Preparing an interview or discussion video
What makes for an engaging recorded interview or discussion? Interviews and discussions are primarily about creating a balanced dynamic between the guest and host that encourages sharing. This is achieved through a combination of careful preparation, active listening, empathy/rapport building and skilful conversation management.
The first step in planning your interview or discussion recording is to decide what kind of dynamic will best serve the topic or theme you are trying to explore. This involves looking ahead and imagining how the final recording will be presented. One way to do this is to think about common interview / discussion formats we’re already familiar with from the media.
One on one interview
In a one-on-one interview, the interviewer guides the guest through a series of prepared questions. The interviewer usually takes an active role in the final product, asking follow-up questions and steering the conversation, and also acts as an interpreter for the audience, prompting for clarification or contextualization as required. A well conducted one-on-one interview should feel conversational yet professional, personal and enlightening.
Talking head interview
In a talking-head interview, the interviewer is absent from the final product. This puts all the emphasis on the guest. A well edited talking head interview should be immersive and give the appearance of someone speaking on topic in a relaxed, unprompted manner.
In an unmoderated discussion, a small group follow a structured discussion, working through a shared list of talking points and using the usual tools of conversation management to pitch questions, answers and elaborations back and forward between themselves. A well-run unmoderated discussion should feel lively and relaxed, with a range of opinions or angles canvased, and should lead to a more in-depth understanding on a topic, whether or not a consensus is reached
In a moderated discussion, one person takes the role of managing talk time amongst a panel of guests. The discussion usually starts with preprepared interview questions or waypoints in the conversation, but the moderator should be responsive to the developing conversation. A well-run moderated discussion should feel pacey, animated and ideally a little heated.
Once you’ve identified your general approach, you can refine your interview planning around the interviewing strategy, content and length of the recording. There are many interview strategies, and a skilled interviewer often combines or switches approaches. Here are some common ways of approaching interview strategy:
A casual one-on-one interview where the interviewer establishes rapport with the interviewee before steering the conversation to the topic on hand.
You’re in Melbourne this weekend for a conference, what are you presenting on?
An interviewer adopts the role of a newcomer to the subject and pitches questions to an expert guest at such a level that a lay audience could understand.
Most of us are familiar with the flu vaccine, so why don’t we have vaccines for the common cold?
The interviewer takes an adversarial position or plays the devil’s advocate on a topic to elicit a more in-depth or well-argued point of view.
You’ve argued for more quantitative easing, but critics say it’s destroying the chances of a recovery. Why are they wrong?
An in-depth series of questions about a person’s experiences or achievements, often arranged chronologically.
I’ve heard you were top of your art class in high school … so how did you become an epidemiologist?
A long-form interview that focuses on eliciting someone’s experience of a particular time or place in vivid detail.
Tell us about the day of the protest … what was the first thing you did that morning?
A short set of single-question talking heads edited together to express a range of views, opinions or responses on a timely topic.
How do you feel about the upcoming referendum?
A talking head interview where the interviewer is trying to elicit a self-contained statement or concise summation of an issue.
Tell us why Ai is the most exciting field of computer science...
Once you’ve decided on your interview dynamic and your interview strategy, you should be able to research and write your questions. Depending on the dynamic, you might write a whole set of questions, or potentially just map out the topics you’re hoping to cover. But unlike a scripted presentation, the questions should act as a guide only, to help you keep on track. Reading preprepared questions in a set order, without actively listening to the direction the conversation is taking is the fastest way to ruin the dynamics of an interview.
If you are writing questions to elicit soundbites or key messages, your questions should be written to prompt a self-contained answer. For a one-on-one interview, questions should be open-ended to encourage elaboration and foster a sense of dialogue. In both cases, avoid closed questions with simple answers, otherwise you’ll spend all your interview time asking for elaboration. In all cases, your questions should be short and flexible enough to recite without reference to a script, although notes to keep things on track are OK.
Briefing the interviewee is also critical to success. You should tell them what kind of interview you are planning, who the audience are, what the dynamic will be, how long the interview will run for, and at minimum send them a sample question or two. You should also reassure them that you are interviewing them for their expertise and perspective. You should also discourage them from pre-scripting their answers, although again notes are OK.
A pre-interview can also be a very effective way to prepare. This involves calling or meeting the interviewee in a less formal setting, running through your questions or notes, establishing which parts of the upcoming interview might be most valuable to viewers, and revising questions accordingly. This is great for rapport building, will help put the interviewee at ease on the day, and should yield a useful map of the conversation to come.
Now that you’ve prepared an engaging interview, you can decide whether it needs to be recorded on video or whether audio would be a better choice. Does having the interviewee on camera add anything to the production? Guests are often more comfortable in an audio-only setting, but it can be harder to build rapport if recording remotely, so a pre-interview becomes more important.
If you’re asking us to record the interview, we’ll invite you to our studio, meet you on location, or send you a link to follow. In general, we’ll advise you to allow one hour of studio time to record a quality, well prepared 10min interview. This will allow for time to warm up, practice, and record pickups or introductions, allowing the editor to create a strong final video. In general we’ll leave the wardrobe choices up to you, but we recommend you and your guest avoid large amounts of solid black or white, and also avoid fine patterns of stripes, checks or dots, all of which can appear distracting on screen.
If you’re recording your own interview, the University has a step-by-step guide on how to use Zoom.
Great sound is a must for all participants, so make sure you also access our tips on recording great sound here.
Regardless of how you’re recording, there are a few keys to conducting your interview. Firstly, time management is critical. This includes keeping an eye on the overall interview length and wrapping up the conversation when time is up, but also having the flexibility to drop a topic or move the conversation along if the interview is proceeding slowly. It’s also crucial to manage talk time – remember that the guest is always the main focus, and your role is to facilitate the conversation.
Active listening is also really important – if the guest covers two topics in one answer, you might need to rethink your questions on the fly to avoid offending your guest by asking a question that’s already been answered. Finally, go with the flow. A conversation is like a journey, and it should have a beginning middle and end. Don’t be afraid to take some unexpected turns, and try to enjoy the ride, but always keep your audience in mind and don’t overindulge.
In general, you’ll be able to deliver your video directly into your LMS subject site by uploading the recording to Kaltura My Media or Lecture Capture (Echo360) video hosting, both of which are integrated into the LMS. Once your video is in Kaltura or Lecture Capture, you can request an automatic transcription to create closed captions. These transcriptions vary in accuracy, so you will need to allow some time for proof-reading/checking against the original script.
It is also good practice to provide a transcript file as a separate download. Students who may have bandwidth limitations or who spend a lot of time commuting have also reported that they love it when teachers also make a downloadable, audio-only version of the video available.
So, how will you know if the student watched the interview? Another way to think about this is to ask yourself “what am I asking my students to do once they have watched the interview?”. A good online module design shouldn’t just rely on a playlist of videos. Think about using the tools available in the LMS to construct activities around the video. Whether it’s a simple post-video quiz or a carefully staged reflective task, a well aligned learning activity will make sure the interview remains meaningful in the context of your overall design.