How to make an interviewee feel comfortable on camera

Multimedia / 05.18.15 / Kari Gassmann

It’s not a mystery that some people are just not good in front of the camera. It’s not their fault, it’s honestly just intimidating to be on camera sometimes. They’re so nervous about messing up that they end up making their thoughts come out as a jumbled mess. If you’ve ever had a nervous interviewee, you know the pain of having to edit out stumbles, stutters, and run-on sentences.

The best way to ensure a quality interview is to make your interviewee feel comfortable on camera so that what they say comes out smoothly and naturally. There are a few things that you can do to help your interviewee loosen up in front of the camera.

Let them see the questions beforehand

No one likes a bomb of a question that takes them completely off guard. Give them a list of the questions you’re going to be asking them so they know what to expect and they can start planning how they are going to answer.

Let them know what you’re expecting out of them

If you want them to talk about a specific aspect, let them know up front. There’s no point in asking a bunch of questions that are never answered how you want — they don’t know what you want! You’re not asking them to make anything up just to benefit you, you’re just telling them what you’re looking for so they know the best way to answer.

Reassure them that there’s no rush

If there’s one thing that makes me nervous it’s when someone makes me feel rushed. When you’re rushed, you don’t think before you speak, which causes a lot of stuttering and stumbling. Just inform them that they don’t need to rush through their answers. They don’t need to answer right away either; it’s okay to think about your answers before you say it.

Ask them to talk slower

When you force yourself to speak slowly, it sounds really weird to your ears, but on camera it sounds fluid and natural. This will also make it easier if you have to cut between words.

Ask them to take pauses between each paragraph/sentence

When they think of a good thing to say they just want to blurt it out; just remind them to take a short pause after each paragraph/sentence. This will help them stop to take a breath and recollect their thoughts. Even an unnatural pause is okay. There’s nothing worse then having to cut between two sentences that are practically fused together because the interviewee failed to pause between their sentences. 

Have them look at you, not the camera

It just makes them feel more comfortable on camera when they look at a person rather than staring into a lens. When they look at a person it feels like a conversation. A lot of people get nervous when that red light turns on, so having them look at you instead of the camera will keep their mind off the fact that you’re recording.

Start with small talk and easy questions

Don’t jump right into the hard questions. You need them to be relaxed, so starting with questions that require no thought helps loosen them up so they can hit those tough questions. Questions like, “What did you do this morning?” or “Do you have any interesting plans this weekend?” are great for opening your interviewee up and preparing them for the real questions.

Make your questions feel like a conversation

Smile and nod while they’re talking and make small comments to their answers at the end. This makes it feel more like a conversation with a friend rather than an interview. Try to allow your questions to transition between each other so the change in topic doesn’t seem so abrupt which might take them out of the moment and remind them that there’s a camera on them.

After you’ve helped your interviewee feel relaxed and comfortable on camera, you’ll notice how much better your interviews will sound and how much easier they will be to edit.