This week continues our look at the relatively simple yet powerful testimonial video and how you can create your very own. To recap, a testimonial video's main content is the unscripted answers a person delivers based on questions asked by an interviewer. Testimonial videos can also include b-roll footage and a music track. These types of promotional videos can be a great way to effectively communicate the value that a business offers. People respond to word-of-mouth recommendations, and if you're a startup business this is often the most powerful way to gain trust and grow.
Here, we will be looking at the steps you can take during pre-production (preparations before the shoot day) to ensure that your shooting and interviewing go well and leave you with high quality content to work with in the edit room. Some of the points made here will be straightforward and logistical, while others will be more conceptual and strategical. Let's start with our first tip.
Tip #1 - Figure Out Your Messaging
Determine the Key Message
Determining the messaging for any type of video or marketing content is an important initial step. It can be tempting to start writing down questions for your interview subjects right away and then just go ahead and start shooting. However, it's best to figure out the key message you want the video to deliver, and direct your interview questions accordingly.
Oftentimes there will be several ideas that come to mind, especially when it comes to the testimonial video. You could guide the interview in a direction to focus on a business's end product or service, a particular aspect of that product, on the people behind the business, or the problem that their business solves, etc. While it can be tempting to include several different points that provide insight into all the wonderful ways a business is effective, this can cause the video to be less impactful by not focusing in on one clear, understandable, and strong message.
So, how do you define the core message for a testimonial video? At BiteSite, we like to meet with our clients and have a whiteboard brainstorming session. For testimonial videos, this session typically lasts about one hour and involves a lot of discussion on all the ideas for the video. By the end of this meeting you'll likely have several different key messages. Circle each key message so they stand out from all of the other information and ideas you'll have written down during the meeting. Then, decide on one or two key messages to focus on in your video.
Apply The Key Message To Your Interview Shoot
Once you've determined the direction you want to take the video, you'll need to apply that to an unscripted interview shooting scenario. It will be necessary to guide an interview in a particular direction since the interviewee will be delivering answers of his/her own accord and is likely unaware of what answers you're looking for. Besides knowing that the purpose of the interview is to speak favourably on a particular company, the interview subject won't know that you're wanting to focus in on one or two particular aspects about that business. In fact, it's best that the interview subject feels as free as possible in expressing themselves, even if that means communicating not as favourable sentiments about the company in question. Having an authentic and unscripted interview is an important factor in crafting an impactful video.
Despite this, you can prepare for and conduct the interview in such a way to draw out the answers you want from the interviewee as best you can. To do this, write down the ideal answers that you would want to hear from the interview subject, essentially writing out a script for your unscripted video. From these ideal answers, create the questions you would ask to get those answers. Those are the questions to ask in the interview. While it's unlikely that your interview subject will deliver your ideal answer word-for-word and sometimes will even give unexpected answers, your questions will now have a much better chance of getting the best answers from your interviewee that support the key message of the video. Once your interview questions have been crafted, that's it; you don't' want to be feeding lines to your interviewee or directing their answers to suit your messaging. It's worth mentioning again that the interviewee should feel as free as possible to deliver any answer they want.
To summarize, have a whiteboard session to determine a key message, write out ideal answers that support that key message, and then create interview questions that would warrant those ideal answers.
Tip #2 - Scheduling Your Interviews
Scheduling interviews is all about having a smooth-flowing and low-stress shoot day in order to save on everyone's time and get the best content possible from your interviews. Oftentimes it will be fitting to conduct just one interview at the interviewee's place of business. Other times, you'll be conducting multiple interviews to include in one testimonial video and the time and effort will compound. Each shoot requires travel time, setup and tear-down time, and correspondence with each interviewee to coordinate time and location. This is where it can be quite valuable to strategically schedule your interviews. The single-most effective way to save on your own time is to conduct all the interviews in one day, at one location. If conditions allow for that, it can make a lot more sense than setting up multiple sets over the course of several days. Understandably, this isn't always possible as you might be dealing with several people's schedules and trying to find one day where everyone is available to meet up at specific time periods.
Proving that it's not always possible to have the most ideal shooting schedule, we at BiteSite have produced videos where the shooting schedule differed considerably from project to project. Sometimes shoots have involved one interview at one location, multiple interviews in multiple locations (crossing cities and even countries!), and multiple interviews all at one location. It all depends on the project's unique scenario.
Tip #3 - Do a Location Scout
Check out the location before you shoot there. Doing a location scout saves you from having any unfortunate surprises on the shoot day. After having everything and everyone arrive at the location on the shoot day, you don't want to have any unforeseen disturbances that make shooting either less than ideal or flat out impossible. While you don't need to become a location scout expert (you can in fact hire professional scouts to search out and find suitable locations for your shoots), it's worth at least visiting the location before the shoot day to make sure it's workable. Some things that could warrant a change of location might be audio issues such as a persistent and loud ventilation system or lack of a private and quiet shooting area in an otherwise noisy office environment. Smaller things to look for could be control over lighting (window light can become an issue), access to power outlets, and accessibility (stairs vs. elevators, and parking).
Additionally, visiting the location allows for time to plan how you want to setup your shoot in terms of framing and lighting. This can help to reduce time-spent on the shoot day and keep things moving along smoothly.
Tip #4 - Conduct A Pre-Interview
Pre-Interviews are a very effective way to prep for interview shoots. In fact, this is probably the most important point made in this article. Having your interview subject deliver the best answers in the best way is going to be key in creating an effective video. Pre-interviews can help a lot to achieve this. So, what is a pre-interview?
A pre-interview is a casual conversation that you have with your interview subject at some point before the actual interview shoot. This conversation can be done in any manner, whether that's in-person, online through voice and/or video, or over the phone. During the pre-interview you're looking to learn things that may influence your questions on the shoot day as well as establish comfort and trust with the subject so that they feel able to express themselves as best they can on camera. Generally, you're looking to have that initial meeting (especially if you've never met the interviewee before) to establish comfort and set the stage. Going through this process will also refresh and prep both your and the interviewee's minds so that you're both mentally on-the-ball for the interview. Having a pre-interview can be the difference between "uhh I can't recall at the moment..." to "there's a great story behind that...". When it comes to influencing your actual questions, the pre-interview can be very helpful; you may learn new things that inspire new and relevant questions that you otherwise would not have thought of or would not have been as well prepared for on the interview day.
That covers four important tips to consider when it comes to preparing for an interview video shoot. In our next post we'll be going over ways to improve the skills of conducting the interview on set. Until next time, happy interviewing!