In a lot of corporate videos, shooting an interview is often going to be a part of the production. Having a subject deliver answers on camera can be an effective way to create a genuine, unscripted, and impactful message for a promotional video. Usually, the interview is best suited for either documentaries or testimonials, but can also be effective in other forms of promotion as well.
In our recent blog and video posts we've been covering a lot of ground on what it takes to create your own testimonial video. We've looked at the steps you can take to prepare for a great interview, shoot an interview, edit an interview, and how to shoot great b-roll to compliment the interview footage. In this post, we'll be looking at how to go about conducting the interview as the interviewer.
This information can be looked at as the next sequential step after you've properly prepared for the interview. You know what the message of the video is, what questions to ask, and you're now sitting down with your interview subject, ready to hit record.
While conducting an interview doesn't require that you consider everything outlined in this post, the points covered here can really help to improve the end result of your video. This information is here to support you in having an interview where the subject is relaxed and delivers the answers you want in the most natural (and therefore believable) way they can. So, what are some things you can do to ensure everything runs smoothly? First, it's a good idea to provide some context to the interviewee before you start recording.
Prepare The Interviewee
Before you hit record and start asking questions, it's a good idea to give the interviewee some guidance on how the shoot will go. While you want the interview to seem fairly close to having a casual conversation, there are some things that are unique to a shooting scenario that should be mentioned so that the interviewee is aware. Additionally, giving them some context and guidance right off the bat will also help in creating a relaxed and familiar environment; the subject will know what to expect. So, what are some things you can let them know? First, you'll want to mention that things should in fact run similar to a casual conversation, with the exception that you'll be the only person asking questions. Other details to mention include the following: they should be looking at you rather than at the camera, they should feel free to talk as much as they want (more is better), don't be thrown off by your non-verbal reactions (more on this below), and how long the interview will last. Pretty much, it's those little pieces of information at the beginning that are either important enough to mention, or at the very least will set your subject at ease by providing some context for how things will go.
Ask More Than You Need To
This tip is something that can really differentiate a professionally run and effective interview from a lackluster and inefficient interview. Again, this feeds into the idea that you want the interview to run like a casual conversation while still getting the answers you want to hear. So, ask more questions than you need to and ask them in a conversational way. Rather than just rhyming off questions one after the other no matter what answers are given, listen to each answer and be genuinely interested in what the subject has to say. This will likely lead you to ask follow-up questions, sometimes providing even more insightful and effective answers for your video edit. As well, whatever tone and enthusiasm you offer your interview subject will strongly influence the tone and enthusiasm they give back to you. This being the case, fast-fire and succinct questions are not what you want to be providing. Whatever answers you're looking for, do whatever you need in order to mirror that tone and energy in yourself. While each interview is unique, this mindset will prove to be very useful in some circumstances. At other times, the subject will seemingly do all the work for you.
Don't Interrupt Answers
Contrary to how you might conduct your day-to-day conversation... Hold on, let's start that again. During the interview, you want to be careful not to interrupt your subject's answers. The are a couple reasons for this. First, you want as many lines spoken by your subject as possible. Interviews will typically last no more than one hour, so there's no risk of getting too much content and overworking yourself; the more footage you have to work with in the edit room, the better. Including yourself in the conversation more than you need will only lead to shorter answers. While follow-up questions are a good thing, do your best to wait until they are finished speaking to ask them. Besides not wanting to stunt the answers, having your voice interject their answers will make things a lot more difficult in the edit and at times will render some answers unusable. Most likely, you won't want to hear your voice in the final video. Any time your voice is heard, that section of the footage becomes unusable.
This being the case, you do still want to react to what they are saying in a non-verbal manner. In normal conversation it would be natural for you to respond from time to time with "i see" or "ah!" in order to let the person you're speaking with know that you're listening and understanding. While you still want to convey that you're following along, it's important to do so non-verbally. Nod your head, smile, and otherwise react in a way where the microphones on set will not pick up any sound from you. As mentioned in the first point, it can be a good idea to let the subject know at the very beginning that you won't be reacting verbally to anything while they are delivering their answers, laughing included.
Try To Have A Conversation
This idea of conducting the interview shoot in a similar fashion as you would have a normal conversation has been mentioned a couple times now. It's worth touching on again as it's one of the fundamental and overarching strategies you can use to get great answers from your subject. The more relaxed your interview subject, the more genuine, unscripted, energetic, and well-formed their answers will be. This point is also worth keeping in mind as you manage yourself during the interview. Conducting an interview in a conversational way while still leading it in the direction you want (in order to get the answers you want) is no small task. It's easy to get distracted, go off on a tangent for too long, or get uptight trying keep things relaxed and conversational while still keeping in mind all of the points you want to touch on. This is where preparation can play a big role. While you don't need to memorize all the questions (and having them written down is fine), just remembering to go back to them before time runs out is something to be prepared for.
Try Not To Script Answers
Videos can have a range of styles to them, from completely scripted with paid actors, to not scripted at all with relevant subjects. What we're discussing here is the interview where questions are prepared but answers are completely unscripted. The important thing is to stick to that format once it's decided on. It can be tempting at times during the interview to spontaneously feed an answer to your subject. You might ask a question that gets an answer pretty close to what you wanted to hear, but wasn't quite there. It's these times where you might want to say "that was great, but can you say that again and just mention...". While this can sometimes be effective and still lead to an answer that sounds natural, it will often do the opposite. Feeding lines to your subject will usually return answers that sound scripted and unnatural.
Another way this scripted tonality can creep into your interview is if you ask your subject to repeat the question in their answer. You might ask, "what do you like most about product A?" to which the reply is, "It's made with only the best materials". Most likely what you wanted to hear was "What I like most about product A is that it's made with only the best materials". That answer has more context and will better work in the edit. While it can seem perfectly natural to ask your subject to reframe their answer in this way and can even be a good strategy if you're just starting out in corporate video, it's usually better go about it in a different manner. Any time you directly ask the subject to rephrase an answer, it's more than likely going to sound scripted and unnatural. Rather, you can rephrase your own question in order to reset the stage, reset their question, and hopefully have it delivered again in a better way with more context. Continuing from the example mentioned here, you could rephrase your question to "Okay I'm sure there's a lot of great things about Product A, can you just generally talk about what you like about product A, and potentially touch on anything that really stands out?" Hopefully, your rephrasing of the question will lead to an answers that provide better context.
It's All About The Conversation
In the end, if all you focus on during your interview is keeping it conversational while still working in the questions and topics you want to touch on, you should have what you need to go off and edit together a solid video. The big take-home message is to keep it conversational and positive rather than a rapid-fire interrogation style interview. It can definitely be challenging to focus on some of the more subtle points here, especially if you're a one-person crew and you're running the camera, audio, and lighting in addition to being the interviewer. Fortunately, the interview style testimonial video is one of the easier productions to master, and more than likely you'll be pleasantly surprised in the edit room as you put together a smooth flowing video that does a great job of outlining the benefits of a particular product or service. We wish you well in your interview pursuits. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions.