How To Interview Someone On Camera

Andrew Tingley | May 23, 2024
Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

The first time you conduct an interview may be a little intimidating, for both you and your interview subject. They are sitting under the bright lights and you’re putting them on the spot, hopefully asking questions that lead to a great story. To prepare for this first interview, here are a few tips:

1. Welcome them to your set.

As soon as they walk onto your set, welcome them and have them sit down in the spot you lit for them. Remind them that you’re there to have a conversation with them and learn more about “X.” They may say, wow, this is a big setup, or this microphone is really close, are you sure you don’t see it on camera? But assure them, they look great and that you’re going to do your best to make them sound their best on camera.

2. Make them feel comfortable.

If you have time to get to know your interviewee beforehand, ask them generic questions to ease them into answering on camera. You may ask, where are you from? What are your hobbies? What did you have for breakfast? This will not only start to make them feel more comfortable in this setting, but your audio engineer can also get a microphone level check!

3. Ask open-ended questions.

Instead of asking questions that elicit a “yes” or “no” only response, ask them questions that start with “tell me about…” This will encourage them to start one topic and expound on that question.

4. Have them restate the question in their answer.

For most interviews, you as the producer or interviewer, are not going to be seen or heard on camera in the final edit. So, right before you start the actual interview, let them know they should try and restate the question in their answer. For example, if you ask, “What did you have for breakfast?” They should say, “For breakfast I had…” This will create usable sound bites that can be used in the edit without your questions.

5. Ask questions twice.

Back in the tape days, we used to record the answers to questions twice just in case there was a glitch on the tape. Today, it’s still possible to have a bad file, but it’s more important to just get great sound bites. The first time, you’re going to get their first response to questions. This is great and you want to capture these raw, unedited moments. But, if you do it again, you’ll hopefully get a more relaxed subject and slightly different answers that you can use to help tell the final story in the edit. If your interviewee stumbles through some answers the first time, then this is also another opportunity to get a clean take. In the end, why not? You’re there, they’re there, and you have all of this equipment set up and ready to go. Just grab a second take of every question again.

6. Have your interviewee say their name and title.

Even if you don’t use it, have them say their name and title and then spell their name on camera. I once had three students deliver three different videos with three different spellings of a person’s name on the lower third title graphic. No one on set wrote down this person’s name or had their contact information. If you simply have them state this information clearly at the beginning of an interview, then every editor who receives that footage will have the same, correct information.


As you can see, most of these tips are geared toward getting the best and most usable responses from your interview subject. If the interviewee is just too nervous or gives very brief answers, it will be difficult to piece together a story in your edit.

Practice these recommendations and you’ll be interviewing like a pro in no time.

Part 2

Now, let’s look at it from the perspective of the person being interviewed. How should they prepare? What should they expect? I asked ChatGPT and I agree with most of what it spit out:

“Interviewing for television can be a daunting task, especially if you have little experience in front of the camera. However, with the right preparation and mindset, you can make a great impression and deliver a compelling interview that captivates your audience.

The first step in preparing for a television interview is to do your research. Learn as much as you can about the topic you will be discussing, as well as the audience you will be speaking to. This will help you tailor your answers and make them more relevant to the viewers. Additionally, researching the person or people you will be interviewing can help you build rapport and establish a connection.

Once you have done your research, it’s important to think about your appearance. The way you present yourself on camera is just as important as what you say. Dress professionally and make sure your hair and makeup are appropriate for the setting. Avoid wearing bright or distracting colors, as these can be distracting to the viewers.

When it’s time for the interview, be sure to arrive early and familiarize yourself with the set. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident during the interview. If you are nervous, take a few deep breaths and try to relax. Remember, the interviewer wants to help you succeed, so don’t be afraid to ask for any clarification or guidance you need.

During the interview, it’s important to speak clearly and confidently. Speak directly to the camera and maintain eye contact. Try to avoid filler words like “um” and “uh” and instead pause briefly if you need to gather your thoughts. Additionally, be sure to listen to the interviewer’s questions carefully and answer them thoughtfully.

Body language is also an important aspect of a television interview. Sit up straight and try to maintain good posture throughout the interview. Avoid fidgeting or tapping your feet, as this can be distracting to the viewers. Instead, try to use your hands to emphasize your points and make your answers more engaging.

One of the most important things to remember during a television interview is to be yourself. Don’t try to act or be someone you’re not, as this will come across as insincere and may turn off the viewers. Instead, speak authentically and from the heart, and let your passion for the topic shine through.

Finally, after the interview is over, take the time to reflect on what went well and what you could improve on. Watching a recording of the interview can be a great way to identify areas for improvement and help you grow as a television interviewee.

In conclusion, interviewing for television can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right preparation and mindset, you can deliver a compelling interview that captivates your audience. Do your research, dress professionally, and speak confidently and authentically. Remember to be yourself, and take the time to reflect on your performance after the interview is over. With these tips, you can make a great impression and take your television interviews to the next level.”

Mini Bio

Andrew has been producing video for over 20 years, and teaching for 6.

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