Creating a comfort zone for on-camera interviews

6243554134_2c7aef5517_bAs a general rule, people don’t like being on camera.  Unless they’re in a profession where being photographed is a norm, people generally feel a certain level of discomfort when you put a camera in their face.  This makes compelling interviews for your social media channels more difficult to achieve and less effective in the eyes of your viewers.

So what are you doing shoving that cheap shoot-and-share video camera right in their face?

One of the most awkward things I see on business’ YouTube channels are interviews with seemingly everyday people, where you can tell how uncomfortable they are being videotaped.  No matter how useful or potentially engaging their words are, they’re obscured by their body language.  I usually attribute this weirdness factor to a couple of things.  Most social media pros unskilled in shooting videos tend to plop a camera squarely in front of their “victim.”  Saying nothing about creating a pleasing composition to make the video look better, this “drop and record” mentality often times has an unintended effect on the subject of the video.  We’ll get into that a bit more in a second.

The reason most social media videographers plop their cameras down so close to their subjects is because — frankly — their cameras suck.  Microphones on consumer-grade video cameras are notoriously fickle, and the cheapest pocket cameras that have become en vogue in the social media trade are especially poor.  In a standard enclosed room, they pick up tons of extraneous room noise and echoes, and they generally sound very “tinny.”  It’s no wonder most cameras are just plopped squarely in front of a subject — if they put it anywhere else, you’d barely be able to make out what they’re saying at all!

So what can you do to both improve your interview videos and make your subject more comfortable on camera?

First of all, get the camera out of their face!  This is why I’m such an advocate of buying a video camera that looks like a video camera and not like a smartphone.  They’ll have real, honest-to-God zoom functionality built-in, which allows you to get the camera further from the subject.  This is imperative.  When the subject isn’t concentrating on what they’ll look like on YouTube, you’ll get them focusing on speaking clearly and freely.  One caveat though — seriously consider a video camera that has a microphone jack.  A decent consumer-grade lapel mic costs about $20.  There’s very little excuse for the distant, echo-laden dialogue that plagues so many social media videos.  The minor investment of money and time makes a huge difference on how your client’s message punches through.  It also has the secondary benefit of isolating their voice from the interviewers, making it less necessary to “coach” them into speaking full sentences that contain your questions.  You can be conversational with them without “talking over them.”

Secondly, let your interview subect know where you want them to look.  Again, a small detail, but it makes a huge difference.  Your subject will have an easier time concentrating if they know where they’re supposed to look.  If you want them addressing camera directly, tell them so.  They’ll generally be more comfortable talking directly to the interviewer one-on-one.  Don’t be afraid to put the camera behind you to one side, zoomed in on the subject so they’re addressing you off-camera.  You’ll get a more conversational feel if you’re having direct engagement with your subject.  Getting the camera out of the way makes it less of an interview and more of a conversation.  That’s what makes a more visually-pleasing interview to watch.

Interviews with knowledgable people are great for social media, but make sure you’re creating the best environment to get the best ones possible.  Think about getting a more capable camera.  It’s a great investment in a versatile social media tool.  Think about where to place it to get the focus off being filmed and into a conversation.  You’ll be surprised how much better your interviews turn out!

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