Interview your way to better video: 5 steps

A good video happens when you get the right expert to talk eagerly on his or her subject, right? By no means “right”! Here’s what you must do to ensure your video stays with its viewers.

You’ve got a great plan for video marketing—don’t let it fall flat by missing the mark on content.

You probably know the basics of conducting an interview; you may have loads of experience, but don’t underestimate the unique challenges of video. These tips will help you make the most of shoot-day to capture a compelling story.

1. Find the right interviewee.

Finding the right subject is critical. It can be more difficult than it seems. Look for someone knowledgeable and passionate, someone who has real-world experience and speaks from the heart, someone who exudes expertise and intrigue. These qualities come in handy on set, where “lights, camera, action” can distract and intimidate. Charisma is a bonus, but remember that a good interview brings out the best in any interviewee; don’t eliminate candidates on their charisma alone.

A speaker who relates to your audience is more compelling because he or she speaks directly to their needs. For instance, if you market pediatric services, look for an interviewee who interacts with children outside of their medical role-as a parent, relative or community volunteer. Parents (potential clients) are more likely to engage with someone who’s been in their shoes.

Download this free white paper, “How to create videos employees love” to learn how to craft videos that captivate and engage your staff.

2. Do your research.

Your subject may be an expert, but if you don’t research, you’ll leave much of their knowledge untapped. You should have a grasp of all the content you cover. If you discuss 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 a good understanding of the topic helps you recognize where your subject leaves holes in vital information.

By asking informed questions, you encourage insightful answers. It’s the difference between “Tell me about what you do” and “Tell me about replacing hips with the new robotic surgery”—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 expert to use audience-friendly terms, so he or she and, by extension, your company, seem more accessible.

3. Write and share your questions before the interview.

This is for you as much as for your subject—when you’re on set and a person looks at you for guidance, don’t stumble over what to ask them.

Come up with questions based on your research and the message you’re trying to convey. Stick to short, one-topic, open-ended questions. Long, wandering questions full of background information can confuse an interviewee. For meatier queries that warrant more explanation, end by summarizing your question to guide their answer on the right track.

Have one question for every five minutes of interview time. Depending on your subject’s conversational style, you may have to fill in with follow-up questions, or you may run short of time and have to ask top-priority questions.

If you represent a client, run the questions by them first to make sure your interview bolsters their goals. Ensure that you’re not missing questions they want answered. Then, share questions with your interviewee. Sure, your subject is an expert, but anyone can hem and haw over a question they didn’t know was coming. Sharing ahead of time gives your subject a chance to think about their answers, helps them feel confident and appear knowledgeable.

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.

4. Make your subject comfortable.

A favorite nugget of video wisdom states, “Interviewees need space to be themselves and share their stories.” Unlike print-interview readers, video viewers 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 shines 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 help put nerves to rest. Let them know they can re-do any answer they’re not happy with, and that you’ll try to edit out stumbles. Assure him or her that you want to show them in the best possible light—you’re their teammate, not an unsympathetic observer.

The Poynter article quoted above talks about the benefits of interviewing someone in their own space: they’re more comfortable on their turf. Our skeleton crew almost always observes this tenet, hauling lightweight camera and lighting setups to doctors’ offices, homeless shelters and city sidewalks. This eliminates the alien feel of a studio set and provides interesting backdrops and b-roll opportunities that yield context.

5. Lastly, and perhaps most important, 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 by putting someone at ease and encouraging them to open up. Even if your subject matter is serious, set a positive tone by relaxing and listening. Once you’ve got the bones of what you want to talk about, conduct 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.

Katie Oliver is an account coordinator at ABZ Creative Partners. A version of this article first appeared on ABZ Creative Partners’ blog, Creative Triage.

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