Updated: 7 days ago
There are a lot of articles out there on how to be a good interviewer but there isn't much to help the interviewee prepare for being in front of the camera. I've been interviewing people for 8 years and I've learned a few tricks along the way to help my interview subjects. Here are my top 10 tips for being a great interviewee. * I use these tips myself to prepare for radio interviews, film screening Q&A's and podcast interviews.
It's very important to take the time to prepare for an interview. However it's also important to not over prepare and come across as scripted and rehearsed. NEVER write out a script word for word and try to memorise it. If you make a mistake or use a wrong word you'll get nervous and it will be hard to get back to feeling calm and comfortable. I always tell my interview subjects to come up with bullet points about topics or key bits of information that they wish to cover. Then leading up to the interview, practice having conversations with people or to yourself in the mirror where you talk about these points. Try doing it in different ways and using different words so you feel comfortable being flexible when discussing it. If you say the wrong thing just keep going and practice clarifying what you mean. That way when it comes to doing the interview you will feel confidant talking about it in a more conversational way.
2. Answering in complete sentences
This can feel very unnatural at first but if you practice the above technique in this way then it will start to feel like second nature. In most interviews the editor will cut the interviewers voice out and only your voice will be remaining so it's important to give context to what you're talking about. You want to try and reinstate the question into your answer. For example:
Q: Where do you draw inspiration?
A: I draw inspiration from...
It doesn’t always have to be the exact same word being repeated, as long as it’s offering up a response that can be understood without the question being there. For example:
Q: Where are you hoping to evolve to next with your practice?
A: My creative goals for 2022 are... OR
A: I see myself expanding into... OR
A: The next area that I want to explore is... What you want to avoid is short answers that have no context when the interviewer's voice is removed. For example: Q: When did you decide to move overseas? A: 2012. An editor can't use that on its own. So you would try to say something like: A: I decided to move overseas in 2012 after I was offered a...
The approach to this point will be dictated by the type of content you are being interviewed for. It will still apply but to varying degrees. If you're being interviewed for long form content then you can afford to be more relaxed but if it's for social media then you will need to work on delivering short sound bites. You can do this when you're going through tip number 1 and preparing for the interview by practicing with a friend. Try talking about each of your bullet points in various ways so you feel comfortable in being flexible but then try to summerise what you've said in 2 sentences or less. Most social media content is 1 minute or under so if you want to make the final cut then practice getting your answer down to a short succinct sound bite.
One of the most common things that happens when you get nervous is that you start to speak faster. If you feel this happening then just ask the interviewer if you can take a moment, (only if it's not live) take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself down. You could also try using tip number 8 here too.
5. Eye contact
Try to ignore the camera and camera operator and just focus on the person interviewing you. Usually the interview will be what’s called ‘off camera’ which means you are looking just off the screen at the person asking questions. Glancing at the camera will make you seem nervous so do your best to block out everything except for the interviewer and pretend you’re just having a chat with them. If the interview is 'to camera' which means looking down the lens then hopefully they will use an Eyedirect to help it feel more natural for you. If not, just try looking through the lens and imagine that you are chatting to someone directly behind the camera.
6. What to wear
Do not wear any fine patterns or stripes. It creates an effect called moiré which can be very distracting and hard to remove from the footage. Block bright colours are best however, if you're filming on a green screen avoid green or white. Also make sure there isn't green anywhere on your clothing or body, for example, avoid green eyeshadow or logos that have bits of green. It's also best to avoid logos all together when being interviewed, unless it's an interview promoting that brand. Don't wear jewellery that will clang together and make noise (lots of bracelets or charm necklaces etc). Also try to avoid any clothing that rustles and makes an audible noise when you move. Both of these things will be a nightmare for the sound recordist.
It's important when you're doing an interview that you're authentically yourself. You want to be comfortable and presenting yourself how you would normally however there are a few tips that I would suggest if the production doesn't have a hair and make-up artist.
Take a brush and some hairspray. This way you can tame any flyaway hairs and smooth your hair out. This is particularly important if being filmed in front of a green screen. If you have hair that tends to be quite curly or unruly I would recommend tying it back in front of a green screen as it can be tricky when keying the green out around the hairs.
If you're a person that wears make-up, make sure you have a translucent powder with you and blot your face before the interview to avoid shine.
If you don't wear make-up then grab yourself some blotting paper. It's a great way get rid of shine without looking like you've got make-up on.
Take some lip balm with you. Your mouth and lips might get a bit dry if you're nervous.
Again, nerves can make your mouth dry so make sure you take your water bottle with you and place it next to your chair in case you feel yourself drying up. Talking for extended periods is thirsty work.
When people start to get nervous I notice they start tensing up and you can almost see the nervous energy getting trapped in their body. What I get them to do at this point is move so they can shift it out of their body and loosen up. The best thing to do is to get up and shake your body around. Give your hips a little wiggle, stretch your neck and shake your hands out. A good interviewer will prompt you and do this with you! A great visual aid that we used recently when filming with children was to imagine that you were an octopus being shaken around! If you don't feel comfortable getting up and being an octopus, then even just shaking out your hands and fingers will really help to move that nervous energy out of your body. Which leads into my final tip...
One of the most common things that happen when people get nervous is that they breathe less. Make sure you remember to breathe and if you feel that nervous energy creeping in then take a few deep breaths. Combining it with the above practice can really help loosen you back up. Something that I find particularly effective is to breath in and then make an audible exhale. This all depends on how comfortable you are with your film crew but hopefully you will get an experienced interviewer that will prompt this and then do it with you!
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you have anything else to add.