Saturday, November 28, 2015

Documentary Video Interview: Are You Asking The RIGHT Questions?

October 27, 2015 by  
Filed under All Posts, Interviews


To get what you need from your interviewee, you need to ask the right questions. This is the 2nd guideline in my series on shooting documentary style interviews:

In order to do this, you need to think about what you want to get from the person you are interviewing. First off, prepare a list of 5 to 10 flexible and open-ended questions. This will be your “script” for the shoot and take the interview from start to finish. For each question you should come up with 2 or 3 possible followup questions that might be suitable to ask, depending on the answer. You probably won’t ask them all, but they will be a good reminder just in case the perfect opportunity comes up to dig deeper.

To devise your questions, think in terms of how, why, when, where or what. “How did you get started in this business?” “Why is [topic] so important?” You get the idea. Develop 3 or more themes for your subject to touch on.

While it is important to prepare, you also need to plan on being spontaneous. For a better interview, allow yourself to veer off from questions if the interviewee says something interesting or unexpected that you’d like to explore further. These unplanned “spontaneous” questions and answers can be more powerful than what you had prepared.

When you start recording, ask your questions in a way to ease the person being interviewd into what you want him/her to discuss. Ask him what he had for breakfast, where she is from, how many kids in his family.. anything to get the person talking and comfortable. You’ll gradually lead to more complex questions.

As far as the questions themselves, here are a few basic rules:

Don’t ask YES or NO questions.

Don’t ask more than one question at a time and wait until the person fully answers that question before you jump in with another one.

Phrase the questions in a way that will allow the interviewee to expand on his/her answer. Feel free to delve deeper. Now is the time to use those follow up questions you prepared.

Have the person repeat your question, especially if you will have no narration for your video. This will help you with the video editing and storytelling later during the editing process. For example, you ask, “When did you start to realize that something was wrong?” The interviewee says, “When did I start to realize that something was wrong? It was about a week after I talked to the doctor that I noticed a weird sensation in my fingers.”

Allow for an awkward pause or dull moment. Also, if the person messed up, let him/her start again with the answer.

Do not be disrespectful the person you’re interviewing. You want a person to open up and talk to you, not shut down and possibly not giving you permission to include him/her in your video.

Be aware of breathing or making noises into your microphone while the other person is talking.

Ask the interviewee if he/she has something more to say or didn’t cover as well as he/she would have liked

How To Direct a Great Documentary Video Interview

Director_chairEarlier I shared 13 guidelines to follow in order to shoot a professional looking interview even if you aren’t a skilled videographer or have the budget to hire one. A few of those guidelines focused on getting to know the interviewee, making her comfortable, and the type of questions you want to ask.

Here are 3 more guidelines I’ll be covering over the next few posts for when you are shooting documentary style interviews:

1) Preparing the Interviewee

2) Questioning the Interviewee

3) Responding to the Interviewee

Prepare Your Interviewee

To get a good documentary interview, you want the person comfortable to share not only her knowledge of the subject at hand, but her thoughts and emotions as well. It’s the unknown of what you, and your viewer, will discover that makes a powerful documentary. One of the best things you can do to get your interviewee comfortable is spend some time before the camera starts recording to brief your interviewee for what will follow.

The interviewee may ask you for your list of questions beforehand. Don’t give them the specific questions you have prepared. You want to have to person come across with authenticity, believability and  spontaneity, not like a well-rehearsed paid actor or worse, delivering a flat performance as if she is reading from a script or teleprompter. This isn’t an interview that you want scripted if you want it to be interesting.

However, it is smart to make sure the interviewee knows the topic of your interview and general themes you’ll be discussing. You don’t want someone who isn’t prepared fumbling through her answers either. A response peppered with thinking words, like the “ums” many people say when forming their answers is distracting. It also may make the interviewee more nervous and present herself in a less attractive light than she wishes. When an interviewee has had a chance to consider the subject beforehand, she has been able to give some thought to her responses and will rely less on mid-sentence thinking words when on camera.

Also let her know that you are going to treat the interview like a conversation and reassure her that mistakes can be changed in editing or you’ll repeat it again if you find the error too egregious. Tell her she can ask you if she could come back to certain questions if she felt she needed to clarify her answer.

Make sure she is speaking to you and not the camera. You will do this initially with the way you position the seating. I have also found that if you have an assistant or other people present, ask them to not engage in eye contact with the person and have the camera operator stand directly behind the camera to be less conspicuous. If you can, turn off the red recording light on your camera. If you can’t, then put a small piece of gaffer’s tape over the light. Some people get distracted by this flashing light.

Next post I’ll be talking more about the questioning aspect of directing video interviews.

21 of Our Best Email Subject Lines and Why They Worked So Well

Best-Subject-LinesWe’re all barraged with email and have to be selective about what we read and what we toss into the trash, unopened. What is it that makes you want to open an email?

Back in the days before email existed I was using direct mail marketing. We had the same challenge of getting our mail opened. I learned that what was written on the outside of the envelope or catalog was the key to keeping my expensive mailing piece out of the trash can. It was the thing that must quickly grab the recipient’s attention and make the item seem relevant, the same thing that the email subject line must do today.

That why I want to talk to you today about the importance of your email’s subject line. After all, it’s the best way to judge the content on the inside.

When using email marketing of your videos and products, you don’t want to be one of those ignored or deleted emails in your subscribers’ in-boxes. The best way to do that is to make sure your email subject lines work for you in getting them opened.

What better way to learn how to do that than by examining our best performing email subject lines. As you will see, not all of these emails were for selling something. Many times you want to send emails to your list to give them information, tips, or updates so I included the subject lines that worked well for those too. All of these had above average open rates from 25% to 50%.*

1)   I need your help…

We’ve used this a few times – with great success – when we wanted testimonials, feedback, shares, and reviews. It is amazing how many people will help you out if you only ask. Be careful that you don’t overuse this though as that can backfire.

2)   I need your input. Would you check out our new site and let me know what you think

People like to share their opinion. It is a great way to hear from your prospects and customers to find out what they really think and want. Plus they feel honored that you asked them, making this a great way to build relationships.

3)   Who would buy your video?

We used this one for one of our weekly How To Sell Your Videos newsletter announcement. If you are sending out an eZine, increase your opens by posing some good questions that relate to your main topic. We’ve found that it isn’t enough these days to just say “News from XYZ” or “Weekly Digest from XYZ” to get your subscribers to open. You want to give them a good reason to do so.

Using questions work well because it is in people’s nature to answer and then see how their answer compares to others. The best questions to ask are open ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes and no.

4)   Why am I so picky about this? (And why you should be too!)

This is another way of asking a question. Usually we recommend having the message be about them by using the word “you” in the subject line, but this is proved another way to pose a question utilizing “I” that worked well for us and got us 33% opens for that newsletter.

5)   Want better videos? You need to invest in this…

We found in using this subject line that if you do ask a close-ended question, follow it up with something enticing to encourage them to click through to see the answer.

6)   Florida Crackers Is A “Must See”

Being direct worked in this case. It piqued interest in a new DVD, Florida Crackers: The Cattlemen And Cowboys of Florida, that we started selling. Our customers had to ask, “What IS this video I must see?” So they clicked through…and bought!

7)   Did you miss it? Florida Crackers Is A “Must See”

We sent this a few days after the first one was sent. This one also had a great open rate with the added question. People don’t want to miss out of something good either.

8)   Don’t make these mistakes in your next marketing campaign…

We found with this newsletter subject line that “warnings” are good too.

9)   I’m letting the cat out of the bag…

I think this worked really well because it combined curiosity with self-interest.

10) Try this simple yet incredibly powerful exercise to realize your dreams

Again, this was sent to our eZine list and promised action that would help the reader. One of the best selling topics is personal development so I had a feeling this would appeal.

11) The future of Florida – Special opportunity on October 8th and 9th

One of our lists is 75% from Florida so this one hit home. We were actually promoting an event we weren’t a part of but it gave value to our list and was a great excuse to stay on their radar.

12) Make Money While On Vacation

Used the very successful “Make Money” line to showcase several video tips we have on how to shoot video while on vacation and turn that into video products. And who wouldn’t want to make more money while they were on vacation?

13) 3 Audio Tips From A Sound Professional

People like tips. You can never send enough of these types of emails out. Other ones along this line that had high open rates were 3 Reasons You Need To Build Your List and 9 Promotional Uses of Video.

Hint: Use odd numbers in your lists…statistics show that people click on posts that include odd numbers over even numbers. Don’t know why that is but I have tested it and it seems to hold true.

14) Canon T2i Review

Surprisingly simple but we found that reviews are very popular. Is there a product related to your video you can review?

15) On Being Thankful and Improving Your Bottom Line

We sent this one out at Thanksgiving. It’s a spin on just saying thanks; it piqued interest in how doing that can give your pocketbook a boost.

16) In Search Of The Holy Grail Of HD Cameras

I know How To Sell Your Videos list is really interested and responsive to video camera news so it didn’t surprise me that this was a well received subject line. Is there a topic your list has shone high interest in?

17) Don’t miss this special opportunity for Christmas sales!

This was sent to bookstores and gift shops and other distribution outlets. It built urgency which is always good to use.

18) Patrick Smith Special Offer ONLY For Preferred Customers

People like being a part of an exclusive group. Who were are preferred customers you ask? They were the people on our list who had purchased from us before.

19) New Best Seller for A Land Remembered Fans

We used this to announce a new book that we were offering to one of our lists. This one used the popularity of my father’s book A Land RememberedIt implied that if you are a fan of that book, you’ll likely want to read this new book too.

20) I Thought Every Videographer Knew This…What I’ll Reveal At WEVA

This was sent to our list when I was going to be speaking at an event at the Wedding and Event Videographers Association Expo. Because most of my list would probably not be going to the conference, they were obviously interested in what I was going to reveal. It was like they were invited in on something only another special group was privy too.

21) Take A Magical Journey Through “Old Florida” AND Save 20%

This was sent out for our A Sense of Place video. It was sent out for the holiday sales season. We do not put this video on sale very often so getting it at a great price was an incentive. It also appeals to a lot of my customers because it implies that the viewer will get to see something magical and reminisce about a place they grew up with.

I hope this has stimulated your awareness of how not only how important your subject line is but also give you some good ideas for yours. You should spend considerable time writing those few words that will get your email opened. If you do it well your email will be opened more often and you’ll make more sales.

*Upon examining over 200 million emails average industry rates from Constant Contact customers, marketing industry email open rates average 15% and retail (including online) business open rates average 17%.

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