If you’re looking to create the best and most appealing video content, you need to ask the right questions. After all, you can’t tell a story without pulling the narrative out of a real, live person. Interviewing is a great way to get all of the information you need for video content, but only if you know what to ask. Here’s how to conduct an interview to gather engaging stories from real people for your video content.

  1. Do your research. You won’t know what questions to ask without having a basic understanding of who you’re interviewing. Start with a basic Google search of your subject. Get to know some of the fundamentals about the person, including where they grew up or went to school, their hobbies, and any professional accolades they have. Being able to relate to your subject helps make the conversation feel natural, and you may discover something you have in common. More importantly, pay close attention to information that’s relevant to the content you’re creating. You can do this by reviewing their most recent news articles — including the bad ones — if applicable. This information can help you learn what questions to avoid.
  2. Know what not to ask. Knowing what not to ask is just as important as knowing what to ask. For example, if you’re interviewing a controversial figure who has a less-than-favorable history, there may be specific questions or topics you have to shy away from or aren’t permitted to mention. No matter how tempting these questions may be, it’s important to respect the integrity of the interview and the person you’re interviewing.
  3. Have a script — but be willing to freestyle. Create a list of questions that you know you want to ask your subject but be prepared to go off-script if the interview allows. For instance, you might ask something that reveals new information and leads you down a different line of discovery. Allowing this to happen helps the conversation flow but remain mindful of the information you need to obtain — don’t forget to hit those marks.
  4. Be interested. You may be reading questions from a script, but don’t hesitate to engage with your subject. As they’re answering, eye contact and simple gestures like nods demonstrate that you’re listening and hearing what they have to say. If a follow-up question comes into your mind, ask it! Doing so will further show that you understand your subject and appreciate their answer.
  5. Conduct the interview in the right space at the right time. When scheduling your interview, make sure the date and time work for you and your subject. It’s essential that you both feel prepared and confident. If you’re doing the interview remotely, prepare an area of your home or office that’s clutter-free and quiet. If you’re doing the interview face-to-face, you want to limit as many distractions as possible to avoid interruptions.
  6. Start with a warmup. It’s almost unnatural to jump right into your interview questions. At the start of your interview, ask your subject how their day is going. If you share something in common with them, bring that up before you start questioning. A quick warmup helps lighten the mood and gives your subject the comfort to answer your questions more freely.
  7. Encourage your subject to repeat your questions in their answer. In most cases, your voice will be edited out of the final product by a video production company. Have your interviewee restate your questions in all of their answers to ensure their responses make sense in any context. Without context, most clips or sound bites will be unusable.
  8. Leave time for more. Once you’ve asked all of the questions you feel are pertinent, let your subject interject with anything they think is important. “Is there anything you wanted to mention?” is an excellent place to start. This allows your subject time to think about adding anything they feel might be useful. Plus, it could open up another dialogue you hadn’t thought of before!
  9. Know that accidents might happen. This is especially true if you’re conducting the interview remotely. In the event that your power goes out or a screaming child enters the room while you’re interviewing, don’t get too discouraged. Do your best to rectify the situation if you can, and don’t forget to apologize for the inconvenience! If you have to reschedule, find another date and time that work for you and your subject.
  10. Be gracious. Always thank the person you’re interviewing. After all, they’re taking time out of their life to help you create exciting and engaging content. Whether it’s a thank you email after the interview or something more lavish, like a gift basket sent to their office, always express gratitude to your interview subjects.

Video content is an extremely useful marketing tool. Make sure you create the most effective video marketing by asking the right questions.

Patrick Rafferty is the owner of RaffertyWeiss Media with over 20 years of experience as a producer and director of TV spots, corporate image films, and marketing videos. Twitter: @RaffertyWeiss; LinkedIn: RaffertyWeiss Media;

Video interview stock photo by LightField Studios/Shutterstock