Magazine article Communication World

Corporate Casting Call: How to Help Your Interviewees Come across as Confident and Comfortable on Camera

Magazine article Communication World

Corporate Casting Call: How to Help Your Interviewees Come across as Confident and Comfortable on Camera

Article excerpt

Most corporate videos revolve around interviews with one or more key employees. So choosing the right people to interview and preparing them in advance are crucial steps in making a video project a success.

Preparing questions

You don't have to be an expert in a subject to interview someone who is, but you will get much more useful information if you make yourself familiar with the topic and its associated jargon. But don't necessarily let the interviewee know how much you know. In fact, "playing dumb" (to a point) to elicit responses that will be easier for a non-technical audience to understand is a good technique.

Don't ask questions that have a yes or no answer. Instead of asking, "Were you on site when the plant exploded?" ask, "What did it feel like when the plant exploded?"

Critique your list of questions by asking yourself, "Is this what my audience needs to know about this topic? Or is it what my boss wants to tell them?" Then get rid of any boss questions.

I never give out my interview questions before the shoot. Doing so can result in overly rehearsed, robotic responses that lack spontaneity and energy. Instead, let interviewees know only the overall purpose of the video and the topics you intend to cover. Give them a sense of the tone or approach the piece will take and a description of the intended audience. Assure them that your goal is to show them in the best possible light, and that they will have the opportunity to stop and restate their comments during the taping.

Coaching interviewees

While being truthful is always your No. 1 goal, a close second is to depict your people, facilities and events in the best possible way. For that reason, I always clean up desktops, apply makeup and, most important, coach interviewees on their responses.

My most frequent coaching comment? "That was a great thought. Now make it shorter." First responses are rarely the best take. I let interviewees ramble through the first take without interruption. It gives them a chance to organize their thoughts and lets me pick out the sound bites. Because invariably, even though I coach them to do otherwise, people tend to take a big, deep breath and then let loose with a stream-of-consciousness, run-on sentence of loosely connected thoughts before fizzling out of ideas (and air), with little or no idea of where they were headed or how to end. …

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