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On camera interviews have become all the rage for online video content. For this reason, there is a TON of information out there about how to successfully do this. However, as someone who has conducted literally thousands of these, I can tell you that much of that information is not only unhelpful, a lot of it is dead wrong. In fact, when I work with a new crew, some of this misinformation is so ingrained that I need to spend 10-15 minutes before the shoot begins instructing them on why I will not be using these techniques. Here are three of the most common suggestions that you should avoid.
It took me tens of interviews and hundreds of hours in the edit suite to understand why this was wrong. After all—If I craft a good question and the interviewee repeats it to lead off their answer, am I not halfway to having what I need? No. You see, the problem is that when a person is attempting to repeat your question, they never deliver that content in a way that is credible and usable. They will be looking at the ceiling as they try to remember what you asked. They will often repeat the question as a question. And, worst of all, they will not connect emotionally to what they are saying (which will be very obvious to the viewer.) Instead of making them attempt to repeat what you say, engage the interviewee in a conversation and then move the conversation to a place where they will give you the answer you’re looking for.
When I first started doing interviews 25 years ago, I thought this would be the way to get a perfect performance every time. I could not have been more wrong. Almost immediately, I could see that when people write and prepare answers, they try to stick to the text. Since most of the people I’m interviewing are not professional actors, they will mistakes, then try to correct them, and then eventually get so nervous that they freeze. Instead of having interviewees do a lot of unnecessary preparation, let them know the general subject of the conversation you will have and assure them that there will be no questions for which they do not already have an answer. This will set them at ease, though it can be diffcult to convince stakeholders that you will still meet their informational goals.
One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in interview situations is that of a stakeholder trying to get an interviewee to use an exact word or phrase as part of a conversation. If you need someone to deliver an exact word or phrase in a convincing manner, hire an actor. If you need someone to deliver a message with authentic passion and conviction, get a “real person” who has that passion and conviction and let them choose the words they use. It is SO obvious to your audience when a person has been over-coached. Don’t lose sight of why you chose to go the interview route in the first place.
There are many other bits of conventional wisdom that can derail even the best planned interview, but, if you avoid making the interviewee repeat the answer, don’t make them over-prepare, and don’t over-coach them, you are well on your way to interview success!