Top tips for video interviews at B2B events
Event, exhibition and conference interviews are challenging for lots of reasons, particularly if you’re just starting out with video, using a production company you have not worked with before, or you’re doing it yourself in a small team and need to get it right first time, or get better quickly.
Conference and event organisers really like their profit margins, and don’t always put a great deal of consideration into producing content for immediately after the event, or thinking about using that content as a marketing tool for the following year. Video is great for all of that, but do it poorly and you could do more damage than good.
Interviewees are usually heavily financially vested into the event, some will be naturally great communicators, others will be dreadful, some will be open and engaging, others cagey and protective, others just downright scared.
In all my experience, I have learned that it impossible to tell the difference until you are in the interview itself, so here are some of my tips on creating great conference and event interviews:
Decide where your videos will be hosted well in advance
YouTube has great traffic, but it’s quite hard to drive traffic from there to your website. Also, once you fill up the description, tags and benefit from search traffic, Google will send traffic to the video on YouTube and not to your website – even if it’s embedded.
If you decide that YouTube is right for you despite that limitation, be sure to do everything you can to maximise both access (for example if you’re operating internationally, commissioning and uploading a transcription to YouTube will be automatically be translated to other languages) and engagement (i.e. maintaining your YouTube channel as an active content channel and community).
Aim for a high technical quality
Make sure Lighting, Camera and Sound equipment, and the operator, really are the best you can afford, preferably with plenty of experience and recommendations, as well as a portfolio you think meets the standards and style you are aiming to hit.
Equally, before every interview, your camera operator should check that video is well lit and white-balanced, audio is checked and tested, tripods or sliders are stable, and you have plenty of storage capacity and battery juice in every bit of equipment. Make sure you give them time to do their job, so you can focus on yours.
Research interviewees before you meet
Reading a brochure, spending 5 minutes looking at products or a few minutes chatting to other people milling around can pay dividends as an absolute minimum for creating conversation points and providing you with a little relevant background information.
It is foolish and disrespectful to go into an interview completely unprepared – you can make yourself look like an idiot, and that will reflect badly on you personally, your company and potentially antagonize your interviewee.
Get your interviewees to relax
This is incredibly important. Many interviewees, particularly people who have not been interviewed before, are nervous, so there are a few key techniques and things you can say which will help.
During set-up, tell them:
- your job is to make them look good (because it is)
- you’ll be asking them easy questions, such as who they are, what they do for a living
- to ignore the camera, because you’re just chatting to each-other
Exchange business cards beforehand
Make some conversation about the card itself… seriously!
Take time to read it and take in the details – this will help it stick in your memory during the edit, warm up their interest in you, help you remember their name during the interview and afterwards, and also give your camera operator time to set the sound level correctly. It also ensures you have their direct contact details for later on if you have any problems.
Learn to control your interviewee – consciously and subconsciously
Be direct in positioning them (an open hand in the small of their back, coupled with a light hold on their elbow is a powerful but inoffensive way to move someone into position, you can also do this while shaking hands), or pausing them to re-do bits you are not happy with. Your camera operator should be confident to do this too – interviewees often take direct instructions from someone ‘technical’ without hesitation, so use that to your advantage.
Mirroring an interviewee’s body language to gain control over their stance is a trickier technique, but valuable to understand. Mirroring eventually leads an interviewee to adopt your posture and behaviour, so that includes adopting an open stance, nodding and smiling – subconsciously encouraging interviewees to do the same.
Listen attentively to the interviewee’s answers
There’s nothing worse than asking a scripted question just after your subject has told you the answer.
When considering your next question, or rather the answer you want them to reach, try to make it follow on naturally from their previous answer. This is particularly hard to master, but easier if you think “Let’s have a conversation about…” rather than “I am going to interview you about…”
Know your limitations
Everyone likes to think they are perfect, but you should always critique your work and work closely with your camera operator to help you improve the final product. Think about how you are different from other interviewers, and what makes them good? Don’t be afraid of watching the interview back straight away if you have time, because you often only get one chance.
Turn around the edit as quickly as possible, but don’t sacrifice quality
Great editors will work fast and to a high standard – take time to work with your editor to learn from them about how you can improve what materials you’re providing them with.
This will include dipping the audio down when interviewees spend a lot of time ‘umming’ and ‘erring’, using the best cutaways at the right times, and sending a private link to the video to your high profile interviewees out of courtesy so they have time to look at it before you publish and before your editor finishes everything and leaves.
Record other audio / video content at the same location as each interview
Background noise, also known as a Wild track or buzz track – This is simply plain background noise recorded at the same location. Editors use it to smooth over editing and hide cuts. The atmospheric noise of every location is different, so get at least 10 seconds of it at each place.
Cutaways – These are video clips of anything related to the interview but not the interviewee – people in the background, a wide angle view, products, posters, people talking, branding, logos. Used by editors as a visual cover for edits to hide cuts or add interest – for example if someone talks about a particular product, pauses or pulls a face, but are still mid-flow, a cutaway of that product can be dropped in.
Noddies – One particularly useful type of cutaway is called a ‘Noddy’. Not after the British children’s character, but because it’s video of you, the interviewer, nodding and reacting naturally to your interviewee. The difference is you can record these before, or more typically after, your interview has taken place. It’s important to remember that the tripod / camera must stay in the same place as the rest of the video.
Take care of the bodies
Don’t be afraid to offer the camera operator(s) help lifting and moving, equipment can be heavy and awkward to manoeuvre around, not to mention potentially dangerous to other people.
Don’t forget to eat, especially remember to avoid strong smelling foods like garlic, refined sugary products (which can give you a major drop of blood sugar later on) and of course, avoid alcohol at all costs during the working day.
Drink plenty of water, have throat-soothing sweets on hand (watch out as over consumption can cause stomach upset) and get the best quality shock-absorbing insoles you can afford for inside your chosen footwear.
Be serious about down-time – go and find somewhere quiet, eat something healthy, lie down, take your shoes off, change into a t-shirt, put on some fresh deodorant, put on fresh footwear, wash your face and hands, close your eyes and shut down for half an hour or so – it will keep you motivated and help you finish the day at a comfortable jog rather than a painful crawl.
Integrity is key
It’s really tempting sometimes to ask someone to say something because you’re short of content, for example getting a colleague to pretend they are someone else, or say something that isn’t entirely accurate.
Never, ever do this. Find a legitimate question to generate an honest answer. Instead of getting someone to pretend they’ve bought a ticket, ask them about what they think about the organisation, the company, the event’s content, what they’ve learned, how they’re involved and what they think are the most exciting challenges in your industry are – so it might not be what you really wanted, but you’re still generating material which is useful and it’s completely true.
Alex Lawrence-Berkeley is Marketing Manager for Sense Media. He is a former BBC producer, camera operator and news editor he has conducted dozens, if not hundreds of interviews on camera, of which at least 100 have been at B2B events.