W.C. Fields has a few famous one liners. “I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food” is one of my personal favorites. But, it’s his “Never work with animals or children” that has always intrigued me. I was never sure whether he disliked tikes and terriers or if it was a mindful creed to avoid being upstaged. Regardless, it’s a rule that simply doesn’t apply to Dr. Ruth Roberts. An expert in integrative veterinary care, a mix of the best of western veterinary medicine and holistic Chinese treatments, Dr. Roberts is using video to help her clients (and anyone else for that matter) improve the health of their pets. She admits that many people come to her door because they are looking for options… some perhaps desperate for them. What her clients find is balanced care and a prescription pad that includes acupuncture and massage along with traditional veterinary medications. Of course, when you prescribe daily Tui Na massage therapy for your client’s arthritic Afghan you have to give them resources…and she’s doing just that [ Sun Dog Cat Moon – Tui Na Massage ] in an instructional series of videos that will be available on her website. Not that she doesn’t get upstaged….you just can’t compete with a guy like Clyde.
I recently broke a bad habit. I’ve known for many years that it was bad for me but I just kept going back. I just couldn’t stop watching Today. Not to date myself… but back in the day… you could easily catch an interview with a world leader. Today, the focus is on reality television stars, supermodels and their divorce drama or the latest YouTube sensation. Riveting. However, for me the tipping point was the recurring practice of an interview technique that essentially ignores the interviewee.
A completely hypothetical but altogether possible interview…
Matt: How long have you been wrestling alligators in a tutu?
Interviewee: Ever since I was a kid growing up in the swamps of southern Louisiana.
Matt: So, where did you grow up?
In this moment our friend, the tutu wearing alligator wrestler, trips over his confusion and then settles into the realization that the person interviewing him wasn’t listening…translation…he doesn’t care. And just like that it’s over. No connection… no content.
An interview is basically a conversation with an agenda. You should know your subject matter and all the ground you have to cover, but how you cover that territory should be a very fluid process. It all starts with the simple act of listening. Just listen… and then ask questions based on what you hear. You can eventually get to the next “official” question on your list. But in the meantime, you may stumble across something wonderful, meaningful, relevant…and it is there, in the unexpected, that the magic moments live.
It sounds easy enough. Set up a camera, a mic, and ask someone a bunch of questions. Anyone can do it, right? Assuming you’ve got a handle on the technical side, then… sure anyone can do it. The question is… how well? An editor will be taking bits and pieces from the interview to build a meaningful story. The quality of those bits and pieces, and thus the quality of the video, is greatly dependent on the skill of the person conducting the interview. Granted, some of these skills are inherent but many are learned. In the next few posts I’ll review some basic tips that can help anyone improve their interview techniques.
It all starts with making your subject comfortable and finding some small way to connect.
Most people are not at home in front of a camera. The lights, microphone, camera and crew can be intimidating. But, before you can help your subject relax… you have to make sure you are relaxed. Here is where we can all learn a little something from the Dog Whisperer, Ceasar Milan. Project calm assertive energy and it will put your interviewee (and any dogs in the area) at ease. So smile… make a small joke. Chill.
Now that you’ve broken the tension it’s time to connect. Casual conversation, unrelated to the interview topic, can help you and your interviewee prepare for the moment the camera rolls. Do you have anything in common? Take in your environment… an item in a home or even a t-shirt they are wearing. “Did you do the bridge run? I did it three years ago and it was a madhouse.” Keep it light…. keep it easy… keep it real..connect.