One of the biggest elements of producing a video is building your story narrative. In the world of video marketing you’ll find yourself doing this through the interview process quite often. But going into an interview after just meeting someone for the first time can be daunting. A great strategy for setting your interviews up for success is including pre-interviews in your pre-production protocol.

No that’s not redundant.

As a matter of fact, a pre-interview strategy will make your interviews more productive and can eliminate some pitfalls we highlighted in a previous article called The 7 Cardinal Sins Of Interviewing. Besides, what’s the easiest way to research and prepare for interviewing somebody? Talking to them!

Here are some of the benefits we’ve found having had the chance to pre-interview some of our talent.

Keeping Your Interviewee Relaxed

We talk a lot about keeping your interviewee happy, calm and collected for the best results. There’s nothing like stepping in front of the camera for the first time under blinding lights with a bunch of people staring back at you. It can even make you forget your name.

Yes, that’s happened.

Part of this stems from the interviewee just meeting you and your crew a few minutes before the spotlight is on them. You do your best to build a rapport before you roll camera. But you can start that process ahead of time with a pre-interview. It doesn’t have to be in person. It can be a few phone calls or even a video conference so you can connect visually. This is the time to get to know your interviewee and more importantly they get to know you. Now you’re acquaintances and they’re more prepared for production day.

You Know Their Story Better

A pre-interview gives you more detail of a person’s story instead of finding out on interview day. This gives you the ability to prepare more focused lines of questioning and get better material. You should still do your research, read bios and prepare like you normally would. But hearing the story from their mouth may also give you better narrative paths to take. By establishing more of a relationship your interviewee may be willing to tell you more than you would ever discover or discover too late.

You Know How They Tell Their Story

Whenever you’re going into an interview cold there’s always something you can’t help; how your interviewee speaks. Most people can carry a conversation, but every once in awhile there’s the dreaded one word answer stereotype that don’t even qualify as sound bites. They’re just sounds!

A pre-interview gives you an idea of how your interviewee speaks. The added bonus is you find out how they think or respond to your lines of questioning. This allows you to customize the experience for them. You may need to ask questions differently or feed them what you’re looking for in a more direct way. And if you do find a sound bite gold medalist you have the chance to schedule more time with them.

Clear The Air For The Awkward Stuff

Looks aren't everything but videos are visual afterall. There are instances when it does matter in video marketing. If you're producing a promotional video for a fitness company with testimonials, the people promoting your client should look fit. If you can't find a photo of your interviewee through research asking for one can be uncomfortable for you and them.

Instead of resorting to Facebook stalking check that visual through a video conference pre-interview. Then you know without bringing it up and can even prepare a more custom lighting setup to help them look better on camera.

If you have to ask for a photo, ask for one so you know who to look for when they arrive on location. It's a legitimate request to recognize who's walking on set and takes the emphasis off how they look.

Then there’s making sure the people your interviewing will represent your client well as a face for their brand. There’s nothing like getting really good footage with someone only to find out they have a few skeletons in their closet. It's awkward to ask and may detract partcipation for some. But at the end of the day you have to protect your client.

A good way to avoid this awkward exchange is to start your pre-interview process by emailing a simple questionnaire to possible interviewees. Besides asking them “is there anything in your past that could misrepresent ‘x client’s’ brand in good faith” (hopefully they don’t lie but at least you have a record of it) you can also knock out a lot of logistical information like…

  • What dates are you available for filming?

  • When is the best time to reach you by phone?

  • Do you have reliable means of transportation?

  • Could you supply a photo of yourself so we know who to greet on location?

  • See what I did there?

The best part of starting off the pre-interview process with a questionnaire is when they send it back, you know they’re actually interested in participating. You want the most enthusiastic people participating in your video and can save time weeding out the people who aren’t.

Pre-interviews may not always be possible whether it’s availability, spur of the moment inspiration, or a time crunch. But when you can incorporate this strategy into your pre-production process you won’t be able to deny the positive results. And that’s always worth encouraging.

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