Imagine you’re about to drive cross-country.
Your checklist is complete.
Your bags are packed.
And the car? Tuned to perfection.
And then – you’re off.
There’s just one catch.
You don’t have time for sightseeing.
So you need a shortcut to arrive quickly
You know the shortcut, right?
Yes, those highways are your shortcut
You want the same thing when it comes to video interviewing
You want a shortcut that tells you how to successfully interview someone without hitting any detours. You want a shortcut to help you reach your destination quickly, smoothly and professionally.
This three-part series is your highway for successful video interviewing.
Will it cover every little detail? No it won’t. But it will cover the major routes you need to take to start interviewing people like an expert.
Let’s get on the road, shall we?
Why bother interviewing someone in the first place?
When we interview someone, we’re climbing inside their head. Climbing inside someone’s head through interviewing helps us understand a subject area more easily. We want to learn more about their world, their point of view. A point of view personalizes information and helps us understand a subject area more easily. That’s all fine and dandy but if you’re thinking of interviewing someone, where do you start?
Here’s where you start
There are two ways or two “angles” to an interview.
The first way is called “outside looking in.” Customer testimonials are a classic example of someone “outside” the company or product being interviewed to share their experiences or thoughts.
The second way is called “inside looking out.” Examples of “inside looking out” include behind-the-scenes interviews or employee and staff interviews.
Let’s, say you have a person you’d like to interview. You’ve figured out your “angle.” Now you’re wondering, “What kinds of questions do I ask?”
There are two types of questions to ask
1) Closed-ended questions.
2) Open-ended questions.
What’s the difference?
Close-ended questions will give you a one-word or two-word answer like “yes,” “no,” “sometimes” or “I don’t know.”
Open-ended questions provide depth and richness in an answer. This depth is like having a conversation with a friend; you’re asking questions and your friend tells you what happened. Their answers paint a picture; they fill in the details. Here are two examples.
Example 1. Close-ended.
Q: “What color is your tie?”
A: “It’s red.”
Q: “Is there a story behind your tie?”
A: “Oh, yeah, there is, actually. You see, two years ago when I was traveling to …. “
Example 2. Close-ended.
Q: “Have you had any success with the new upgrade?”
A: “Yes, it’s been great, thank you.”
Q: “How has the new upgrade helped your business?”
A: “It’s been really helpful in a number of ways. First, we don’t have to struggle with … anymore. Now, it’s a snap to … “
See how one word makes a world of difference in the answers?
Look at the second example. Just by shifting one word in the question from “have” to “how,” we went from a dead-end phrase to a vivid and detailed answer we can picture in our mind. Be sure to ask open-ended questions– not close-ended questions!
But what if the person doesn’t say what you want them to say?
How do you control what people say?
You can’t control what people say in an interview. However, you can guide them and steer them in the direction you’d like to go. How do you steer them? By creating a list of answers– not questions– that are a priority for your interviewee to answer. You do this by writing down the answer you’d like to hear– then write the question that will create that type of answer. I call these answers your “walk-away” answers.
“Walk-away” answers are the few points you must have your interviewee talk about. If you asked your interviewee only these questions then had to “walk away” from your interview, you’d be happy. You captured what you came for.
“Gravy” answers are answers to questions you might be nice to have but are not essential to your video’s message. “Gravy” answers will naturally occur during an interview. Just be mindful when they occur. Steer your way back to your “walk-away” answers. Once you have your “walk-away” answers, if time permits, then ask a few “gravy” questions.
Let’s suppose you ask all your “walk-away” questions. And you topped it off with a few “gravy” questions.
How do you remember everything your interviewee said?
You can’t. Well, yes, you can.
How? With transcriptions. Transcriptions are a word-for-word printed representation of the conversation with your guest.
If possible, arrange for a way to have your interview transcribed to paper. If you do, every word will be in front of you. There are plenty of transcriptions services to choose from offering a variety of services. Chose a service and you’ll never have to spend hours furiously scribbling down notes while starting and stopping the video. A bit later on, in part three, you’ll also see how an interview transcribed to paper provides you accurate quotes from your guest; which is always a good thing to have!
What do you tell the interviewee ahead of time?
Here’s a short checklist of things to consider when your interview is starting to take off:
- Express thanks for having them volunteer their time.
- Define the audience with them so their answers are on target, meaningful and relevant.
- Set time expectations. Stress the need for more information from them rather than less. Having more information from them rather than less will help you edit your story without pulling your hair out.
- Don’t memorize anything! It’s a conversation (not an interview) and conversations don’t require memorization.
- Preferably, don’t share your questions ahead of time. Just share “big picture” types of questions. Why? Chances are, your interviewee will start memorizing answers. Memorizing answers often result in freezing on camera.
So far, so good.
Except– something’s still bugging you.
How do you know your interviewee will be engaging on-camera?
Can you tell ahead of time how they’ll come across on video? Is there a way for you to “dial in” to their personality beforehand to see and feel if they’ll be engaging on-camera? Yes, there is.
Two qualities to look for in an interviewee:
If they love what they do, their passion will jump out at you. If you hear stories spontaneously weaving in and out of your conversations before filming begins, that’s a good sign. If they love telling stories, they’ll most likely feel comfortable talking to you while being filmed.
This wraps up part one>
Think of interviewing for video simply as capturing a conversation. Before the conversation begins keep these points in mind:
- Know why you’re interviewing. (Outside looking in or inside looking out?)
- Ask open-ended questions. (Avoid close-ended questions.)
- Guide the conversation to your goal. (Don’t try to control the words.)
- Capture your “walk-away” answers first. (“Gravy” answers are nice but come later.)
- Arrange for transcriptions. (Save hours of scribbling and use accurate quotes.)
What should you do now?
If you’re thinking of interviewing someone, here are two things you can do now:
- First, write down your “must-have” answers.
- Second, create open-ended questions from those answers.
Now it’s time to hit the highway for part two.
Thomas Clifford is an award-winning communications specialist and blogger. Tom’s copywriting simplifies complex business ideas so prospects and customers “get it.”
Clifford spent 25 years producing 500+ films as a branding/marketing documentary producer for Fortune 500’s to non-profits. Tom’s informal, conversational style of interviewing people enabled him to capture jargon-free marketing messages– igniting audiences into action.
Tom has been featured in several books including the new release, “How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.” Clifford also co-authored (with other bloggers) three “Age of Conversation” books and has written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for FastCompany.com.