Read 10 Tips for Video Interviews, Part I

Video interviews are a staple of business video, but there’s nothing duller than stilted answers to predictable questions from someone very unhappy to be on camera.

Since boring videos get turned off with a click of the mouse in about 10 seconds, you need exciting, interesting, intriguing video.  Here are second 5 of my 10 tips:

This video I directed for InHealth and Perfect Sense Digital was shot with real people, and absolutely no fed lines.

6)  Relax Yourself: Let your interviewee set the pace.  Slow talkers shut right up if you pepper them with too many questions. Human chipmunks will be bored if you don’t keep up the pace.  Take a few deep breaths and go with the subject’s flow.

7) Make it a real conversation: In a normal conversation, you respond to what the other person says. A good interview works exactly the same way. Listen well and allow your natural curiosity to guide your questions even if it leads you to something you weren’t planning on asking.

8) Look them in the eye: You need to develop a conversational trust with your interviewee. One great way to do it is by making strong eye contact. Have the subject look at you, not the camera, so you can talk.

9)  Sound: Record with lavelier mics or booms. Always. Unless you’re a foot from your subject, don’t rely on your camera’s crappy microphone. Any sense of intimacy will be destroyed by distance and echo in the voice track.

10)  Location, Location, Location: The same interview with a hedge-fund manager communicates different information if it’s in his marble and polished wood office vs. the floor of a working factory. An interview against the wrong background is an accidental mis-communication.

This post is adapted from a guest post I did recently for ReelSEO.com.

laptop 1

Get a free preview of the new video course!

Sample two lessons from our new video course free right now. No signup or credit card required!


  • Sohail says:

    Beautifully executed stuff: Great image quality. Faultless lighting. Crystal clear sound.

    I noticed that the interviewees alternate in most cases from left- to right-hand of the screen. Did you intentionally set it up like this in your shot list? It certainly seems to work in creating more compelling viewing.

    Another thing: how do you handle overlap between your responses and theirs? Is it possible to have a normal conversation while not having your audio picked by the talent's lav or the boom mic?

    • steve says:

      If I’m using a lot of interviews cut back to back, I frequently vary left-right, tight-wide, lighting and other composition to keep the piece visually interesting. Not a rule though– I can see in my mind a cool testimonial video that’s all extreme closeups…or cutaways to shots of hands moving nervously while people talk.

      Re: Overlap– you do have to practice having a seemingly normal conversation WITHOUT stepping on your talent if you don’t want to be a character in the final piece. Try to listen well, leave pauses and take your time. If you do step on someone, just interrupt and ask them to start again. If they’re too nervous for that, pretending you didn’t hear them usually gets them to start over all by themselves.

  • Nigel Jay says:

    Sorry Steve .. this is a compendium of how NOT to produce a 'voxpop'-style interview. If it was done for the BBC (a) it might not be broadcast at all (ok, it might, if they desperately needed it to fill the running order) and (b) you'd have a dressing-down from the programme editor and might not be allowed to do one again until you'd demonstrated you knew what you were doing.

    Here, you don't. If I can download it to my hard drive I might use it as a 'how not to' demo for my university students.

    Now, you'll say I'm arrogant. but the fact is, I know what I'm talking about.

    • steve says:

      I don’t think you need necessarily be arrogant to be wrong, Nigel. But before I accuse you of either, I’m interested in knowing more. “Voxpop-style interview”= “man on the street,” yes? These weren’t that– they were set up on location with participants cast to help explore a specific area of interest. And they were obviously not produced for the BBC.

      I’m sure you’re not suggesting the BBC way is the only way to do an interview, right? So for others who might want to form their own opinions, where do the BBC and I disagree?

  • rod jacobs says:

    Superb video! Did you use two cameras or have them repeat?

    • steve says:

      It was a two camera shoot. All of these interviews followed the rules in the article- real conversation, with no lines fed to any of the subjects. In general you don't want to ask people who aren't trained actors to repeat themselves– there's very little hope of it sounding in any way real.

  • I don't see a lavalier microphone on the heros of this video. Did you use a boom microphone for the interview?

    • steve says:

      For interviews we always use both boom and lav mics– the boom is out of frame, and a tiny wireless lav is clipped or taped inside their clothing so that it’s not visible. That way there are two audio tracks to choose from in edit. The duplication is overkill for casual video to be sure, but standard operating procedure for larger projects.

Leave a Reply

Want free weekly video tips?


Enter your email and get Steve's weekly newsletter with tips, videos, and amazing offers.

Share via
Copy link