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Twenty tips for the perfect sports interview

 Michelle Hohne interviewing two young athletes.
 

Unless you work for the Canucks or the Whitecaps, you’ve probably struggled to attract consistent media attention for your sport and your athletes. That’s why many Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs) have turned to social media to share their members’ stories far and wide.

Video interviews are already popular in the sports community and it’s easy to see why. They’re easy to produce, inexpensive and can help you cover off multiple tasks in your communications planning. Many PSOs use video interviews to:

  • promote an event or tournament;
     
  • celebrate a member’s success;
     
  • create awareness about their sport;
     
  • recruit participants (including volunteers) by highlighting the reasons why people choose to get involved;
     
  • encourage people to donate or assist in a fundraising effort;
     
  • provide high-performance athletes with a self-promotion tool;
     
  • connect with sponsors to create mutually beneficial messaging;
     
  • showcase the diversity of your participants and break stereotypes about who can get involved in your sport; and
     
  • attract media attention by promoting interesting stories in your community.

Whether you have video interview experience or not, or you just wants a few tips to improve your finished product, check out our 20 video interview tips below to help unleash your inner news reporter and land the perfect interview.

Don’t have the capacity to do video interviews? This module also offers general interview tips to help you create engaging player profiles, press releases and articles.

Looking for other video-making advice? Check out our modules on creating video highlight packages and creating shareable social media content.

1. Do your research

A person typing on a keyboardPreparation is the key to a great interview. Research your subject’s athletic career, his or her personal life, any awards/honours he or she has received and challenges like injuries or controversies he or she has faced. The more you know about your interview subject, the more engaging your interview will be. This is especially important for media-savvy interview subjects who have been asked the same questions over and over again.

2. Keep on open mind

Graphic of a man with gears turning in his head
Once you’ve generated your research questions, forget about them. Many reporters recommend going into your interview without notes to allow the conversation to unfold naturally. If you come into the interview too focused on a particular narrative, you may miss a more interesting story.

3. Pick the perfect interview space

A cameraman holding up a mic.

 

Your audio and video equipment will determine where you can conduct your interview. If you have access to a lavalier mic (lapel mic) and have a high-quality camera, you may choose to film your interview subject in their sports environment, such as courtside at a tournament. If you’re limited by technology, pick a quiet space with ample light, a blank wall and no background noise.

 

Note: If you are working with event sponsors it may be beneficial to strategically position your interview in front of one of your sponsor signage.

4. Adjust your camera's white balance
 

A closeup of a DSLR camera lens
Sports venues such as gyms often have harsh, fluorescent lights, so make sure to adjust your camera’s white balance to avoid having an orange/green/blue tint to your video (the ‘white balance’ of the camera makes sure that what looks white in person is white in your video). Most cameras have a setting for different light sources, but you can also adjust the camera’s white balance manually.

5. Use a tripodA tripod.

Nothing turns an audience off faster than motion sickness. Enough said.

6. Keep it simple

a child's alphabet wooden blocks
The best video interviews are focused on a single storyline, are short (between 2 to 3 minutes), and are simply produced. Remember: you can reuse your interview material for other videos, so don’t worry about leaving some great quotes on the cutting room floor.

7. Test your equipment, audio and lighting before the interview

A light used in producing videos and film.

Few things are more embarrassing for a social media marketer than finishing up an amazing interview only to discover that you were accidentally filming beside a waterfall and the audio is ruined, or that you ran out of batteries on the camera three minutes into the interview. Test every component (light, sound, batteries, etc.) before you start filming.

8. Use the "rule of thirds" when setting up your camera]

 An image illustrating the Rule of thirds.
 

Professional videographers/photographers/artists use the rule of thirds when composing a shot. Divide your screen into thirds both vertically and horizontally. The points where these lines intersect are called ‘power points’ and look pleasing to the viewer. Instead of placing your interview subject in the center of the camera, place him slightly off-center to frame his face in these power points.

9. Have the interview subject looknig slightly off-camera

A director holding up a megaphone.

Your interview subject will likely feel uncomfortable looking right in the lens, so have her look slightly off camera. Most interviewers sit where they want the interview subject to look to mimic the way a natural conversation would unfold.

10. Review the interview subject verbally spelling his or her name on camera

A classroom of students practicing spelling words on the chalkboard.

 

Before you start to film the interview, record the interviewee saying their name and then spelling it so you make sure to spell it correctly during editing.

11. Prepare the interview subject in advance

A checklist on a clipboard
Before the cameras start rolling, put your subject at ease by asking her if she has any concerns, directing her where to look at the camera, and going over what topics you’ll be discussing. Make sure to discuss any potentially sensitive questions well before the interview starts to build trust. If you want your interview subject to wear a certain shirt, make sure you provide it in advance to ensure it fits.

12. Start off easy

A boy smiling and holding up a thumbs up
Warm the interview subject up by beginning with simple questions and moving to the harder ones. Good interviewers also build rapport before the filming starts by engaging the subject in casual conversation. Easy warm-up questions include: “How old are you?” “How long have you been playing the sport?” “Please state your name and your sport.” etc.

13. Don't be afraid to do multiple takes or stop filming

A cartoon man looking very nervous
Many people are nervous about being filmed, so make sure to tell them that you can film for as long as you need. If an interview subject loses his or her train of thought, simply try the question again. Also don’t be afraid to stop if a loud noise like a barking dog or a car horn interrupts your filming. Audio is very difficult to edit after the fact, so get it right the first time.

14. Let your interview subject guide you

A man holding his hand up to his ear and listening.
Instead of waiting for your chance to ask the next question, remain engaged with your interview subject to see what topics excite him. If your subject gets very animated when talking about his grandmother, for example, ask follow-up questions about the role she played in his life. You never know what interesting story you might uncover.

15. Ask descriptive questions

A silhouette of a person with a question mark above their head.
To get your interview subject to give more detailed answers, ask him or her to describe a scene. For example, instead of saying, “How did it feel to win a gold medal?” say, “Describe the moment you looked up at the scoreboard and saw that you had won gold.”

16. Monitor the sound/light quality during the interview

 An animated cloud blowing wind.

If there are any changes to the video quality (such as a cloud going overhead during filming) or audio quality (such as a barking dog), stop and adjust your setup. Remember: if you’re filming your interview outside, wind can affect audio quality.

17. Let the interview subject finish their train of thought
A smiley face with a thought bubble above his head, thinking.

Many new interviewers are so eager to get on to their next question that they cut the subject off once they get a decent answer. Always wait until your interview subject has fully finished answering your question before continuing to the next one.

18. Keep it shortA stick figure staring at a clock

Studies have shown that a video’s audience falls dramatically after the two-minute mark. Keep your video interview succinct.

19. Cut to “B-roll” to show your interview subject in action

A roll of film.
Your video interview should be more than just a talking head. Add visual interest by splicing in footage of your interview subject in action (b-roll). You can also use b- roll to smooth over places where you’ve edited your interview subject’s quote or spliced one part of a quote with another. This is easy to do by using the “picture in picture” function in most simple video editing programs.

20. Brand the video

A wall of paint color swatches.

Your video should reflect your organization’s branding. Add your logo and links to your website to the end of the video, and include this information in the YouTube video description. If you use any title panes or captions, make sure that they match colours/fonts of your brand. 

Sources

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/eesc/how-to/ten-tips-produce-more-professional-video-interviews

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/white-balance.htm

http://www.socialbrite.org/2011/08/09/tips-for-telling-stories-on-camera/

http://desktopvideo.about.com/od/desktopediting/tp/editrules.htm
To learn more, check out our Social Media Toolkit, found here.

 
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Social Media Toolkit

The social media toolkit for sport communicators is intended to help B.C. sport organizations, clubs and other sport-related organizations navigate the confusing and rapidly evolving word of social media.