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Getting the Most from an Interviewee--3 Tips from an Expert Interviewer



Interviewing someone on camera is one of the most deceptively simple things that I do as a producer.  However, if done well, it is the best way to obtain authentic and powerful content.

So, what should you do to be successful?  Here are three things I do in every interview that allow people to open up, relax, have fun, and stay on message.


1) Lead with the passion.

What do I mean by that?  I mean roll the camera, and, instead of jumping right into the list of questions you have, talk to the person about what gets them excited.  I’ll ask a question like, “So what do you love about your job?” or “When you’re not here, what do you do for fun?”  These questions rarely yield me anything that will make the edit, but that does not matter in the least.  Once a person starts channeling their inner passion, everything that happens after that point will be better.  In fact, if you did nothing other than lead with a question like this, your interview outcomes would be noticeably improved.


2) Forget the list.

This seems counter intuitive, but hear me out.  If you were involved in crafting the questions and the proposed answers, you probably already have most of the questions memorized.  Prior to the interview, make sure you have ALL of them memorized.  Then, once the interview begins, don’t look at the list.  Have a conversation with the interviewee that incorporates all of the questions.  This will allow you to listen better, ask follow up questions, and maintain eye contact throughout the interview. When you feel like you’ve asked all the questions, then, and only then, consult your list, look at the proposed answers, and, if necessary, ask some follow up questions to get things you’ve missed during the initial conversation.




3) Don’t break the flow.

Interruptions are one of the most difficult things to manage in the interview setting.  Stakeholders will want to break in and help shape the message.  Your audio tech will want to stop you every time there is a potentially damaging background noise.  But, if you allow the flow to be broken repeatedly, I can tell you from experience that you will get diminishing returns from your interviewee.  They will get nervous and will not be able to get you what you need.  To avoid this problem, prep stakeholders in advance and let them know that you will provide them time for input (I usually give this time right after the initial conversation.)  You also need to prep your audio tech, camera operator, and makeup person that you will give them the chance to let you know about technical problems, but that it should NOT be during the conversation.  If you do that, they will mentally log the questions that may have been lost and you can work them into the follow up questions.

There are many other tips I can give, but if you lead with passion, forget the list, and don’t break the flow, you are on your way to more successful on camera interviews.