21 Aug 5 steps for interviewing your way to better video
You’ve got a great plan for video marketing — don’t let it fall flat by missing the mark on content.
Sure, you probably know the basics of conducting an interview, you may even have loads of experience, but don’t underestimate the unique challenges of video. These tips will help you make the most of shoot-day and capture a compelling story.
1. Find the right interviewee.
Finding the right subject for a video interview is critical and can be more difficult than it seems. Look for someone who is knowledgeable and passionate. Having real-world experience and speaking from the heart provides both expertise and intrigue. This also comes in handy on set, where the lights, camera and action can be distracting and intimidating. Charisma is certainly an added bonus, but remember that a good interview can bring out the best in any interviewee; don’t eliminate candidates based on their level of charisma alone.
A speaker who can personally relate to your audience is more compelling because they can speak directly to the needs of your consumers. For instance, if you’re marketing pediatric services, look for a subject who interacts with children outside of their medical role — as a parent, relative or community volunteer. Parents (a.k.a. potential clients) are more likely to engage with someone who’s been in their shoes.
2. Do your research.
Your subject may be an expert on your topic, but if you don’t do some research yourself, you’ll leave much of their knowledge untapped. You should have a general grasp of all the content you want to cover. If you’re discussing a medical procedure, know the basic preparations, processes and risks. If your topic is a disease, note the symptoms and treatment options. You don’t have to earn a medical degree, but having a good understanding of the topic helps you recognize where your subject leaves holes in vital information.
By asking informed questions, you’re encouraging insightful answers. It’s the difference between “Tell me about what you do” and “Tell me about replacing hips with the new robotic system” — you’re more likely to get the information you want, in a shorter clip.
By understanding the topic, you’re also better able to guide your subject to audience-friendly laymen’s terms, so he or she (and, by extension, your company) is more accessible.
3. Write and share your questions ahead of time.
This is for you as much as for your subject — when you’re on set and a person is looking at you for guidance, you don’t want to stumble over what to ask them.
Come up with a handful of questions based on your research and the message you’re trying to convey. Stick to short, one-topic questions that are open-ended. Long, wandering questions with tangents and background information can confuse an interviewee. For meatier queries that warrant some explanation, end by restating a summary of your question to help guide their answer onto the right track.
A good goal is to have one question for every five minutes of interview time. It’s a decent starting point, but depending on your subject’s conversation style, you may have to fill in with follow-up questions, or you may run out of time and have to focus on top-priority asks.
If you’re representing a client, run the questions by them first to make sure your interview is in-line with their goals and that you’re not missing any specifics they want covered. Then, share with your interviewee. Sure, your subject is an expert, but anyone can be left hem hawing over a question they didn’t know was coming. Sharing the questions ahead of time gives your subject a chance to think about their answers, which ultimately helps them feel confident and appear knowledgeable in the video.
Bring a few copies of the interview questions along to the shoot for note taking, practice runs, and in case your interviewee or crew want to review them before you start rolling.
You’re asking someone to talk to a stranger, in front of a camera, while a spotlight is shining on them. It’s unfair to ask them to ‘act natural’ without offering a little help!
4. Make your subject comfortable.
A favorite nugget of video wisdom is that, “Interviewees need space to be themselves and share their stories.” Unlike print interviews, video audiences see the subject’s expressions and movements and can tell if they feel awkward.
You’re asking someone to talk to a stranger, in front of a camera, while a spotlight is shining on them. It’s unfair to ask them to ‘act natural’ without offering a little help! Simple things like introducing yourself and the crew, explaining everything on set, outlining the process, and asking easy questions first can help put nerves to rest. Let them know that they can re-do any answer they’re not happy with, and that you can try to edit out stumbles. Assure him or her that you share a common goal of showing them in the best possible light — you’re their teammate, not an unsympathetic observer.
The Poynter article quoted above also speaks to the benefits of interviewing someone in their own space: they are naturally more comfortable on their turf. Our ‘skeleton crew’ operates almost exclusively on this tenet, hauling lightweight camera and lighting setups to doctors’ offices, homeless shelters and even city sidewalks. This eliminates the alien feel of a studio set and provides interesting backdrops and b-roll opportunities that give context for your video.
5. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, have fun.
Your mood and tone rub off on your interviewee — make sure both are positive! A lighthearted, relaxed interviewer and crew can work wonders to set someone at ease and encourage them to open up. Even if your subject matter is serious, you can set a positive tone by relaxing and listening. Once you’ve got the bones of what you want to talk about, approach the interview as a conversation among friends. You may be surprised at the content — and expression! — you capture when you inspire your subject to relax and trust you.