Should You Script Interview Videos?

Have you ever watched a video interview with someone and felt like it was painful to listen to the speaker? They struggle to answer questions. Their responses feel unnatural. It can almost sound like the person doesn’t know what they are talking about.

How about a time when you felt mesmerized by the responses during an interview? The discussion between the interviewer and interviewee felt almost like you were eavesdropping on a casual conversation between two old friends.

Which type of interview would you rather see coming from your own company?

teleprompterThe decision of whether to carefully script your company’s audio and video presentations or to let your CEO and/or spokesperson do what they do off-the-cuff is one of the most important decisions you can make when you choose how you want your company to be represented in on-camera interviews.

No matter how natural a speaker might be able to pull off reading from a teleprompter or reciting a memorized script, there is fundamental difference between spontaneous interaction and canned performance. Finding that balance is the difference between creating an experience that feels like a marketing pitch and creating an experience that makes viewers want more.

If the person in front of the camera is capable of pulling off live-to-tape speech on a variety of subjects, then you should certainly consider dropping the script and letting them run with an outline, or even just a general idea of what it is you’d like to accomplish with the segment. Walking through the talking points before hitting the record button may be enough.

Scripted material provides value to your company, but there’s a subliminal impression of a commercial message which is hard for a member of your audience to shake. Media produced by brands is often perceived as a commercial, and even an adjustment as small as avoiding over-scripting your material can make a world of difference on audience retention. Someone is far more likely to stick around if what they’re seeing seems natural and in the speaker’s own words.

Why You Should Not Script Interviews

Interviews are the best example of this difference. Have you ever watched a late-night infomercial that featured an “interview” with the CEO of a company with something to sell? The questions are canned, the responses are completely predictable, and it’s painfully obvious that the interview is ersatz.

Unscripted interviews give your interviewer and interviewee the ability to preserve a natural flow in their responses. This can be easily picked up by the audience, and it comes across far more honest than anything backed by a teleprompter could.

Saturday Night Live is a comedy show, and a scripted one at that. If you watch the Weekend Report segment closely, you can tell when the comedians are reading from a teleprompter by their feigned expressions and practiced rhythm. The moment they go off-script, the fourth wall crashes down and the audience goes crazy. They love it, and many of them don’t really know why.

The reason audiences love unscripted comedy is because it’s far easier to connect with someone who is reacting in real-time rather than acting.

What if Your Interviewee isn’t a Good Public Speaker?

What do you do if your representative or spokesperson isn’t a very good speaker. Some people just don’t do well in front of a camera without scripting? Short of finding a different spokesperson, my best advice is to try going off the cuff anyway. Make the magic work in the editing room.

One popular way of creating a more natural discussion through unscripted segments is to weave the segments together with jump cuts. Jump cuts have been part of the editors toolset for years, but were really popularized as a modern YouTube phenomenon. An abrupt scene jump that feels completely jarring to television viewing audiences is generally perceived as facilitating snappy and punchy dialog when done properly by YouTube viewers.

This doesn’t mean you should fill your video with jump cuts, but if a thought isn’t coming together correctly the first time through, you can reset the question for a second take on part of the interview response once the interviewee has gathered their thoughts. Using multiple cameras helps make this kind of editing appear completely seamless, as long as you can achieve two to ten second stretches of uninterrupted dialog between takes.

It helps a lot if the person being interviewed sees the questions prior to recording. This gives the interviewee time to formulate a response and have a better idea of where they want to go with their answers. Preparation provides a much greater chance of delivering a natural, heartfelt response. This method is used by Delighted Robot when we’re on scene interviewing executives and professionals from a variety of backgrounds – we always talk through the discussion points before recording.

Conducting a good video interview makes a big difference in how the public finds and identifies with your brand. Companies big and small benefit from producing video and audio in an interview format. Preparation for interviews sets them up for success without creating an experience that feels canned.

Photo By: Mike Bryan

About the Author

Ryan Matthew Pierson
Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia and technology writing.

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