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How to produce a great on-camera interview
When many people hear the word “interview,” they shudder at the thought of recruiting for a job or a prestigious program. They might imagine sitting on the other side of a desk from someone in a suit, resume in hand and nerves on high. While those types of interviews are important (and, yes, nerve-wracking), the word “interview” isn’t restricted to job interviews.
An interview is just a situation where you’re learning more about someone or something by asking questions. Because of this opportunity to share information, interviews are a great tool for a company’s video content.
Whether you’re interviewing an employee about company culture, a satisfied customer about their experience with your brand, or your co-founder about how the business came to life, interviews are a great way to let people learn more about who you are and what you have to offer.
We conduct a lot of interviews, so we understand the challenge of putting someone at ease in front of the camera—while still capturing the content you’ll need in the editing room. Here are some of our tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
1. Keep it natural.
This tip shows up on virtually every list about conducting a successful interview—and for good reason. Most people are a little uneasy about being filmed for an interview. The presence of a camera makes the process feel unnatural, so it’s your job as the interviewer to make it feel as natural as possible.
There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. First, you’ll want to get to know the interviewee in advance if possible. Build a rapport with them so that when you see them on interview day, you’re not just another unfamiliar face.
Then, on the day of the interview, make small talk while your team is getting prepared. For on-camera interviews, you’ll probably need to set up the lighting, the sound, and the camera itself. Unless you’re personally involved in these steps, this is a great time to chat with the interviewee and continue to put them at ease.
By making a point to keep the mood light, your interviewee is more likely to give natural answers, and your resulting content will be better.
2. Remind the interviewee to include context.
One challenge of on-camera interviews is that if they’re being edited for other video content (i.e., you’re not just recording the interview to preserve the answers), the full interview as it occurs during filming won’t make it into the final video. More likely than not, your editors will be pulling the sound bytes that fit into the narrative they need to create.
The implication here is that viewers won’t see the question/answer format that takes place during the interview, and, in most cases, the question will never make it into the final footage.
Why does this matter? It matters because it means that interviewees need to be careful to restate the question they were asked, include context, and speak in complete sentences as they answer questions. Their responses need to be able to stand alone in the final video.
In practice, this might mean asking a question a couple of times to get the response you need. Don’t be afraid to repeat questions like this—especially if the original take will be useless in post-production. It’s better to ask a question a few times to get it right than to have to scrap a question altogether because it didn’t include the right context.
3. Be thoughtful with your questions.
There’s an art to being a good interviewer, and part of the difficulty lies in asking the right questions at the right time.
One common trick is to ask an easy question right off the bat to calm the nerves of the interviewee by giving them something that they can answer without thinking too much. Then, gradually make the questions more difficult or thought-provoking so that they can ease into the tough ones.
If a question falls flat or doesn’t get the desired response, don’t be afraid to ask a follow-up question (or ask the same question in a different way) to see if it will generate a different response.
4. Redo the most important content at the end.
Finally, as we’ve said, interviewees are sometimes uncomfortable at the start of an interview. The practice of sitting in front of a camera and answering canned questions is often unfamiliar at best, and awkward at worst. That being said, many people will warm up to the experience as the interview goes on.
One way to take advantage of this natural progression is to redo your most important question(s) at the end of the interview when the interviewee is probably at their best. Their answers will often feel more relaxed as a result.
If you don’t know what your “most important” content is, this is also a great time to redo intro content. For example, your video might start with the interviewee stating who they are or what their company does. If this information was captured at the beginning of the interview, it might feel formal compared to the rest of the content. By redoing it at the end, the tone of the footage will often be more consistent—and you may even get a better answer, too.
Hopefully, these tips will help you capture the perfect interview content for your company. You might even make the process so enjoyable that you change someone’s perception of being interviewed!