The On Camera Interview

One of the most common video requests out there these days require on-camera interviews. Many times the video may never actually show the person speaking on screen, but still, the interview had to take place. As the person doing the majority of the interviewing, I’ve oversimplified some key themes that have enabled me to conduct some successful interviews over the years.

 

ACKNOWLEDGE THE AWKWARD

Everyone is afraid of the camera. Even seasoned actors or on-camera talent have had that awkward phase being on camera for the first time, myself included.  Even though I’ve been conducting interviews for years, as soon as I put myself on the other side of the camera, I freak out. Rule number one for me is always to acknowledge the awkward. It’s not natural for someone to sit in a chair (or stand) surrounded by lights and cameras pointed at their face, and perhaps, a handful of crew members running around in the background. And although this may be your normal, it most likely isn’t theirs; so do them a favor and call it what it is: awkward. It’s a diffusion technique to calm nerves, instill confidence, and keep the mood light. Depending on my rapport with the interviewee, sometimes I’ll make a joke saying that I’m glad “I’m on this side of the camera.” I want them to know that I empathize with them, and we’re in this together.
 

ESTABLISH TRUST

It’s fairly commonplace that before I hit record on an interview, the interviewee will inquire about the placement of their hair, or if there’s something residing in their teeth. People are afraid of looking like idiots, it’s human nature. The anxiety that comes from worrying about what one looks and sounds like translates into the individual’s delivery. To be blunt, their fear of looking like an idiot, actually makes them look more like an idiot. The key here is to reassure your interviewee that they can trust you (and your team) to convey them in an accurate and positive light.

One of the first on-camera interviews I ever conducted was with my uncle for the family business. I hit record, looked at my notes and asked him question #1 and was met with stunned silence. It was like a deer in the headlights. After about half an hour of trying to get anything out of him, we decided to postpone until the following day so he could collect his thoughts. He was the President of the company, and so to him, appearance was everything. He wanted to make sure that he came across confident and intelligent, but by him worrying, he actually came across less confident and less intelligent.

What was revealed in that situation and many others after, is the importance of establishing trust; to infuse the interviewee with confidence in your ability as a professional to make them look good. I like to tell interviewees that “I look good when you look good. So it’s in my best interest to make you look good.” This usually works like a charm. Because at the basic human side of it, even if what I was doing was completely selfish and self-serving, my goal would be to make them look good, so they should have nothing to worry about.

Establishing a professional trust in the moments preceding and during the interview is key to a quality delivery from your interviewee.

 

BE CURIOUS

I have conducted many interviews that have revolved around some bizarre and interesting topics I never thought I would ever find myself inquiring about. Middle-aged women’s sexual health, a trucking company’s logistics operations, the benefits of foam technology, you name it, I’ve probably talked to someone about it on camera. The key in these moments to getting a great interview rely on your ability to really get curious.

When a person is passionate and/or knowledgeable about something and someone shows genuine interest in that knowledge, more often than not, that person will open up and talk people’s ears off. Genuine curiosity shown through verbal and non-verbal cues breaks down barriers when talking with someone, and specifically builds confidence in the interviewee to share more details about what they are talking about. And when someone is speaking with confidence about something they know or care a lot about, generally the outside distractions begin to fade away and they begin to deliver those heartfelt, insightful, A-plus sound bytes you pray for.

 

All of these points rely on building rapport with your interviewee, being personable, and making the interview process as comfortable as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to conduct a Pre-Interview, which I will talk more about in the next blog post coming soon. Stay tuned.

If you have any questions regarding what I’ve shared or would like to know more, comment below. And please don’t hesitate to share this information with everyone you know.