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Contributors Guide to Recording Life Memories


Step 1 – Conduct a Pre-Interview

Preparing a list of questions in advance will help you get the most out of your StoryNet interview.  That’s why the pre-interview is so important. You should conduct the pre-interview well before scheduling the recording session.

Here are a few conversation starters to help you learn more about the person you intend to interview. Listen for the ‘good stuff’ and plan to focus on that when you sit down to record.


  1. What was the most thrilling moment of your life?
  2. What are the biggest lessons you have learned from other people?
  3. What makes you feel proud?
  4. Who do you think was the greatest influence on your life?
  5. How did they help define or change you as a person?
  6. What moment was the happiest in your life? The saddest? The scariest?
  7. What has always been special or unique about living where you do?
  8. What life experience(s) would you like to repeat if you could?
  9. Name two or three memories that you most treasure.
  10. What is one piece of advice that you most want to pass on?


Step 2 – Decide which stories to record

Everyone has a story, but those with the following qualities will make them especially valuable for StoryNet listeners:


  • Stories that the person has told before, i.e. which friends or members of storyteller’s family have enjoyed hearing in the past;
  • Experiences that are out of the ordinary or that characterise a way of life that no longer exists;
  • Stories with clearly remembered details, such as how things appeared, smelled, tasted, sounded, and what people said;
  • Stories apt to evoke emotions such as humour, sorrow, joy, anger or fear, and which possess a universal, enduring quality.



Step 3 – Prepare a list of questions

Based on your pre-interview, make a list of five to ten questions to frame the conversation you wish to record.


Step 4 – Obtain recording equipment

A digital sound recorder with a good quality external microphone will produce the highest-quality recording. Only good-quality digital recordings can be added to the StoryNet archive. The recorder you use should have either a removable flash-card memory or a USB connector for storing and transferring sound files to your computer Recommended models include the Marantz PMD661; the smaller, more portable Edirol R-09; or the Sony PCM-D50.

A dynamic microphone connected to your recorder will yield better sound quality than an internal mic.  
A set of headphones will block out background noise during the interview and allow you to hear how the finished recording is going to sound.


Step 5 – Choose location and test equipment

A quiet, comfortable room with carpeted floors is the best place for recording interviews.  Avoid kitchens, as refrigerators make a humming noise, and avoid rooms with fluorescent lights, air conditioners or loud clocks.  Turn off the TV, radio or other noisy electronics equipment nearby.  Shut the door and any windows that might admit unwanted sound.  Position the mic about seven inches from the storyteller’s mouth. Before starting, check sound by recording a few seconds of speech and play it back through the headphones.


Step 6 – Start the interview

Start the recording session by establishing vital information about yourself and your conversation partner. State your name, your age and the date and location of the interview. Invite your subject to state his or her name and age, too.


Step 7 – Listen actively and keep it flowing

You can ask questions in any order that seems natural; if an interesting topic comes up that isn’t on the list you prepared, feel free to change the line of questioning.  Never interrupt; if the conversation starts to drift too far from the ‘good stuff’, try asking questions that will lead the interview back on track.


Step 8 – Final words

A good length for a StoryNet interview session is 40 minutes.  Before you wrap things up, ask if there is anything else your interview partner would like to share.  Then offer your thanks and turn off the recorder.  Remember to take a digital photograph of the storyteller to go with the sound recording in the StoryNet Archive.