Many churches use video testimonies in their services to tell powerful stories of redemption and restoration. Stories of God at work. These types of personal and intimate stories work best between friends – when the interviewer and interviewee know each other well. Having a friend conduct the interview allows for authenticity and vulnerability. But often times the friend isn’t experienced in the craft of interviewing.
So here are 7 tips to help train and prepare any unseasoned interviewer.
1 – Retractable Statements
Before you hit record, let your subject know that they are allowed to retract any statements they make during the course of the interview. Let them know that if they over-shared a moment or an emotion during the interview, they can retract it at the end of the interview. If they regret those careless comments about their mother-in-law or that honest and unvarnished opinion about their boss, they can ask that it not be included in the video.
This step tends to relax anybody on camera. It also adds candor you’ll receive from your subject. But here’s an important note. You are not granting them vetting rights on the final edit. That is a lot of control over the final video and I wouldn’t recommend granting it. You are just allowing them to cut any comments before the editing process begins.
2 – Enter After Setup
You want to enter the recording room with the interviewee only after everything has been setup. You do this first of all to help keep the anxiety level down, to keep the interviewee calm. Setting up a room to record can be a visually dizzying experience. Lights are being put up. Gaffer’s tape is being put down. Furniture is being rearranged. There is a lot going on. And if you’ve never experience this before, it can be overwhelming. Having the subject sit in the interviewing chair while gear is being setup creates unnecessary anxiety.
Secondly you do this because entering after setup helps the interviewee keep their mind on their story. Once they start setting the room being setup they will naturally become curious about all the commotion around them, and start to lose focus of their story. So enter only after setup. Because of space limitations, this might not be a possibility at your recording location. So it’s not an essential step. Only a suggested one.
3 – Remind That It’s Not Live
This might seem like a silly or unneeded step. Cause you might be thinking, we are recording a 30 minute interview to condense into a 3 minute story. Of course this isn’t live. That is what you think as a producer. That is not what your interviewer is thinking. The lights are on, the camera is rolling and you start asking questions. They immediately feel the pressure of a live moment, even thought it isn’t live. Reminding your interviewee that it isn’t live relieves undue pressure. It also gives them freedom for retakes. If they weren’t pleased with their answer, you can ask the question again.
This reminder removes the pressure of delivering a “perfect response” on the first attempt. This step is even more important because of the ability to go live on social media platforms. The default was, we are recording now to air later. The default is becoming, we are recording now to air now. So remind people that the interview is not live. It will lower their anxiety and in turn heighten their storytelling.
4 – Non Verbal Feedback Only
Let the interviewee know that you will only give non verbal feedback during their answers. If you give them verbal feedback during their answers then their mic will pick it up and ruin the recording. Verbal feedback is any of those small words or phrase like ‘yes’ and ‘got it’, or even grunts, that we give somebody to let them know we understand what they’re saying. Anyone with basic communication skills will do this naturally. It is actually quite surprising how much verbal feedback we give in a conversation. So this step is as important to the interviewee as it is to interviewer because of the natural desire to verbally respond during answers.
Make sure to only give non verbal feedback like nodding your head in agreement, smiling at a joke, or furrowing your brow during difficult news. I usually like to tell people that I’ll look like a human bobble head during our interview so they know what to expect.
5 – Keep Eye Contact
It is important to ask the interviewee to keep eye contact with you during the whole interview. Without this advice the interviewee could easily start giving their answers directly to the camera, the videographer, or their friend sitting in the corner. None of these are good eye contact options. If they interviewee starts looking elsewhere during the course of an answer, the experience will feel disjointed for the viewer. I also ask them to keep eye contact when me, even if I have look down at my notes. If you don’t then they will naturally look down at your notes as well. To help setup the interview for success, try to give them as much eye contact as possible.
6 – Incorporate Question Into Answer
Before you start recording make sure to ask you subject to incorporate your questions into their answers. This is one of those basic techniques but it needs to be stated. Having the question in the answer gives context for what is being said. It also greatly helps your editor make sense of the story in post production. Sometimes the subject forgets this principle. So you might have to remind them of it over the course of the interview.
7 – Develop A Story Pipeline
So you have this incredible story you are capturing through an interview which is great. But you’ll want additional awesome stories down the road. So you need to develop a story pipeline. You need to have some system to curate stories within your church or organization. One way to gather these stories in a church context is during your Sunday service review. People often stare stories of life change from the weekend. Make sure to document these stories as you hear them. Another way is through a story page on your website.
At Liquid Church we have an invitation to share your story on our webpage. This invitation is another funnel for stories. Making this request also helps to create a culture of storytelling for your people. When you have a list of potential killer stories, it allows you to respond quickly when a message needs a story.
Let me know what steps I missed. I would love to hear from you and learn from you. I would also love to connect on social media so look me up. In the end we want to tell stories of God at work. So hopefully these steps will give you a clearer sense of the story that God is calling you to tell.
For more tips, read Ben’s article, 21 Best Practices for Filming Video Testimonies.