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Talk to anyone about everything

Talking to people is what I do, everyday. Over the course of my career, I’ve interviewed thousands of people about every subject imaginable. Taking peoples’ stories and amplifying their voice to make experiences better is something I’m passionate about.

At User Insight, enormous talent surrounds me. In every meeting and interaction I’m humbled by the vast knowledge and insight that my team brings to the table. In exchange for the opportunity to work with the most amazing people everyday, I strive to impart lessons I’ve learned: truths that run through the core of User Insight. User research is more than what we do; it’s the lifeblood and definition of who we are.

Talking about what I do reminds me to pay tribute to the most influential person in my life who helped bring me to the world of user experience research, he’s also my dad, John Morgan. I grew up watching my dad talk to people; holding his hand, silently willing him to end the conversation. Over the years of watching him talk to people, I learned some valuable lessons. In my early years at User Insight, I learned even more from watching him conduct user interviews. So much so that after watching one particularly poignant interview, I had an epiphany – I knew what I wanted to be – a researcher! I saw how people would hold his hand after an interview, long after the hour was over – he knew how to make a connection. People would tell him anything. I was amazed – how did he get them to do that? User Experience has continued to grow from my Dad’s early years in usability, however, the fundamentals of making a connection with people stays the same.

These are the few guidelines I bring to every interview I conduct:

1) Approach someone in a calm, non-threatening way. You get one chance to make a first impression. When I go out to greet a person, I make sure I bring good energy into that interaction to set the mood and tone for the interview.

2) Get on their level, physically. When I talk to children and I introduce myself, I take a knee so we are at eye level. When I talk to adults, I make eye contact and shake hands to make a connection. I can learn a lot from that first interaction. If someone hesitates or doesn’t make eye contact, I know I need to spend a little extra time chatting to get them to open up.

3) Ask for permission. Yes, we have recruited them to come talk to us but it is scary and intimidating (just like a job interview!) to talk to a stranger (me) for an hour. The more honest and open I am with someone in the beginning, the more honest and open they will be with me.

4) Actively listen. I leave everything else on my mind when I walk through the door. My focus for that hour is on the person in front of me to make sure that I pay attention to what is important to them to ensure I actively process information and ask meaningful follow up questions. I don’t multitask – it’s the primary reason why I try to not have a chat window or my phone up during the conversation. It’s distracting for both me and the person I’m talking to. I’ve had new clients ask me to wear an earpiece or to have a chat window open. I encourage them to listen to the first interview, give me space to do my job properly, I will ask the right follow up questions at the right time.

5) Respect everyone. This is the most important. Yes, I have a job to do, I usually have clients that need answers and want feedback, I’m always battling time, trying to get in as many questions as possible in a short time frame but none of that trumps the human being sitting across from me. I put those pressures on hold and think, how would I want to be treated, more importantly, how would I want my grandmother treated? That’s how I treat the people that come in to talk to me. I am a user advocate, I take that role seriously and I need to make sure I don’t dismiss the needs of people I talk to or rush them through an experience to get my data. Do I have to rush people at times or segue to other topics when we get off course – ALWAYS but it’s all in the way it’s done. Be respectful and honest, I communicate what I need and why I need it, thus setting each person up to give their feedback in a safe, welcoming environment.

As you read this you might be asking yourself, why is it important to make a connection? Anyone can ask questions. I challenge that, as in any field, it takes years to become an expert in your craft. Sure, anyone can ask questions but making a connection and getting someone comfortable with sharing their thoughts takes skill. Knowing when to ask the right question at the right time is what makes a great interview. Some of our clients call it magic – how we know when to ask the question that’s on the tip of their tongue. It isn’t magic, it is: skill, experience, repetition and most importantly always remembering users are real people.

Comfortable people give real, meaningful feedback, at User Insight we weave that feedback into powerful stories that incite actions to impact user experiences.

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