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It was intimidating and getting worse fast. I was to interview a speaker on the program for the upcoming Agricultural Publications Summit. The agenda says he will be discussing "59 Advanced Interviewing Tips & Techniques." Couldn’t I wait until after I sit in on his workshop to interview him?

When the time came, John Brady asked if he might record the interview for possible use in classes he teaches in the Journalism Department at Boston University. I imagined students in the future laughing at some dumb thing I said or awkward question I asked. But I charged on.

Then I realized that Brady is the author of The Craft of Interviewing, a book I once searched for, but couldn’t find in local bookstores and therefore never read. My confidence crumbled further.

I began by asking him what his sessions will be about. Fortunately, the man who teaches about getting a good interview gives a great one.

I’ll be attending Brady’s sessions at the Summit being held July 29 to Aug. 1, 2000, in San Antonio, Texas. The Ag Publications Summit is a joint meeting of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA), the Agricultural Publishers Association and the Livestock Publications Council. This will be the second year the organizations have joined forces.

"We want to be the meeting that people have to attend for the ag print group," says Karen McMahon, AAEA president and senior editor, Farm Industry News.

"The meeting offers a lot of good networking," she says. "With the Internet and biotechnology, we’ve had a lot going on this last year to talk about."

With all those print people in attendance, agri-marketers will find plentiful networking opportunities at the Summit, too.

The conference offers workshops ranging from Brady’s on interviewing and editing, to sessions about digital photography and design, putting emotion and humor into writing, the Internet’s impact on media, communicating about biotechnology, inspiring employees, recruiting and retaining staff, making the sale, and the ethics of serving readers and clients.

"We’ve got some top-notch workshops planned," McMahon says, "including a special all-day workshop on Sunday, July 30, for writers, publishers and designers to learn how to bring about faster and more effective change at their publications."

Organizers designed the schedule of high-quality workshops to provide a meaty program. "A lot of associate editors still have to justify professional development to be able to attend these meetings," McMahon says. "We want to meet their needs."

"If you want to improve the quality of writing and the quality of information in your publication, start with more powerful interviewing," Brady says, discussing his "59 Interviewing Tips & Techniques" session.

"Interviewing is the key to powerful writing," he says. "If you don’t get good information from interviewing, you’re not going to write effectively, no matter what the topic."

In his interviewing session, Brady will give specific examples of how to get through intermediaries, types of questions to ask to draw out the reluctant interviewee, how to get anecdotes, how to work well over the phone, how to divert someone who’s going off on a tangent, and how to end an interview.

Editors attending Brady’s power editing seminar likely will stand up and cheer at various times in his presentation. He describes it as a seminar with a strong editorial bias.

"I like to say, ‘In the beginning was the word. Advertising came later,’" Brady quips.

Brady’s key point is that "magazines are not written. Magazines are edited."

According to Brady, the editor’s job is key to advertising, to circulation and to the position of the magazine in competition with other publications.

"Advertisers go to a magazine because it has editorial credibility," he says. "Readers go to a magazine because it has editorial credibility. Advertising basks in the glow of good editorial."

If that doesn’t sell the role of editorial enough, more help in how to sell is available from John Reimer, vice president of operations for Asia and Latin America for Pharmacia Corp. He will be presenting a session about making the sale, which he subtitles, "Working with your clients, rather than working on them."

"We’re all selling every day, whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not," Reimer says. He’ll discuss sales as a management style.

"Selling is not a win-lose proposition," he says. "If we do it right, there will be no losers."

From the looks of the agenda, the Ag Publications Summit will offer help, as will Brady, who says he offers each person who attends his sessions a free phone call to ask a question. I hope I haven’t used mine up already. AM

For more information on the Agricultural Publications Summit or to receive a registration form, contact Diana Walters or call 512/451-5000. AM


Debby Hartke is a writer and communications consultant based in St. Louis, Mo.

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