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Interviewing for Video: Yep, It's Different

Candace | March 20th, 2012

If you come from a print background, like I do, you’ve been interviewing for quite some time. It’s almost like second nature. So, when someone tells you to interview for video it should be a breeze, right? Wrong.

In print, what’s important is getting the quote that is telling. It doesn’t matter if the interviewee coughs in the middle, takes five minutes to finish it or is soft-spoken. All of those things, plus many more, matter in video. And it’s tough if you’re used to interviewing the other way.

After doing a few interviews on camera, I’ve learned some of my most frequent mistakes and am working to correct them. Luckily for you, I made them so you don’t have to ? as long as you follow these tips.

1. DO NOT give audible feedback
It’s so natural for me to say “mhm,” “oh,” “okay,” “really?” etc. when the interviewee is talking. I want them to know I’m listening. I want to let them know to keep going when they’re onto something good. I want to give positive feedback. Don’t do it, because you’ve just ruined your entire clip because your voice is now in it. The interviewee is the subject. You’re just documenting his or her life, and you (most likely) shouldn’t be in it.

2. DO nod in agreement
I fiercely nod to let me interviewee know I am listening, and I want him or her to continue. The mic can’t hear you nod (at least I hope not), and it encourages your interviewee. Plus this gives me something to do instead of speaking.

3. Indulge in awkward silences
If you’re working for a print medium, deadlines are tough. If there was an awkward silence during an interview, I hurriedly filled it with more questions because, hey, I had a deadline to meet. Though multimedia still has deadlines (what doesn’t?), you might get your best stuff during that awkward silence. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable, and we want to fill that silence. This sometimes pushes the interviewee to say something they weren’t comfortable saying before or giving more details or something just to fill the void.

4. Ask them to include some of your question in their answer
It may seem really uncomfortable to tell your interviewees what to say, but you’re not really. Here’s the thing. If you ask, “so, did you think it was a great opportunity?” and they say “yes.” You have nothing. In print, you could say, “Nelson thought it was a great opportunity.” But for video, all you have is someone saying “yes,” without any context. So if you ask them to include your question, they will say “yes, I thought it was a great opportunity,” and THAT’s what you need. It’s impossible to edit one-word answers, and unless you’re appearing in the video too, it’s worthless.

5. Ask open-ended questions
This is important whenever you’re interviewing, but it’s especially important in video. You really want your subject to tell you a story in a cohesive way. You can’t connect the dots for them with your voice, because you’re voice isn’t in the video. So you need them to tell you a story in a logical way that will make sense to others watching the video. And ask them the same question again if it’s not answered clearly. Ask it in different ways. Just keep in mind what you have on video and how it could go together.

Any other tips? I know you got ‘em!

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