Top shelf broadcast journalists have made entire careers on conducting compelling, in depth interviews with their subjects. Video interviews are intimate, informative, and require a keen attention to detail. Unfortunately, we've seen too many amateur producers lose control of a video interview and end up with content that lacks cohesion and focus. While experience will eventually aid the average interviewer, there are some easy steps of preparation to take to make sure that the video interview will come across as natural and professional.
Preparing for a Video Interview
In terms of content, you want to research the subject, or subjects for the interview as thoroughly as possible. Doing so will ensure that you have a grasp on their career and area of expertise. One of the best things you can do is search for videos of the subjects beforehand to see if they're comfortable on camera, having any distracting habits, or things they excel in talking about. Most of the best producers and interviewers treat a video interview like a sporting event, where the subject is their teammate and they're helping them to deliver the best performance possible.
Technically speaking, you can alleviate the potentiality of distractions and mishaps during your video interviews through prepping well. Be sure to test all the audio, lighting and other equipment regularly, and always have backups just in case. And when possible, doing a walk-through of the location in advance can minimize the unexpected. A prepared crew is the first step in conducting a clean,
Everyone should get comfortable before the camera starts rolling. We're not talking about only the subject here. When the crew and interviewer are calm and prepared, the effect will be contagious. To loosen up, we often start by asking conversational questions while rolling, but unrelated to the shoot. That builds a rapport with everyone involved and acts as a good transition into the interview segment. Establishing even a little familiarity with each other can go a long way in creating a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for the shoot. Believe us when we say that video interviews conducted under tense circumstances stick out like a sore thumb.
Always Research Before Conducting a Video Interview
We always educate ourselves extensively regarding interview subjects. We want to know more about the subject than the audience, so we can show the subject in a fresh and engaging light.
Doing your homework on the subject beforehand allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the subject, while allowing us to react knowledgeably and lead the interview in unplanned directions. Being able to capitalize on the moment to and discover unique angles on each topic leads for a more cohesive and interesting view. Doing the right homework can go beyond simply reading an article, or Wikipedia page. The best producers will see if their subject-to-be has done previous video interviews. If so, the producer can anticipate the subjects strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that may show up on shoot day.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Whether conducting a video interview for your latest documentary or a product testimonial, a genuine feel is key to conveying the message you want your audience to receive. Making video interviews conversational by asking open-ended questions and natural follow-up questions can save the editor a lot of hassle. Great producers follow up extensively, asking the same questions a few different ways to solicit a variety of answers on the same subject, or to get elaboration on details, following a key sound byte. The subjects to regurgitate talking points; they should tell immersive stories.
To drive this point home with an anecdote, we’ve heard that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos doesn’t allow Power Point presentations, but makes his employees tell stories to sell their ideas. For our purposes, there’s no such thing as being too long-winded—that’s the power of editing! You might even find a better story you didn’t know was there.
Every producer will typically ask interviewees to repeat the question in their answer. For example, if you ask someone, “what color is the sky?” you want that person to say, “the sky is blue,” not just “blue.” Once again, this will make the editor's task much easier by giving them the context they need, right in their answer.
Opinions vary on whether to reveal specific interview questions in advance. If you provide questions to the interviewee in advance, you run the risk of the individual stumbling on camera, trying to remember memorized answers. It can also detract from the spontaneity of the interview. When providing questions in advance, we discuss them with the interviewee ahead of time to establish the desired tone and predict potential trouble spots.
Remember that exceptional listening skills and not interrupting are outstanding tools in video interviewing, and listening longer helps the interviewee feel comfortable and drive the conversation naturally. When an interviewee is speaking genuinely, we like to “let it breathe” and draw that out that moment. We can always go back and ask for more detail, or provide direction, on a particular point.
The Corporate Video Interview
Corporate video interviews are integral to a brand's visual identity. From marketing videos to recruiting videos and company profiles, you're bound to shoot an employee video interview sooner than later. Instead of whipping up a shoddy phone interview, production crews are brought in to deliver a polished, professional final product.
Proper preparation, a level of comfort, and an understanding of how to conduct an interview to grasp the right sound bites are all essential ingredients to producing a video that's quality reads professional. A feeling and understanding of these steps can inform your approach to conducting interviews and ensure a smooth, productive shoot your next time around.