A good interview

It’s not all about the kit

I love chatting to people, I’m not talking about famous people all the time, yes it’s nice but I’ve had the most interesting chats with everyday folk, finding out about them and learning. I’m fortunate I’ve made a living out of this; in basic terms I guess I am nosey.

Over the next two blogs I’ll share a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

Your personality

Try and do the interview yourself if you are:

1. Good at putting people at ease

2. A good listener

3. Good at holding a conversation

If your answers to the above are NO get someone else to do it because believe me people feed off how you react and if you don’t look comfortable, at ease or look like you are listening, it’s going to rub off on the interviewee and really come through on camera.

It’s not as easy to get a good interview as most people think. It’s a skill and it’s something I took for granted in the early days.

The interviewee type

We have:

• The prepared ones who want every word scripted

• Some who like bullet points and flash cards

• Of the cuff confident ones that don’t know what the questions will be

• Those that didn’t know it was scheduled “I’d have put lippy on”

One thing that isn’t ever good is a fully scripted response. It doesn’t make for a natural comfortable watch and people forget the written word isn’t how people speak - a big difference. Remember they aren’t being asked to present they are being asked for an interview, a chat, their opinion.

And be cautious about suggesting autocue. It’s not easy and presenters take years perfecting the knack of reading from it but not looking like they are reading from it. Few people can just get the knack straight away.

The filming day

• Body Language

Make them feel at ease. If you haven’t met beforehand it’s good to take the time to build a rapport and read their body language; are they nervous about the filming? Sweating is a good sign. This is a skill; it isn’t easy and gets overlooked as a real asset. For me it’s vital.

• Balancing the conversation.

It’s a fine balance about having a chat before filming and not getting them to tell you everything about the filming subject. Be aware of how much they are telling you. They will be eager to but it’ll spoil the final interview.

• Be a diplomat

This can be awkward -but be brave. Depending on the context of the interview you may assume your interviewee will come suitably dressed and taken care of how they look. However sometimes you might just need to make a few adjustments; a bit of dandruff, creased shirts, ties that aren’t straight and unruly hair. I’ve also been known to borrow a jacket off someone before. I have in my head for this one – ‘I am doing them a favour they aren’t going to thank me if I let them appear like that’ (My mothering instinct comes out and it does sometimes help to make fun of this). Remember men need make up too.

It’s good to have a bit of matt powder with you. Just a neutral loose powder can help with shinny faces; especially the forehead and upper lip. Men love it really and I promise you they will always criticise how they look after so help them, blame technology and the ‘show it all’ 4K.

• Know your questions and react to what they say.

I know sounds so easy but if you have a list of questions you want to ask you’ll be focused on that and not truly listening to the answers. Picking up on something you’ve heard, even a small nugget might be a great way to slot in another re worded question and make for a more conversational relaxed reply.

Being upfront and saying “this might feel repetitive but don’t worry” helps when you want to re address a question. It confirms you’ve listened to them but just want to go over it one more time, maybe in more depth. Don’t just ask the question again as they’ll instantly tell you “I answered that”

• And Breath

I’ve had moments when an interviewee runs away with themselves and pretty much answers the whole list of questions in one go. If this happens just say “that’s great we’ve got that now. I want to just go back one step at a time” It’s not a bad thing to have had that really long reply. Think of it as a warm-up for them and getting settled in.

And on that I’ll stop for now – look out for the second part of this blog.

Michelle Barker
Mediafour Limited
Michelle. Barker@mediafour.co.uk.

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