Meta Research
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Meta Research

Making Remote Interviews Feel Less Remote

How a rocky start with VC interviews — and one bored and irritated respondent — led me to rethink my approach.

Be patient

One of my mantras for in-person research is to take things slowly. In my days as a college professor, I learned to be OK with moments of silence, because in most cases someone else will speak first. But in my first few remote interviews I kept jumping the gun, talking over my respondents mid-sentence or as they paused for breath.

Fewer jokes and anecdotes

Much of my rapport with respondents is based on humor. I also tend to be very open about myself, often drawing from stories in my own life to create common ground with respondents. Over VC, both of these techniques fell flat. I learned the hard way that humor is hard to convey over distance: there’s nothing like making (what I regarded as) a witty aside only to be met with visible confusion and/or boredom.

Take care with setup

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to take the time to create a VC setup that works for you. In my first session, for example, I used only my laptop, which made it difficult to share documents via my screen while also taking notes. For my second session I added an external monitor, but the two screens were configured to be side-by-side, which didn’t match my physical setup (in which the external monitor was above my laptop screen). Finally, in my third session, I configured the screens in a way that enabled me to share my screen while taking notes, and to rapidly cycle between the two.

Watch yourself

Finally, I made sure to keep the self-view screen open so I could monitor how I was projecting myself to respondents. I don’t generally do this during other kinds of VC meetings, but over the course of 90+ minutes, it’s easy to lose track of how you’re presenting yourself, especially if you can’t easily see your respondent (when sharing documents, for example). Being able to see myself calmed any concerns about how I might be appearing to my respondents, allowing me to focus on the interview.

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Simon Wolfe Taylor

I am a UX Researcher at Facebook. I conduct foundational research on emerging technologies within the AR/VR Experiences team.