people of today, told by people of today. Next, I will try to find out how she was able to preservere with her work through her husband’s death. Most of this information will come into my speech, but expect to see some represenations of her hard work towards world peace in my learning center.

My Interview went a bit like this:

Date of Interview: Friday November 10th, between 10am – 2:30pm

Interviewer: Vanessa Giannopoulos        Interviewees: Ms. Runcie and the archive committee.


Interviewer: Why did you choose to be part of the Girl Guides archive committee?

Interviewees: To continue working for Girl Guides in a way we are able. To make sure we can remember and preserve the past Girl Guides.

Interviewer: In your opinion, what was Lady Olave Baden Powell’s greatest achievement?

Interviewees: Bringing together the Girl Guides through leadership and inspiration into a united front. Being able to relate to young people and help them, no matter which language or culture they came from. Creating hope for World Peace.

Interviewer: What do you think of the idea that Lady BP’s World Tours had a goal of World Peace, and how do you think the goal worked out?

Interviewees: Lord BP and Lady BP worked together to promote World Peace through Guiding and Scouting, that was definitely one of their goals. They had many World Camps and Rallies to encourage friendly relations between the children of different countries. The goal worked out as best it could. World Peace is nigh impossible to achieve everywhere with everyone, but Lady BP had the optimism to try.

Interviewer: What is the most important lesson you think people could learn from Lady Baden Powell’s example?

Interviewees: No matter how impossible it seems, work towards your goal because even if it isn’t completely fulfilled, your efforts can create change.

Interviewer: How do you think the fact that Lady BP kept going, despite her husband’s death and the immense amount of work she had to do, factors into this?

Interviewees: Her efforts created change because she kept working towards her goal.

Interviewer: How did Lady Baden Powell’s World Tours and International Guiding Camps help unify and empower girls in foreign countries…I think we already answered this one. Anyone want to add anything?

Interviewees: …

Interviewer: Okay. Why is Lady Baden Powell important to you?

Interviewees: She was unusual. It’s important to remember that although she did do all these great things, she was an ordinary person, but she was unusual for her time.

Interviewer: Can you elaborate more on how she was unusual in an important way?

Interviewees: She had no barriers between her and foreigners, which is admirable in a time where most people distrusted foreign people and countries. She also disregarded the class system in Britain; however, she was smart enough to take advantage of it to get the support of many rich lords or ladies, which proved to be of the utmost importance to the future of Guiding.

Interviewer: What was the most crucial role Lady Baden Powell played in the Guiding Movement?

Interviewees: She was able to get guiding the financial support it needed to develop and grow into a proper organization. Her charisma helped her round up rich folks and convinced them to join her cause. She had effective, though somewhat dubious methods such as locking people in her bathroom until they agreed to help her.

Interviewer: How come her methods were so effective?

Interviewees: She wasn’t restrained by the “unwritten rules” that held sway at the time, such as propriety and politeness at all times. Another factor was that the mothers were simply unable to refuse their little girl’s wishes to become a girl guide, and became inevitably snared into the cause.

Interviewer: How did Lady Baden Powell help progress women’s rights?

Interviewees: Well, at the time it was very hard for women to work. Once they became married, they couldn’t have a job. The early girl guides were like women’s rights activists, come far before their time. Lady BP helped progress their movement by giving Girl Guides the financial support, inspiration and leadership needed to provide work and travel opportunities for girls.

Me, thinking: (True: through badges they educated them as electricians, carpenters and even beekeepers.)

Interviewees: These same early Girl Guides were likely the ones who fought for rights during war times and were accepted as nurses, pilots and other paid war workers. Why, Lady BP was ahead of her time as well, in the way she dressed in clothes that allowed her to move freely, long strides as opposed to the tight, ankle length skirt of her era which caused women to hobble when they walked.

Interviewer: How would you like people to remember Lady Baden Powell in the future?

Interviewees: I should hope people remember her happily, as the woman who opened the world for young girls.

– Questions and comments are great as always! Thanks for reading –