Who, What, When & Where – The Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) Form

To prepare yourself for the LifeStory interview you will conduct, you should know the basic facts of the life of the interviewee…the who, what, when and where’s of their life. Don’t worry about the how’s and why’s yet. We’ll want to know them, but later…during the interview. To get these basic facts, having a Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) form is essential to getting enough information for you to formulate the questions you’ll ask during the interview.

In my previous blog post http://tinyurl.com/3zon84l, we learned the importance of the Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) meeting. For that meeting to run smoothly, your PIQ form will be the key. The broad categories I use in my PIQ form are: Basic Interviewee Information, Early Life, Adult Years, Family Background, and Specific Life Stories. In this blog post, I’ll briefly cover basic Interviewee Information and Early Life.

Basic Interviewee Information is just that…names (first, middle, last, maiden, nick, etc.), and date & place of birth. While this seems like a classic “Duh” moment, I’ve been amazed at the cool and unexpected info I get when filling out this part. Birth certificate names can be very different from the one(s) you know. Origins of surnames and nicknames can be fun. The interviewee’s place of birth will begin your geographical journey through their life. This is a good time to remind you of something VERY important…NEVER assume you know the answer, either to this PIQ fill-in-the-blanks meeting or the questions you’ll ask during the interview itself. Ask anyway. I’ve been surprised on many occasions.

Early Life should include first addresses as a child, lists of friends, organizational & religious affiliations and activities & interests as a child. With addresses, be sure to give yourself enough room for a few. Families do move around! Activities and interests can include sports, hobbies & musical talents. This is where you should start making charts of information. In their education history, chart the info using columns for when, name of school, public or private, degree obtained, etc.. Also include in this section other information you’d like to know about their childhood. Family outings or vacations are a good example.

As you develop your own PIQ form, keep in mind a key word I think of throughout the LifeStories Alive http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/ process…empathy. What would I want someone to ask me if I were sitting in the chair of the person I’m talking to? I wouldn’t want them to leave out ______. Take that blank and develop PIQ fact fill-in-the blank for it.

In my next blog post, we’ll cover the other PIQ categories: Adult Years, Family Background, and Specific Life Stories. Stay tuned!

Do Your Homework! – The Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) Meeting

I can close my eyes today and remember those times, night after night during my school-age years, my Mom saying, “Do your homework!” She knew that in order for me to get what I wanted out of school, in that case a good grade, I needed to prepare for the next class. That meant doing my homework assignments. Getting what you want out of interviewing your loved ones for their LifeStories (the “Why” we discussed in earlier blog post http://tinyurl.com/6htw34e ) is no different. Your homework for a LifeStory begins with a Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) meeting.

The catchphrase for the PIQ meeting is the same as that of the radio and TV show of the 1950s and 60s, Dragnet http://tinyurl.com/68qe8lm …”Just the facts, ma’am.” The primary purpose of the PIQ meeting is to gather the facts of the interviewee(s)’ life. This can be a seemingly daunting task if you are not prepared. To be prepared you should devise your own fill-in-the blank PIQ form. The one I use for my work at LifeStories Alive http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/ is 40 pages and covers the following general information: General Interviewee Information, Early Life, Adult Years, Family Background, and General Interview Questions. We will discuss details of each of these categories in following blog posts.

The PIQ meeting fulfills three very important purposes in my LifeStory process. Primarily, it enables me to gather the facts about their life so I can intelligently formulate the questions I will prepare to ask for the actual interview. Here is where the challenge (and fun) begins. Because all I want at this point of the process are the facts, I find myself politely interrupting the interviewee as he/she launches into the stories. For instance, I’ll ask, “What were your first three home addresses as a child?” Many will begin to, and in great detail, describe the house and why Daddy could only afford this…and why they had to move at that time …and on and on. All I was looking for was, “322 Montpelier, San Antonio, Texas”! You get the picture. I’ll interrupt by gently telling them, “That’s important information for the interview, but now I just want the address.”

The second purpose of the PIQ meeting is so the interviewee will get to know me and feel comfortable talking with me. When my clients, who in many cases are the children of the interviewees, hire me to interview their loved ones, the interviewees might envision an in-your-face investigative reporter showing up at their doorstep shoving a microphone in their face and grilling them for the “dirt” in their lives. In most cases, the PIQ meeting is the first time I will meet the interviewees. At that meeting, my interviewees will know that I’m there just to have a conversation with them (during the filmed interview) about their lives that will be recorded. It sets their mind at ease and will make for a much more relaxed interview.

The third purpose of the PIQ meeting is so I can gauge the mental and physical strengths and weaknesses of the interviewees. If their hearing is weak, I want to be sensitive of that (and prepare my videographer for those challenges). If their eyesight is bad, I will not ask then at the interview to read a love letter that was sent to them (a fun surprise during an interview). And if their memory is not clear, I will not ask them specifics like, “What was your father’s date of birth?” Instead, I will ask, “Your father was born on June 12, 1909. What stories did he share with you about his youth?” I do not want a finished LifeStory that causes the interviewee to be embarrassed due to the interview highlighting his physical or mental weaknesses.

Your homework can be fun, so make it fun! It will help lead to a successful interview and finished LifeStory.

In my next blog post, I’ll go into details of the PIQ form.