By Thomas Clifford published March 28, 2011

Why Video Interview Content Falls Short (And How to Fix It)

Think all video interviews go smoothly? Think again.

If interviews are part of your plan to capture exceptional, engaging video content, you’re counting on someone else to give you what you want. And that can be risky.

What’s the biggest challenge in any video interview?

Capturing content that is interesting, entertaining and believable. Not everyone is comfortable in front of a video camera.

As a former marketing video producer, I’ve interviewed more than 1,500 people on camera, and I’ve run into just about every interviewing problem you can imagine.

But one problem stopped me dead in my tracks – until I used one of the best interviewing secrets ever. So if you run into the same problem, here’s what you can do to keep your content from hitting a brick wall.

True story

It was a typical filming day. Interview after interview. I sat down with the last guest and asked her a question to warm up the conversation. She started talking. So far, so good.

20 seconds later – wham!

She stopped talking.

She F-R-O-Z-E.

 

I couldn’t say anything to get her talking again

I even asked off-topic questions to lighten things up a bit.

She started. She stopped. She started. She stopped.

We took a break, got some water and sat back down.

We started up. Again.

She froze. Again.

I was dripping buckets of sweat

I finally leaned toward her a little bit.

And this is what I told her:

I’m the guy editing your words and your story. I’m the one shaping the final product. You don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. You can mess up as much as you want, because I’ll edit all that stuff out. I’ll keep only the gold.

I told her that the more she talked, the more editing options I’d have. And having more editing options would help me – and her – shape her message easily and effortlessly.

She let out a deep sigh of relief.

“Oh, I was wondering what would happen to my video”

The idea worked perfectly.

The camera rolled and off we went.

What did I do without even realizing it? I eliminated fear, nervousness and doubt. I created a comfort zone. She had been listening to her fearful inner voice –that critical internal editor, but now she was more comfortable speaking her mind.

But once you turn down the internal editor’s volume, getting a guest to have a conversation on camera is a piece of cake.

What should you tell your guests before every video interview?

  1. The more they speak, the more material you’ll have to work with.
  2. The less they speak, the harder it will be for you to shape and craft their story.
  3. What happens after the interview, who sees the interview, who edits it, etc.

In my example, after I told her I’d keep only the best material from her interview, my guest had the confidence to talk freely, without the fear of saying the “wrong” thing. Your guests (usually) don’t know who will see their interview or how their words and story will be edited. They’re super-conscious about saying the “right” things, thanks to their internal editors working overtime.

Video content is increasingly easier to create

As Flip cameras and mini-video recorders become ubiquitous, the desire (and demand) to capture and create video content will continue to rise.

And what’s the best part of capturing all this video content? It can easily be repurposed into other formats for wider distribution, like blog posts, special reports and podcasts. You can extend its appeal over multiple types of media.

But capturing engaging video content isn’t always easy. Watch out for challenges. And when possible, nip them in the bud.

Summary

Most people aren’t familiar with the video process, let alone appearing on camera. It’s only natural for your interviewee to crank up his or her internal editor, minimizing your chances of capturing the engaging content you hoped you would hear.

Remember:

  1. Put yourself in your guest’s shoes.
  2. Help quiet your guest’s internal editor.
  3. Create a comfort zone.

Back to you

This is one of my favorite interviewing techniques, but you’ve probably used many others.

What are your favorite interviewing techniques?

Have you run into any challenging video interviewing situations? If so, how did you overcome them?

What great tips and ideas do you have?

Author: Thomas Clifford

Thomas Clifford is a B2B content marketing writer and certified copywriter. He helps companies generate and nurture high quality leads through eNewsletters, blog articles and free special download reports. Tom has 25 years under his belt as an award-winning B2B filmmaker. He's produced hundreds of marketing-branding films and brings his street-level interviewing experience to every project. Tom is featured in the book “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business." He has also written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for FastCompany.com. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @ThomasClifford. His blog, "Humanizing Business Communications," is packed with new media business communication tips and writing strategies. His eBook "5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier" is free to new subscribers.

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  • http://twitter.com/axonpublish Axon Publishing

    The problem surely is that notion of “best”. You’ll only keep the best, you’ll only use the gold – but is your definition the same as your subject’s? Isn’t that why subjects often prefer to deliver carefully worded soundbites, so that they feel they’re in control of the content?

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Sure, if someone wants to use soundbites, they can. But in a documentary style interview, more conversation (instead of less) can really benefit both the subject and the message itself.

  • Greg Hoff

    Great post. In my experience, practice helps to create that comfort zone for interviewees. These days it’s also easy enough to film the practice sessions using a smartphone for instant feedback.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Greg,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. That’s an awesome tip re: the smartphone! Thanks for sharing that.

      The other thing I didn’t mention is that rarely are video interviews live. Reminding interviewees that they can stop anytime or redo an answer is another technique to create a “comfort zone” and help them feel more at ease.

  • http://GenerosityMarketing.com/ Bryan Bliss

    I have found it considerably easier to earn rapport, comfort and confidence during my interviews if I open up 2 way video on skype . even if we are not planning on using my image in the interview, it helps so much to have the person im interviewing have my friendly face to smile back to. I’m conscious of my body language and i create an atmosphere of enthusiastic interest and casual playfulness. for some odd reason this format brings comfort even more easily than a live in person face to face interview. people are so camera conscious but it seems less in front of a webcam. Often i will skip the “formal introduction” of my interview subject because that puts such a formal vibe. Ill just start chatting, explaining what we’re after, and how we’ll edit and the interviewee will get a chance to see/comment/veto before we go live. I’m interested in bringing out the conversational charisma, the passion and the spontaneity during the interview. Definitely I have lots of practice to go ( I’m nowhere near your level of experience and expertise yet) and every call is a new adventure that gets me excited.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      H Bryan,

      Skipping the “formal introduction” is a great way to ease into the conversation. And you’re spot on about having a friendly face to smile back to. I’d also mention that slight nodding gives your guest the “invisible” cue that they’re doing well; it keeps them going.

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Eugene

    Excellent post. Your three reminder tips in the summary works for presentation audiences as well. As a speaker when you eliminate fear, nervousness and doubt you create a simple and powerful comfort zone. The principles in this post work across so many ‘people interaction’ zones. Well done. Thanks for provoking a deeper level of thought.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Thanks for sharing this reminder, Eugene.

  • Eugene

    Excellent post. Your three reminder tips in the summary works for presentation audiences as well. As a speaker when you eliminate fear, nervousness and doubt you create a simple and powerful comfort zone. The principles in this post work across so many ‘people interaction’ zones. Well done. Thanks for provoking a deeper level of thought.

  • Mike Watt

    Tom–One trick that I use when doing these kind of “interviews” is to listen carefully enough to what they say so that when a natural break occurs or when they fumble, I can say: “I really liked that first part, but why don’t you pick it up with: “The second thing we found out after the marketing test….” and so on so that you are helping them SHAPE their answers and making their responses more coherent without quite
    putting words in their mouth(s). I also re-frame in between almost every question so that you can cut things together from this piecemeal style without ending up with jump cuts, especially when there is not going to be a lot of B-reel material at hand to cover the cuts.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for sharing this tip. You got this exactly right; it’s good to state the positive part (I like what you said …) first then guide them to tweak the answer so it works in editing.

  • Anonymous

    Tom:

    You are correct that you need to reframe the conversation. It is about the end product not the journey there. In the old days with all the live TV everyone knew if a mistake was made. Today it is all perfect because it is edited.

    Rob

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Rob,

      I liken video interviewing to mining for gold.

      We don’t where the gold is until we dig a bit and explore what’s there. If we knew what people would say ahead time, well, we’d right a script!

      But reading a script rarely comes off as natural. Hence, the conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/ToddSierer Todd Sierer

    Great technique! I have always tried to make the interviewee feel very comfortable as soon as possible…and I always have them look and talk to me instead of the camera. Only very experienced speakers can look at a mechanical device and make it feel/look like they’re talking to a person.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Todd,

      You’re exactly right about looking and speaking into the camera like it’s a person. That’s incredibly hard to do, even with a teleprompter; even harder without one! Go for the full conversation and find the gems later; it’s easier on everyone. =)

  • http://twitter.com/GilPizano Gil Pizano

    Hi Tom,

    This is some good down to earth information. It’s amazing how people are always there own worst critics and they want to make sure they say the right thing all the time. Especially while being filmed. Giving the interviewee the knowledge that film and video is editable (what a concept 🙂 ) and that you will make them look like gold as long as you have enough information edit the conversation is a very good idea.

    Now if the person being interviewed doesn’t trust you and what you’ll do with the video, that’s a different story all together.

    Cheers and Best Regards,

    Gil

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Gil,

      Yes, sometimes we can get in our own way! But that’s the role of a good interviewer; to let the interviewee know what’s happening ahead of time so when being filmed, they can just focus on what they want to say.

      Reducing the background noise in the interviewee’s head is the goal.

      Thanks for sharing,
      Tom

  • Jenny

    Hi Tom. Interesting read! One of the favorite parts of my job is interviewing people, whether it’s for writing an article or for video work. One piece of advice that really stood out to me after reading the book Video Script Writing by Barry Hampe was to try to avoid getting nonactors to recite memorized lines. It comes across as stiff and unnatural, and I find this is true. You cannot make the assumption that everyone will know how to deliver words in front of the camera, especially when they are dealing with a bad case of nerves. They seem to be much more comfortable engaging in a friendly chat, with the interviewer asking questions in a casual way. Then just editing together their responses.

    Cheers,

    Jenny

  • sfahey

    I have seen many video interviews and people submit them where I work 
    http://www.vidinterviewing.com/ and the biggest mistake people do is not check for the background noise. It’s such an easy step… make sure you are in a quite place…