When I catch up with my phone video course graduates one subject arises in conversation more than any other – how to get the best out of interviewees.

Interviews are a vital component in any video – messaging or storytelling.

What you don’t want is a nervous, hesitant speaker.  And what you really don’t want is a nervous, hesitant interviewee resorting to reading a script or autocue.  It will look dire.  Wooden, uninspiring and pretty much unwatchable.

Ideally you need a relaxed confident talker, comfortable in their own skin and able to articulate messages or tell their stories in a way that informs, motivates or inspires.

So, how do you, the video producer, achieve that goal?

Choose the right spokes

Not everyone is an extrovert, and comfortable in front of a camera or microphone. Pick someone who is. Better to have a fluent communicator than an poor speaker or reluctant contributor, no matter how senior they are in your organisation.

Make small talk

Most people are nervous and unsettled by the interviewee experience.  Put them at their ease before you start the interview.  Be nice, be human.

Ask open questions

Open questions encourage people to say something, close questions don’t. “Do you like your job?” can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.  “What do you like about your job?” is an open question that requires a detailed answer.

Don’t force people to talk ‘to camera’

My research indicates 80% of people prefer talking to a person, rather than holding an awkward stilted conversation with a lens. Unless they’re obviously happy to do so, don’t insist your interviewee speaks directly to the lens.

Consider instead standing to one side of the camera (or phone) and let the interviewee talk to you. The chances are they’ll look and feel a whole lot more natural and relaxed.

Cut the interview up into chunks

This is probably my topmost top tip. One reason that interviewees collapse in a nervous heap begging to be allowed to read a script is that they’ve been asked to deliver too many messages in detail.

Unless they have a photographic memory it’s impossible to remember and regurgitate the contents of half a page of A4.

If your video is short and punchy, as it should be for social media, restrict the messaging content to a core message and a two or three related short key messages.  Each message should be no longer than a few brief sentences. Let’s say no more than three.

If you can find one person who can deliver all your points comfortably, great.  If not, divide the task up among several different spokes with relevant input, one message per person.  Or break the messaging up into short soundbites that are easy for your spokes to deliver and easy for the audience to digest.

Let people use their own words

Don’t over-direct.  Is it vital your interviewee repeats their points using a set formula of words?  Probably not. Let them choose their own way of putting things – they’ll come across as more natural and articulate.

If you follow these five simple tips, there’s a good chance your interviews will sound focused and punchy.  What’s more your interviewees will feel more comfortable and confident.  And who knows, they might even enjoy the experience enough to say “yes” next time you ask them to give you an interview.

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