I was recently asked for some tips on how to do a good on-camera interview. I am by no means an expert. But I have been doing it a while and I have learnt a lot by trial and error. Being comfortable in front of the camera is fast becoming a necessary life skill, so how do we make it look like we are having a good time?
For starters, you do need to have a good time. If you don't enjoy filming, odds on no one will enjoy watching. Repeating to yourself “I hate being in front of a camera, when will this be over?” will be transmitted straight down the lens to the audience. Your eyes will betray you. Get your head in the game before anything else. Just as with any speaking engagement, a few deep belly breaths will go a long way.
The second thing is don’t expect to be a pro overnight. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours comes into play here just as it does in any other part of our lives; the more you do it the better you get. If you want to get ahead of yourself on this, do some fake interviews to your iphone camera; watch your habits and adjust accordingly. I talked last week about teaching myself to stop saying “um” - maybe that is not your affectation but you will have one. What words do you repeat frequently, do you look away from camera a lot, do your eyes freeze when you are thinking...watch and get conscious of how you speak.
Whenever I am asked to speak I always ask three questions:
Am I talking to the camera or off camera?
Do you want me to repeat the question before I answer it?
Who is the audience for the video?
If you are talking off camera it always comes across harsher because you are not making eye contact directly with the viewer, so I always try to smile more when that is the style of the video. Repeating the question can be nice, it always gives you a moment to get into the question but it’s not a big deal if they don’t want you to do this. Regardless of how they will edit it, I always have them ask me the question while filming. It's helpful to hear the question in the moment, it always brings a little spontaneity into my response. Before answering I always pause, breathe and then answer it. And I pretend someone I really care about has asked me that question, it always makes my response more passionate. In fact, with every video I try to picture someone I mentor asking me the question and I speak as if I am speaking to them.
Knowing the audience is critical. It allows you to gauge your answers for the specific viewer and to provide more targeted advice.
Before you start filming, ask the crew to take a still shot or a few seconds of a test-video. This way you can see how you are standing; what the background is; how the lighting is affecting you and whether anything is distracting. This is critical. If there is movement behind you, maybe you are on a busy street, you want to be sure not to move around too much. If the lighting is poor you should talk to the crew abot moving the camera. Don’t be a dick-tator, most crews are really good at this. This is more to make sure you are part of the team and also casting your eye on the production. So don’t tell the videographer how to suck eggs, be nice and work with them to optimize the video.
In terms of styling, think about what you are wearing and what frame they are shooting the video in. I once did an interview wearing a jacket with mega shoulder pads. It was a good look full body but all I could see in the video afterwards was the shoulder pads. “Busy” patterns are always a bad idea and anything geometric is likely to come across badly too. Less is more! I also love to lean against something or put my back foot against a wall or ledge because it relaxes me and usually creates a good angle.
I tend to get quite intense when I am giving advice. I go into thinking mode. You want to be thoughtful and give a good interview but most topics can use a little levity. Be sure to smile or, even better, make a joke and find something to laugh about. I'm usually very conscious of smiling because, odds on, I am not smiling enough.
Keep your answers short. Long answers can get convoluted and you will likely lose your track of thought. Whatever you do don’t rush your answers. It’s so easy want the interview to be over and start racing through your response. If you find yourself getting anxious, just pause the video for a second; think about who you are directing your answers at; then breathe, smile and go again.
And my final tip is not to worry if you F-up. Have fun, go for it, be natural and if you fumble your words - just ask to do a re-take. Most videos are 3-5 minutes so worst case a few retakes are going to be a matter of a few minutes reshooting.
You’ve got this!