Interviews Are Hard Work
Conducting an interview is hard. It's a lot easier to just sit behind the camera and capture the interview as it's happening than it is to be the one conducting the interview. Most videographers will find themselves pulled out from behind the camera at some point, and sat in front of an interviewee. Here are some tips to help you conduct a great interview.
1. Make the Interviewee Feel Comfortable.
When you're conducting an interview for a short video piece the most important thing you can do is make the interviewee feel comfortable. Think of it this way, if someone is uncomfortable, they typically look uncomfortable. You don't want someone who looks uncomfortable in your video. Furthermore, if someone feels uncomfortable, they're less likely to be forthcoming with their answers. Putting the interviewee at ease is going to free the interviewee up to give honest answers. If they look comfortable answering the questions, then they'll also be more believable.
2. Compliment the Interviewee
A great way to put the interviewee at ease and help them feel comfortable is to compliment them. Give them compliments when they let their guard down or give you a great answer. Also, compliment the way they look when they first sit down to be interviewed. Everyone likes to feel like they look good, so give them that little boost of confidence they need right before the interview starts.
3. Research Your Interviewees
I'm not talking about stalking them. If you're interviewing someone for a video, then you either know them already or you were told you might want to interview them by someone who knows them already. Ask your mutual friend or contact questions to get a general idea of who the person is. How old are they? Do they have kids? What are their favorite pastimes? Do they have any hobbies? Once you have the answer to some of those questions, come up with some questions about those areas that you can ask the interviewee before the interview starts to put them at ease. Once they're talking confidently about a subject unrelated to the interview, then start asking them questions that pertain to the interview. The confidence will transfer over. If you're doing an interview with a public figure, then Google them before the interview. Find out if there are any subjects you should stay away from during the the interview or just find out the interests so you can make small talk ahead of time. Also with public figures, read other interviews they've done and watch the videos so you can make sure you're not asking them questions that every other interviewer has asked before.
4. Write a Script for Your Video Before Conducting Interviews
How can you write a script without knowing what people will say though? When it's put that way, it sounds impossible. Hopefully, going into your interview you've done some research on the interviewee and you have a basic idea of what they will say. Write a script based on what you want them to say during the interview and then ask questions that'll lead to those answers.
5. Be Flexible and Roll With the Punches
Even with all the research in the world, once you sit down with the interviewee, you may discover that their answers are different than you thought. If the interview takes an unexpected turn, that's okay. Go with this new direction and re-write your script after the interview to include this new avenue you hadn't considered. It's okay to make revisions. Part of every interview is discovering new facts that couldn't have been found out without doing an interview. You'll want to re-write the script for your video after the interview to emphasize the emotional parts and play to the interviewee's strengths and weaknesses. This is part of the writing and editing process.
6. Don't Let an Interviewee Get Away with Lying to You
Lying is one of those things that videographers that aren't doing journalism might think they'll never have to face. Unfortunately, a lot of us will face it. It's hard to tell if people are being honest, but if the interviewee says something that is in direct opposition to your research, then challenge them. Ask them more questions to get to the heart of the situation. Find out if your research was wrong or if they are lying, to the best of your ability in the interview. Afterward, do more research and find out if what they were saying was true or a lie. If it was a lie, scrap the interview. Your trust was broken. Your audience's trust will also be broken if you try to use part of the interview. Find a new interviewee to weigh in on the subject and move on with your project.
Remember, an interview is just a good conversation. You're asking questions and your new friend is answering them. Treat every interviewee like a new friend who's life is incredibly interesting, and you'll do just fine.