When it comes to creating authentic, resonant talking head interviews, your employees are some of your best available assets. Your team is chock full of expertise, enthusiasm and first-hand knowledge of your products, services and office life.
But let’s be real - not everyone is a natural on camera. Some people are extroverts off-camera, but clam up when staring down the barrel of the lens. Others just plain look like the camera is holding them hostage. Fortunately, there are ways to get your employees to loosen up and capture their natural savoir faire
Why interview employees?
Sure, you can always take the voiceover route, hiring a freelance professional to read your script or tapping into your network to find a camera-ready brand representative. That might be the way to go for shorter videos on a time crunch. But for authentic, personal brand videos, your employees are often your best asset.
Pictured: The thunder::tech team of employees
Who could be a better representative for your message than the people who live and breathe it five days per week? Oftentimes getting the information from employees can give better results than a pre-made script. For non-scripted videos, employees can offer extremely personal takes and expert information to enhance the end product.
Aside from authenticity, getting the word straight from the source makes for a more enticing message. Stories straight from the source are always better than a script or a retelling. Wouldn’t it be way cooler to hear about Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech from someone who was there on the Washington Mall vs. reading a copy of the speech?
First-hand testimonials don’t come with an expiration date. Employee interviews can be broken into shorter clips and reused to enhance a variety of marketing collateral into the future. They can be used for social media content, testimonials for case studies, podcast audio snippets and emails. Keep your best clips on file for later use.
How to use employee talking head interviews
Employee interviews can be used in a variety of video marketing pieces, but we’ve found they most commonly help with:
Marketing to customers
Employee interviews make for great marketing collateral. Use them to talk about your product or a new feature, deliver exciting news or act as a mouthpiece for your brand.
Your Human Resources Department needs a little marketing TLC, too! What better way to get a feel for a new workplace and all the benefits it has to offer than hearing from a person who actually works there? Use employee interview content to enhance existing job listings and advertise open positions in clips for social media.
Internal training videos
While these videos will be more scripted than interview-based, they’re another way to tap into the expertise of your team. Have your HR department explain complicated concepts like signing up for insurance policies. Tap your head of IT to give a brief overview of software security. With the real experts, you won’t even have to write a full script or overview - it’s all in their head!
How to help employees nail their talking head interviews
You know your team rocks. You know they have intimate, in-depth knowledge of every facet of your brand. Now it’s time to show that to the world without producing a video full of deer-in-the-headlights employees.
1. Tell interviewees what you want
This isn’t a news interview or gotcha journalism. It’s an interview designed to represent your brand, and you know the soundbites, tone and talking points you want to hit in advance. Share this with your interviewee as far in advance as possible. Let them know the purpose of the video, the tone and the questions you’ll be asking. It doesn’t hurt to let them know the kind of answers you’ll be looking for, either.
2. Book more time than you need
Some people need a little time to ease up before you can get a great performance from them. Schedule your shoot for longer than you think you’ll need just in case your interviewee needs a few minutes to forget the cameras exist.
3. Chat during your shot setup
There are plenty of chances for the interviewee to get a case of the nerves before you hit record, but the biggest of all might be right after they sit down, see the cameras and lights and realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. A stoic, silent and tense shot setup is enough to rattle even the most confident interviewees, so keep the vibe light at all times, but especially when the camera operator is setting up the shots prior to recording.
4. Keep the positive vibes coming!
The number one, absolutely most powerful thing you can do to keep your interviewees comfortable is have fun! These are the people you sit next to in the open office. It’s Jim whose daughter goes to the same public school as yours, and Kathy who shares your passion for knitting, so there’s no need to make it weird. Crack all the jokes you want, keep the smiles and laughs coming and never, under any circumstances, give even the slightest hint of annoyance. If a team member senses your frustration, it will multiply their stress by one million.
5. Emphasize that this is a conversation
The word “interview” or “shoot” can be scary to the camera shy. Before you start, emphasize that this isn’t an interrogation and there are absolutely no wrong answers. Remind them that they’re the experts, they fully have the ability to nail this shoot and even if they don’t, the magic of editing can patch even the messiest of interviews. Assurances like this help put people at ease.
6. Make eye contact
It’s important to keep the interviewee looking in one spot. Assuming you’ll be asking the questions, sometimes the best way to keep videos conversational is to make that spot your eyeballs. Eye contact can make the conversation feel more like a chat between friends. This doesn’t always work (not everyone loves full on eye contact), but it’s a good tip for employees with wandering gazes.
7. Warm up with off-script Qs
Never launch into your hardest or most complicated question first. Start with your silliest, softest questions, like “What’s your name?” “What’s your job title?” “If you were an animal, which animal would you be?” It gets them thinking on their feet and helps them relax.
8. Play acting coach
Pretend you’re the on-set acting coach and help the interviewee make their way through their performance flawlessly. Tell them exactly what you want, and keep your feedback positive and sandwiched between compliments.
Wrong: “You really didn’t get that second line right and you kind of stumbled over the words. Can you do it again?”
Right: “You NAILED that first sentence, so let’s take it from the second sentence, third section instead. And this time let’s play around with a different tone. Think Bill Nye - we’re explaining a concept to the audience, but you’re having fun doing it and keeping things pretty conversational. You’re doing great!”
9. To memorize or not to memorize?
Sometimes talking head interviews are off the cuff, other times they’re fully or semi-scripted and employees need to hit certain points and specific words. Teleprompters can help with this, but they also tend to make employees look like they’re reading words off a screen rather than delivering them conversationally. It’s best to go on an individual basis. Some people prefer to memorize their talking points, others are pretty good with a teleprompter. Try starting without a teleprompter and add it in if needed.
10. Get multiple takes
This is especially important for scripted videos. Even if the first take was good, have the employee run it again. They may come up with a better way to say the same idea, or they’ll deliver a better performance on the same line. This also applies to non-scripted interviews. While you don’t want team members to repeat every single answer to your questions twice through, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat a phrase or idea so you have multiple takes to choose from in editing.
11. Cut before you actually cut
If an interviewee is still looking pretty tense, it can help to “cut” the cameras and “end” the interview without actually ending. Keep the conversation going while the employee assumes the cameras are off and you may get some of your best material. Ask light follow up questions that truly make it feel like a conversation rather than repeating your interview questions. Just remember to tell them you kept the cameras rolling in case you do end up using that footage!
12. If all else fails, find your camera ready employees
Like trying to get your cat to play with the toys you bought instead of the empty box they came in, some things just don’t work. Employees may be subject matter experts offline, but just freeze up on camera. In this case, videos can benefit from having extroverted employees deliver lines, even if they aren’t the in-house authority on the subject. They still represent the brand and lend authenticity to the message.
13. Gently break up with your not-so-camera-ready employees
This isn’t Hollywood - it’s a workplace steeped in empathy and this shoot involves people you’ll have to work with for the foreseeable future. Conflict is part of every team, but there’s no need to hurt feelings when an employee just isn't so great in front of the lens.
First, bring up your concerns to management, and be ready to explain specifically why you think this person should be replaced with a different employee for your talking head interview. Have that replacement in mind. If they agree, tell them how you will approach the employee about tapping out and if you want management present at that discussion.
When you do bring it up with the team member in question, frame it as an exit strategy. If someone truly isn’t comfortable on camera, they’re probably desperate for an out and will be relieved when you hand them an escape route. Have the replacement employee meet with the original for a mini coaching session and exchange of notes so that the original employee still plays a key role in the process. Then, you can move into reshoots.
However, if the original team member or management prefers they stick it out, agree to work with them but be up front that it’s going to be a little extra work on both ends. Coach them, help them with their answers and give them plenty of time and patience. Either you’ll work with them until you get usable footage, or maybe they’ll realize this wasn’t really their jam and you can move forward with reshoots or replacement.
That’s a Wrap
We can’t emphasize this enough - the best way to get great talking head interview footage from your employees is to keep things as lighthearted as possible. Saddling them with the weight of a required on-camera prowess is a recipe for uncomfortable videos with miserable subjects. Laugh, crack jokes and always, always tell the interviewee they’re doing a great job in between takes.
On set, a little patience, a bit of strategy and a whole lot of dad jokes can make all the difference. We’ll get you started with one of our favorites:
Q: What is a social media marketer’s favorite kind of cracker?
Q. Why are digital marketers the best actors?
A. They nail impressions.
Need a bunch of fun, professional, dad-joke-loving video marketers to get great content from your employees? Check out thunder::tech’s multimedia services page.