If you haven’t participated in a video interview before on either side of the camera, it can be slightly intimidating the first time with nuances abound. And playing the role of “interviewer” is crucial: you need to keep-up the energy of the Q&A while engaging with your subject, as well as ensure you’re extracting the soundbites and concise messaging you need to create engaging video content. With hundreds of video interviews under my belt – both as camera operator and as the actual interviewer – I want to provide five simple yet effective tips for this crucial role. Use these techniques on your next video project and you’ll be on your way to becoming the next Edward R. Murrow in no time.
Tip #1: Be Prepared
This may seem obvious, but all-too-often interviewers are reliant on the bulleted list of questions they’ve hastily typed-up the day of the actual interview. The list of interview questions should be as intentional as the rest of the video project. Be truly methodical and ask yourself: what am I trying to achieve with the interview of this specific person? Where does this person fit into the big-picture or puzzle of what I’m creating with this video project? And what do I hope to capture from said interviewee? Then, work backwards to create your list of questions. The obvious should be the applicable “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when.” Once you have those in the can, your preparedness can help provoke the most important “why” and “how” responses. Being prepared allows you to be nimble during the actual interview, asking the ever-important follow-up question and diving deeper to capture the meat of the matter. Ultimately, you should know exactly what you’re looking to capture during the interview – your path or trajectory – before the interview even starts.
Tip #2: Turn Off Your Cell Phone
With all the production gear in the room – bright lights, overhead microphone, tripods, and multiple cameras – there’s already a plethora of distraction (and possible angst) for your interviewee. Your second job to being prepared is to be friendly and inviting to your interviewee. You need to be receptive and engaged, inspiring confidence as a confidant. A subtlety direct way to show your interviewee that you’re here for one reason only – the interview – is to visibly turn off your cellphone. And then invite the interviewee to do the same! Your video camera operator will be grateful as well: not many things are more disruptive than having a cellphone chime-in during a very evocative soundbite of the interview.
Tip #3: Smile and Nod
Now that you’re prepared and conducting the interview, you’ll need to be engaged with your interviewee start-to-finish to keep the energy up (trust us, it can be draining under the lights at the center of attention). The most effective way to do this is to have eye-contact with your interviewee, and then smile and nod throughout the interview. The compassion will relieve any stress from the interviewee, allowing him or her to relax into the interview situation and speak with authenticity and elegance. Your smile and nod technique is especially important when the interviewee speaks a soundbite you’re confident you’ll use in the final edit (see Tip #1). The interviewee will notice the cue that you’ve become extra excited to the response, and likely the interviewee will provide more detailed and poignant insight into the topic. A win-win for everybody.
Tip #4: Keep Quiet, Listen and Linger
This tip is threefold: first, pose your question and then keep quiet as the interviewee responds. Don’t agree (or disagree) with the response by way of audio expressions. No “rights” or “huhs” or “hmms” or “of courses” or anything of that nature. An interview is not a conversation. That audio will be picked up by the microphone and can be cumbersome to edit around in post-production. Second, literally listen to – and understand what – the interviewee is actually saying. Pay attention and make mental notes of the talking points, checking-off the prepared list in your head (see Tip#1). Lastly, when it seems the interviewee has completed his or her thought/sentence, linger an extra few seconds before moving on to the next question. This may initially seem awkward, but it’s very helpful from an editing perspective to have the clean client soundbite. Additionally, that extra few seconds of pause may spur the interviewee to continue speaking – hopefully unearthing more interview “gold.”
Tip #5: Ask for Perspective
Yes, you are the Master of your Interview Universe. You’ve prepared, conquered the path, and have conducted yourself accordingly to achieve interview greatness. But what if you missed something? Essentially, in the room you are the closest person to the project’s goals and objectives, but because you’re so focused on the big picture, you might inadvertently overlook capturing a key piece of information – that soundbite nugget that can bring your project from good to excellent. You have at least two big resources at your disposal: the interviewee and the camera operator. Always ask the interviewee at the end of your interview: “Is there anything else you’d like to add or anything you think I’ve missed?” It’s likely the interviewee will respond “no,” but every so often you’ll garner a really unique response or perspective on the topic. And with the camera operator (and as with any good video producer), he/she will be “editing” or constructing the story in his/her head throughout the interview. Video producers are attuned to this, so it’s always worth asking if there’s anything that would be beneficial to capture from an editor’s perspective.
Keeping these five simple yet effective techniques in mind will help ensure the success of your next video project. You camera operator and subject matter expert will both thank you, you’ll have captured amazing messaging, and you can add another skillset to your professional resume.
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