Over the years I've interviewed professionals from all walks of life and it interests me how some people are completely natural in front of the camera whilst others find it to be a nerve shredding experience!
My goal when filming people is to make them look as good as possible and in order to do this there are a number of things that I’ll often explain in order to help the contributor give the best performance. I've picked these tips up along the way, some from research, some from advice and some from observing what people who are good in front of a camera do.
So if you’re soon to be interviewed on camera and you want to ensure you come across brilliantly, here are my top 20 tips.
1. Avoid using teleprompt
Teleprompt is the system which news readers use and which projects the words of a script onto glass in front of the camera lens. There are some productions where you’ll need to read from a telepromt. For example where a film is tightly scripted. In all other circumstances try and avoid teleprompt. Teleprompt leads to a slightly dead looking interview. Teleprompt leaves no room for your to think on your feet or to improvise, or to get excited about some of the concepts you’re talking about, or to add something inspirational just when it comes to you. Instead of using teleprompt, have the producer / director ask you questions that will illicit the information needed for the film. If they’re diligent about the job they’ll come with questions already prepared. If they don’t have questions prepared, you can work with them to construct topics to talk about that are pertinent.
2. DON’T memorise scripted answers
Whilst I encourage people to practice answering the kind of questions that they’ll likely be asked, memorising what to say in it’s entirety will be counter productive. This is because you’ll spend all your time trying to remember the exact words that you practised, when instead you should be thinking about articulating the points of your argument clearly and succinctly. Your answer will be worded slightly differently each time and this is natural.
3. Revise your subject and revise your opinions
You’re likely being interviewed because you know something about something, so make sure you know it well. Go over your thoughts on the subject, if there are facts that you may need to quote, then make sure you can recall them easily. This research will not only make you look good on the day, but knowing your subject inside out will make you more confident on the day, and leading up to it.
4. Everyone is here to make you look good
Unlike a political interview, the filming is all about making you look good. It’s worth remembering this - it means that the director will work hard to get the best responses from you, and that you don’t need to worry about saying something dumb - it’s only the good stuff that will be used.
5. Relax and have fun
Now that you know that everyone is here to make you look good, now that you’ve done your revision and know your subject, remember you can afford to relax and have fun.
6. Introduce yourself
Say hi to the crew - find out who they are and what they’re doing. You’ll feel more in command of the situation and more in control if you've been introduced and had chat with the team that you’ll be working with.
7. Don’t miss talking about something that is relevant
When you get to the end of the interview a good producer/ director should ask you if there is anything that you’d wanted to cover, but didn't. This is your opportunity to talk about something important to your point or opinion. If you don’t get asked this, tell the director that there is something further you’d like to cover. Remember that the director won’t necessarily know what is pertinent and what isn't. It's likely that you’ll be doing them a great favour by giving them more material to work with.
8. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer
You’ll come across as more confident.
9. Slow down
The natural instinct when you’re nervous on camera is to speed up - so slow down a bit. Don't worry about hesitations - this'll get sorted out in the cut.
10. Say if you’re not happy with your answer
Feel free to say that you’re not happy and that you’d like to answer that question again. You’ll be helping the director out if you do this.
11. Wear simple block colours
Generally speaking you’ll look better if you keep colours and clothing simple. Avoid patterns, especially small ones. Consider taking a couple of outfits, otherwise if you're a man take a couple of ties as options, or if you're a woman, take some accessories as options. You can share these options with the director and he'll be able to advise what will look best on camera.
12. If you’re having trouble answering something, come back to it later
Tell the director / producer that this is what you’d like to do and they'll be happy to oblige.
13. Don't worry about fluffs or hesitations
In the edit process these things can easily be removed, so don't worry about them. Don't assume that if you've fluffed part of an answer you'll need to start again - continue unless the director 'cuts'.
14. Smile when you’re talking
This will make you look confident, it'll make you sound confident, and it'll make you feel confident!
15. Shoulders back and sit up straight
I tell interview subjects to do this when necessary, but not all directors will. No matter how senior you are, remember what your mum taught you when you were a kid!
16. Visualise talking to a friend or relative about the subject
If you're able, it may help to visualise that the producer / director is someone that you know, a friend or a relative. You'll often be more animated / dynamic when you speak to people you know well, and this will come across well on film.
17. If you’re not sure about anything, ask
If you've not been filmed before you may be surprised by the amount of people and equipment that are sometimes required. It won't always be obvious who everyone is and what everything does. If you're not sure, ask - it's a good way to break the ice, and will help you relax. Feel free to ask questions as the interview progresses also.
18. Speak with passion
Speak from the heart and with passion. Passionate, heartfelt messages are always more engaging than dry, corporate ones.
Practice in front of the mirror, or get a friend to ask you some questions on your subject. You'll feel like you're doing it all wrong when you practice, but magically it will all come good on the day if you've done this.
20. See how other people do it
There are some great speakers out there who's ability to present themselves you can easily study courtesy of YouTube. A good place to start would be TED Talks who have countless engaging presentations, but if this isn't the style you're looking for then look elsewhere and find someone who's style you like and is relevant to how you need to come across.
Have you got any more tips to add? Let us know in the comments if you do and maybe we'll do a part 2.