Doing interviews is hard. I’ve been interviewed many times and few really become interesting. The handful of times I’ve been on the questioning side I’m always struck by how hard it is to get to something revealing in a short period of time.
For those not following the SxSW conference scene, BusinessWeek reporter Sarah Lacy conducted a disastrous on-stage interview with Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a worthwhile study for anyone interested in the art of interviewing. It’s also a fascinating example of how powerful online crowds can become: it didn’t take long for people Twittering and blogging the interview to turn against Lacy, and this online negative momentum carried into the physical room and led to heckles and shouts.
Jeff Jarvis, one of the sharpest bloggers on journalism and blogging, has a good post-fiasco analysis. He starts by saying Lacy didn’t know her audience. Knowing your audience: the golden rule for all writing and public speaking.