Interviews are a great way to infuse a heavy dose of authenticity into your video. We love doing them as evidenced here and here. Interviews allow for the people who know your company best to guide the video’s story. Even the most clever copywriter in the world could never dream up what people will say in a natural interview.

That being said, we’ve all seen some pretty terrible interviews. I call them “stiff, staged & sweaty.” The common mistake people make is thinking that it’s the interviewee’s fault. “They’re just not good in front of a camera.” WRONG. Typically, it’s the interviewer’s fault. What most people don’t understand is that being interviewed is hard. There’s bright lights, people standing around eating snacks and the scariest thing of all: a camera pointed right at their face. If you take nothing else out of this article, please remember that if you simply empathize with your subject’s situation, your interviews will turn out way better.

So, here are 3 ways you can make your video interviews better:

  1. Stop giving rules. A lot of folks give their subjects a bunch of rules right before the interview. “Put the question in the form of an answer.” “Make sure you always say ‘XYZ by ABC Brand – you can’t just say XYZ!” “Don’t talk about Bill – he doesn’t want to be in the video.” Stop it. Listen, your subject is already nervous enough. By piling all of these rules and things to remember on them, you’re just adding to their overstressed brain’s processing power. You’re impeding authenticity. You’re going to lead your interview into the “stiff, staged & sweaty” zone.

    Yes, the things they need to say and the way they need to say them are important for legal or branding purposes. But let your interviewee say it naturally first, then after they finish their answer, go back and say something like: “That was great! Just for the sake of the video, can you please repeat your answer and this time say “a team member” instead of mentioning Bill by name?” You’ll find your subject will be able to deliver the same sound bite, if not better, and they’ll say it how you want them to.
  2. Invest in a makeup artist. Most, if not all, of my shoots have a makeup artist. These pros can help in more ways than just making people not shiny.

    First, a makeup artist puts your subject at ease because instead of just hopping into the “hot seat,” the interviewee goes to makeup. Here they’re chatted up, get spritzed with water and generally get pampered for 10-15 minutes.

    Second, makeup artists can alleviate issues when people get nervous in front of the camera. Sometimes people break out in hives on their neck, start sweating profusely or begin to look green. A good makeup artist will nonchalantly fix the situation without making anyone feel/look awkward. Also, as word spreads that you made your executive look good on camera, you’ll get greater participation in future video interviews.

    Finally, makeup artists have an eye for detail. They’ll notice a small fuzzy on a shirt, or a flower in the background that’s drooping. Invest in makeup!

  3. Stop looking at your questions. Think of the best conversations you’ve ever had. The ones that kept you up past 2am because they were so interesting. Did you have a list of questions? No way! You were authentically engaged in what the other person was saying and added your natural thoughts. It was two-sided. The best interviews are conversations, not inquisitions.

    When you don’t authentically engage with your subject you are putting more and more pressure on them to become a sound bite machine – because they know you’re just reading a list of questions, not really listening to them. They see you more as a DMV test proctor than a person who has interest in what they’re saying.

    Here’s an easy way to get over this overreliance on printed questions. The next interview you do, simply put the questions on the floor face up next to your chair. Try not to look at them and sincerely make an effort to listen to your subject. If you will really listen, you’ll find that the subject actually gives you the next question to ask on a silver platter.

    Here’s a typical example:

    Interviewer: “What do you do for XYZ Corp?”

    Subject: “I manage our call response times so we know clients are getting served promptly.”

    Interviewer: “Why is it important to make sure clients are getting served promptly?”See how that worked? It’s almost like a child’s game. But why? But why? But why? If you totally freeze up during an interview and have no idea what to ask next, just ask “why” about some element of the subject’s previous answer – odds are it’ll be a great sound bite! Worst comes to worst, look at your questions, but only glance after your subject answers. Try to maintain eye contact throughout all answers – it’ll make interviewees think you’re engaged/interested in what they’re saying, even if you’re thinking of what’s for dinner tonight.

If you start doing these three things, you’ll notice answers to questions will start sounding more authentic, interviews will be quicker to complete, and people will leave the interview chair happy – not ashamed. In the end, doing an interview is like developing a little mini-relationship. You must truly become engaged in the other person and listen.