5 Tips To Get A Great Video Interview

Oh dear. This is not going as planned. You thought you’d lined up the perfect guest for your weekly video series on how to succeed as an entrepreneur. He seemed dynamic when you spoke to him at that conference last October. He sounded lively when you spoke with him on the phone to line up the shoot. But now, he’s sitting next to you, the lights are on, the camera is rolling, and the video production crew is waiting for action. And waiting. And waiting.

So are you. You’re waiting for more than a one- or two-word answer. There are plenty of fish in the sea, but it looks like you hauled in a sea cucumber. He’s just sitting there, not doing much of anything, mumbling responses that, quite frankly, make a Magic 8 Ball look erudite.

If it makes you feel any better (it probably won’t, at least not right now) you’re in good company. An interview, as just about every journalist can tell you, can only be as good as the interviewee. Certainly the interviewER has to do the job right too, because even the most exuberant guest won’t come off well without the proper questions and interplay. But what do you do when the guest is, for all intents and purposes, a pod person straight out of a science fiction movie? It happens all the time. People who are confident and well-spoken in ordinary circumstances just seem to freeze when the camera starts rolling. So it’s up to you, the interviewer, to become Harry Potter and work your magic. Fortunately you don’t need a wand and an abysmal grasp of Latin to get things done. A few simple steps will do the trick.


A few simple steps will help you get a great interview for your video

  1. Preparation is everything:

    People are naturally going to be nervous when they go into an unknown situation. Having questions thrown at them out of the blue isn’t going to make things any easier for them. Since you’re not doing an undercover expose, ready to pounce on your victims screaming: “AHA!” at the first sign of hesitation, there’s no reason you can’t give your guests a heads-up about what you’ve got planned. Send them a list of the questions you’ll be asking, and any general areas you might cover. That gives guests time to prepare. If possible, make time to go over the questions and their responses ahead of the video shoot. Ideally you can do this before the shoot date, through a phone call, emails, or an in-person meeting. If all else fails, schedule time into the shoot day itself to go over things before those cameras start rolling. That will also give you a chance to know what your guests are going to say, so there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for you either.

  2. Relax:

    People respond to the body language of the people they’re around. Even if you’ve got a fake smile plastered on your face (which sometimes screams: “I’m barely restraining myself from throttling you!”) your guest will likely pick up on the fact that you’re tense, irritated, and/or frustrated. This will make him or her defensive, and that will just make the situation even worse. You have to remain in control at all times, so take a few deep breaths (subtly, please, or it may look like you’re sighing in anguish) and push the reset button. If necessary, have the production crew halt the recording while you work further with the guest. Use that as a last resort though, because even a novice understands that when the camera stops rolling it usually means something is wrong. You don’t want to add to your guest’s discomfort.

  3. Listen closely:

    So you put together your list of questions, and politely forwarded it to your guests. But a quality interview is more than a rote formula: ask a question+ get an answer = go to next question. That’s a formula for failure. Make sure you listen to your guests’ responses, and then, if they’re not thorough, dig a little deeper. Empathy is a great tool here.”It’s got to be hard to sink your entire life savings into a business venture,” or “How did it feel when that first cold call brought results?” Let your guests know you’re really listening to what they’re saying, and connecting on an emotional level. Not only does that put them at ease, it also helps you come across as genuine to anyone who watches the video.

  4. Be proactive: 

    This goes hand-in-hand with listening closely. You have to process the information your guests are giving so that you can pick up on any discrepancies or vague areas. Whatever you do, DON”T come across as confrontational, as in: “But just a minute ago, you said….” You never want to give even the appearance of questioning the veracity or competence of yours guests (if for no other reason than that it will call your own veracity into question, since you made the decision to interview them in the first place). Tact is essential here. Find a gentle way to bring any contradictions into alignment so that the message is clear and uniform. If it’s not possible to do it naturally, it may be time to take a quick break and think about ways to reframe the questions so there are no discrepancies in the responses. Which brings us to…

  5. If at first…

    And you know how the rest goes. This is video, not live television, so it really is possible to try, try again. Be aware that doing retakes may make some people more nervous. They’ve already picked up on the fact that something is wrong, and they’re very likely blaming themselves. It’s not unusual to go through several retakes of a question and response, only to find that the first go-around was the best after all. Whether you allow your guests to ask for a retake if they’re uncomfortable with their answers is up to you. Be mindful that people are their own worst critics, and you could easily run into those who want to do repeated takes because they feel the answer wasn’t up to snuff. Once you open that door and give guests that kind of control in the video process, it’s very hard to rein things in without offending.

Above all, realize that the odds aren’t always going to be totally in your favor. If you do a lot of interviews, be prepared for some that just don’t feel right, or even wind up being a total waste of time. If you’re relying on releasing videos on a specific schedule (regardless of whether they include interviews or not) always have one or two backups ready for emergencies. Another piece of advice is to let your production company help you as much as possible. Sometimes an interview that you thought was a total failure can be salvaged with creative editing. At Hencar, we take an objective approach to every project. If something doesn’t work, we’ll tell you, but if there’s a possibility of pulling it out of the fire, we’ll tell you that too. Be prepared, be flexible, and you’ll be surprised at how many great interviews you can pull off with these simple pointers.