As a producer, I’m quite often in the position of interviewing an on-camera subject. Sometimes I’m working with a professional who can knock it out of the park no matter how good a job I do at interviewing. But more often the on-camera talent takes their cues from me.
I have found over the years that the quality of an interview depends as much on the interviewer behind the camera as it does the person in front. I have seen interviews go from bad to worse as the interviewer drives the poor soul sitting in front of the camera crazy with redirects and nonsensical questions, often talking over the subject or cutting them off mid-sentence when they don’t get what they want.
Believe it or not, there is a wrong way and a right way to conduct an interview, and sometimes following a few simple rules can turn a tough interview into a Barbara Walters ‘best of’. Here are four keys to mastering the interview:
1. Be personable and conversational.
Nobody feels comfortable on-camera. The trick is to convince the subject that they are really just having a conversation with you. How do you convince them? – by really just having a conversation. This doesn’t mean you have to do half the talking. People love talking about themselves. Your job as the interviewer is to subtly direct their conversation, and you can do this in a friendly, conversational way that will open them up. Be the interested friend.
2. Stay away from yes/no questions.
This may sound obvious, but it takes some quick thinking on your part to get the response you want from your interviewee. Most interviews don’t use the audio fro the interviewer, so your viewers have no reference point for answers. Part of conducting a great interview is learning how to prompt complete thoughts from your subjects.
3. Follow the story.
Hopefully the whole reason you’re conducting an interview is because you believe the subject has something interesting to share! Remember that a great interviewer is after a great story, not just pre-packaged answers to your list of questions. If you want honest, heartfelt answers, then show some interest. Don’t cut great conversation short just to move on to the next question on your list! Follow the story – that is often where the amazing content is found!
We often forget that most of our subjects are not on-camera professionals and that they usually are volunteering their time to us. Don’t brow beat them with ongoing corrections about needing more energy or how to answer questions. If you do, they will shut down on you and the entire interview will turn into stale bits of dialogue. Gentle direction up front is ok, but if you’re not getting a particular answer, it’s more effective to come at the topic later on or from a different angle. Too much direction can be overwhelming.
The real art of quality storytelling lies just as much in your ability to draw out great content as it does in your ability to cut that content together. Always do your best to connect on a personal level with your subject and you’ll be amazed at how they open up.
What tips have you learned for capturing a great interview?
There are lots of reasons that I think the use of video is a good idea for just about any kind of communication. Whether you’re promoting a cause, raising awareness, selling a product, or just telling a great story, video brings a lot of great benefits to the table.
Most people can be categorized as visual learners, so adding the visual element is a great way to pass on information. With the advancements in technology, video is also extremely accessible to a generation that wants to be entertained. They’re a ready audience. But more than any other reason, I think the biggest selling point of video is that it brings the emotional element to the table.
I was checking in on some of my favorite production houses during the lunch break and came across this just-released mini-doc from an awesome production company- Steelehouse Productions; http://youtu.be/0wmcCbnEGPY (check it out!!)
With a darling little boy in desperate need of medical care, the parents of Gavin needed a way to raise awareness and funding. Iâ€™m so happy they decided to do so by telling his story through Steelehouse! What this family needed was a way to communicate their heart, the urgency of their need, and the personality of this beautiful little boy.
There are times when box-loads of medical records and facts on any situation will fail to capture the heart of a story. How do you cut through all of that and communicate with total strangers in a way that truly penetrates their hearts? I believe that is the true power of video. It has the ability to engage so many of the human senses, tapping into the emotions through powerful visuals and the spoken word. By using the right music at the right time, a video can bring you down into the unbearable desperation these parents feel, and then raise you up with a song of hope as we see their determination and love for their little boy.
There are some who will argue that using all these elements within video evokes a false emotion, but I would disagree. We are emotional beings. Certainly the parents of Gavin are at times overwhelmed emotionally with the intensity of this situation, and my feeling is that the closer you can bring viewers to that emotional level, the more closely they can relate and truly understand.
A newspaper article, radio interview, or email blast could never convey the truth of this familyâ€™s story. But video can when done correctly. It’s why I love this medium so much. It is so very, very powerful at engaging us on every level.
What do you think about using the power of video to educate and persuade people?
For any small business out there, no matter what your product or service, a website is a must these days. Unfortunately, many of us are using website design and functionality that renders the site virtually useless to us. Here is a short checklist of four things you should consider when evaluating your website’s effectiveness.
1. Can your customers find what they’re looking for?
Have you ever been lost in a website while searching for a product or service? I have, and it’s always a great reminder to me that people usually don’t get to my website by mistake. They come for a reason, and I want to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they’re looking for. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of putting EVERYTHING on our websites, which ultimately can be more confusing than helpful to our clients. As an example, I have a video production company. When people come to my site, I know that more than anything else they want to see samples of what we do, so I make it super easy to navigate to my samples and watch. If they like what they see, they might want to contact me, so I make that step just as easy. Everything else is secondary, so I don’t want it to complicate things.
2. Are you updating your content regularly?
For Search Engine Optimization to be effective, spiders crawling your site need to regularly find new content. If they don’t, they stop searching your site as often, and you can easily fall in the ratings. Additionally, if you have any type of a following, they need to see new content on a regular basis or they’ll go away. It may be a blog you’re updating, or in my case, new video samples that show my newest work. Or both. The point is that even the greatest site gets stale, and boring if you don’t continually add or revise content.
3. Are you utilizing social media to help drive traffic to your site?
Especially as a small business, you can’t afford to pass up the benefits that quality social media can bring to your business! A good Facebook Business Page and Twitter account can drive friends, family, and clients to your site. And your updated blog keeps them coming back. If you’re new to this, let me recommend a great book by @MichaelHyatt called ‘Platform’. This book does a fantastic job of showing you the how’s and why’s of social media.
4. Are you optimized for a new mobile generation?
I’ve learned a lot over the past few months, including the fact that Internet usage via mobile devices is skyrocketing! Here’s how that impacts your website:
First, everything is much smaller. So forget about people reading your text, unless you design a mobile version of your site to feature text, like @jonacuff does at www.jonacuff.com He knows that people come to his site primarily to read his blog, so he has removed all the excess and made the blog simple and easy to read.
Secondly, people’s attention span is gone. They want to be entertained, which is why I recommend video. It’s easy for the mobile viewer to handle and is a great attention grabber, so why not use video to get your information across?
What tips have you learned that keep your website fresh and new? What are some of tips here that you could incorporate into your existing site?
I wish one well-produced video would bring in new clients for years to come. I wish my listing on google maps was enough to keep me at the top in rankings. I wish I could write one blog and have thousands of readers.
Now lets move on to reality. The harsh reality that nothing good ever comes easily, or quickly. Like any other area of life, the long term success in any area of your business will most likely be a direct result of the decisions you make today; the hard choices that you’d rather put off until tomorrow. So how can we as entrepreneurs, business leaders and dreamers keep our eye on the ball when real results are often only seen down the road? Here are a few tips:
1. Start Today.
I’ve been on the good and bad side of this hard truth. When I started my business seven years ago I made some good decisions about SEO and web design that have paid off over time. I get lots of traffic and business due to those early decisions. There are other areas, like regular training on new software programs that I’ve been meaning to do for years, and now I’m kicking myself because I’m so far behind. So start today. Even baby steps can be a starting point for momentum.
2. Keep moving forward.
As my pastor always says – you move in the direction of your most dominant thoughts. There are times when I begin to evaluate my business and realize I’m moving two steps forward, one step back – employing business tactics or investing time in things that are actually pulling me off course. So course correct – daily. And keep your attention and thoughts on the end result.
3. Think long term.
For me, the best way to make sure my current endeavors lead me where I want to go is to regularly study the map. I’ve got to find out where I want to go and how I want to get there. I can’t allow myself to wander today, or tomorrow I’ll check the map only to find myself lost. If you don’t have a written plan for where you want to be in five years, write one. You can change it if you need to, but it will give you a target to shoot for.
Keeping up with the demands of our daily work can be grueling enough without having to add these daily chores that seem to have no immediate benefit. Just remember that the interest on these small deposits you make today will compound over time – giving you results that far outweigh the investment. But you’ve got to start today.
What are some of the challenges you face in maintaining long-term focus?
When I first began in production, I was shooting wedding videos. At the time, that was all I did – weddings. That was a niche. After about a year and a half of doing wedding videos, I began to figure out how to mass-produce these baby’s with minimal effort.Â The result was a template. Otherwise known as the kiss of death.
Too many in my profession, and I would guess in many professions make the mistake of confusing the template with the niche. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when we’re all so focused on the bottom line, and how to maximize profits. The temptation comes just as we begin to master our particular niche. We know more than anyone out there about our client and the product we’re creating, what works and what does not. It’s what sets us apart from the other guy out there who’s trying to be everything to everyone. We’re smarter than that. We know our clients like attention to detail, and thats where we shine.
And the work begins to pile up. Word is getting out that someone has mastered the perfect baby-shower cake, or designs the best real-estate websites, or makes the best wedding videos. Life is good, and very, very busy. This is where I entered the danger zone. Instead of approaching each wedding individually and creatively as a master of that niche, I began to combine elements I liked from different productions, arriving at the perfectly designed wedding video.
Here is the scary part, especially for us creative types out there. At first, the template works great! All the great design work you’ve done is paying off. Your customers rarely overlap, so they have no idea that the product going out the door is a widget you’re cranking out on an assembly line out back.
Ok, that may be exaggerating, but here’s the point.
What suffers first is not your product or service, but your creative intuition. It breeds laziness in the one area we cannot afford to be lazy. As a small business owner and/or creative talent, there has to be a steady whirlwind of creative thought going on. The template simply kills that process because no more creative input is needed.
And inevitably, that creative laziness will show up. Maybe not at first, but eventually the greatest baby-shower cake becomes cliche; or the technology changes, rendering your amazing real-estate websites obsolete without the newest app integration. And where oh where are the creative juices that used to flow so freely?
I no longer do weddings, but the danger is still prevalent in the work I do today. From TV show Pilots to Documentaries, all the way down to the basic corporate client I work for, I’ve learned to employ one basic rule of thumb to each project.
Before I begin developing any new content for a client, I devote some time to these questions:
what can I do on this project that I haven’t done before?
What is at least one thing I can do that would really make this project shine?
And finally, What have I done before that I need to let go of for this project?
Taking the time to ask these questions can keep a fresh approach to each project, each cake, each website, even if your work is within a specific niche. And most importantly, it will keep you growing and improving creatively.
What niche market do you provide to that has the potential of becoming template?
Are there any tricks you have learned to avoid this trap?