5 Tips for Creating Professional Testimonial Videos

The testimonial video is one of the most requested corporate film formats.  I have produced many for all types of clients from large multi-national corporations to local start-up businesses, schools and charities. As an employee of a large corporate, I have contributed to many too. Working with time-pressed executives with little experience of being in front of the camera can be very stressful. Here are 5 tips to help you achieve a professional production.

1.   Be Prepared

It’s always best to make a plan before any interview. Often budgets do not afford a location recce but try and find out as much as possible about the location before the day of the shoot. Ensure that your client knows that you will need a well-lit space away from the noise of the canteen or the reception. Pre-interview wherever possible so you can agree your story and the key themes to emphasise during the interview. Another benefit of the pre-interview is that your contributor is likely to feel more comfortable with you when it comes to the production day, and will have had time to think a little about his/her contribution which could just make for a more seamless interview.

Always best to use a shot list so that you capture all the shots in one place this way you won’t miss anything, and can run it in front of your client by way of a sense check.

If you try and follow the steps above you will be in better shape when, as sometimes happens, the day throws up an unexpected surprise for which no amount of planning would have equipped you.

2.   Be Realisitic

All companies have fascinating stories to tell and employees tend to be passionate about telling them, so it is important that having planned the interview you stick with the plan. Be realistic about what can be captured in what is typically a 3-4 minute video. It is important to manage expectation, clients often have their own agenda. If you are working to a tight schedule, most likely you will not have time to record anything that is not part of the narrative agreed up front. Realistically you will have to do several takes of the agreed narrative, make sure you prepare your client for this so they are relaxed about having to repeat their answers on camera.

3.   Be in control

Try not to let the interview run off topic. It is best to keep it simple letting the interviewer tell the story in answer to 3 simple questions:

–      What does your business do?

–      What challenges are currently facing your business/customers?

–      How are you responding to the challenges to help your customers?

Answers to questions should be short and concise. The interview should resemble natural dialogue. A good tip to ensuring this happens is to sit or stand close to the interviewee and adopt a natural conversational style. This also allows the cameraman and other crew to disappear into the background so the interviewer focuses on you. The interviewee is likely to feel much more at ease if he or she gets a clear sense that you are in control.

4.   Be Clear

Avoid waffle, jargon, acronyms and clichés. If the company uses abbreviations make sure it is clear what they stand for. As an interviewer, it is important to be a good listener. Rather than thinking what your next question might be, you should be listening out for any phrases that would perhaps make the answer unclear. Don’t be afraid to go back and have your interviewee rephrase, remember you are in control.

5.   Be Structured in your approach

Always try and shoot the interview as early in the day as possible. No matter how well you have planned your shot list, the conversation in the interview will almost certainly bring up new ideas for the cut away shots. If you have left your interview until the last thing in the day, this affords no opportunity to capture any additional shots. Make a mental note of any extra scenes or shots you might want to capture, or better still jot them down.

I hope you will be able to use these tips when you come to make your next testimonial interview. I’m always looking to learn and improve the process so do share any of your top tips with me.

Alison Farmery: Director, Lagoon Media, producing content and building products that help people become more informed, inspired, and engaged tomorrow than they are today.