Video is the best communications medium we have today. It is also the trickiest to master because it has a language all of its own. That point is often lost on many untrained marketers who shoot their own video interviews. Even with a great guest and a great topic, they miss the non-verbal cues that can create a language barrier between themselves and their audience.
The language of video is in our own body language
Research studies like those by UCLA have found anywhere from 55-93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. These nonverbal cues in interviews include how you position yourself when talking, how you position yourself when listening, and how you use your facial expressions at all times. These are all cues that other people rely on when making assessments about your abilities and current state of mind.
Steve Stockman is acclaimed film and television producer and the author of How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck, who teaches professionals and creative enthusiasts how so much of video language is in the non-verbal cues.
“The stuff audiences watch on the Web is no different than watching video anywhere else. What people are willing to watch has to be up to a reasonable standard of information delivery. Whether it’s television or online video, the same rules of engagement apply,” says Steve.
Not being aware of non-verbal cues captured on video greatly affects your ability to deliver information to your audience as you intend. This can result with your audience feeling uncomfortable, distracted, or just altogether uninterested. Either way, you lose the opportunity to share your message and convert them. Conversely, when you have a good understanding of how to communicate with your body on video, your audience feels much more connected; and they are more likely remember you and your message, engage and convert.
Here are some examples of body language in video interviews, along with tips for controlling yours and your guests’ own mannerisms when shooing a video interview, and knowing how to shoot and edit so you’re “speaking the same language” as your audience.
In a rush? Acknowledge your audience before your guest
Many marketers feel inclined to position themselves in completely into an interview with an influential guest. Take this example with TED Conference Founder Richard Saul Wurman being interviewed by Mark J. Carter. Notice the way their bodies are turned – it feels like the viewer is intruding on a conversation they haven’t been invited to. There is also no close-up on either person in the video. The video language here is one of exclusion.
A good video always feels like a personal invitation. There isn’t anything necessarily bad about shooting an interview with yourself and your guest fully in the picture – professional event newscasters have to do it all the time. What they know is to always first position their body to camera while introducing their guest, and only turn when the introduction is completed.
Lots of face closeups with the occasional wide shot
“90% of the information we communicate to people is in our faces,” says Steve.
Take again the TED interview – you don’t the guests face much because there are two people standing in frame; and they’re looking at each other which means the audience is only going to see the sides of their heads.
If you’re looking to position yourself in actual course of an interview, it works a lot better to have a camera over each other’s shoulder like you see in television interviews (or on mock news shows like The Daily Show and Colbert Report). This way you can cut to between those two views so the audience sees almost a full, dead-on face of whoever’s talking. Much better yet, include a pull-back shot of both you and your guest, so the audience can take in enough of the scenery.
If you only have one camera to work with, then switch the camera to opposite views; you can re-ask the questions and fix them in edit. If you really only have time for one shot, just shoot over your shoulder and on your guest; and do a separate take of just yourself introducing the speaker and the interview you did with them. But don’t be afraid to ask your guest to do a quick shot of you both together and solo at different angles, either. Remind people that you’re there to make them look good, and they can be more likely to appreciate the thought you’re giving to it.
Focus on upper torsos – and watch those hands!
Overly expressive guests can make for great short solo pieces, but their hand gestures may prove to be too distracting in lengthy interviews like the one below. While it may be entertaining for some people to watch in very small does, seeing it in a longer video becomes a distraction to your audience.
The trick is to zoom in on your guest and keep the focus on their face. Take this example below of an interview with Facebook Guru Mari Smith. Notice how the camera shows her upper torso, so you can still get an occasional glimpse of part of her hands, but the viewer still is focused on her face.
Decide what’s most important to your audience
Even if you’re the host and it’s your video channel, you still have to always be able to justify to your audience why you are in the video at all. Maybe it’s more important that your camera focus on the face of the person you are interviewing so that you can see what they think.
Take this diabetes interview above. These are cuts of comments from people with Type 2 diabetes and it’s just the people talking and it’s been edited in a way that it tells a complete story. There’s no need to show anyone else other than the people whose lives have been directly affected by the medical condition. It leaves the audience with a much stronger emotional impact, along with a clear message and call-to-action, than inserting someone unrelated into the mix.
Want to learn more on video interviewing tips?
Check out Steve Stockman’s “10 Tips for Video Interviews that Don’t Suck;” and if you’re video interviewing guests remotely, check out Webcam Interviewing Tips featuring Personal Life Media talk show host Susan Bratton.