Identifying Your Interview Subjects

A large part of the success of your video depends on finding the right people to present the information you want to convey.  If they’re well spoken, passionate about the topic, and engaging, your video will be well-positioned to reach the hearts and minds of the people who watch it.  Here are some tips for determining who should appear in your video:

Tip 1

Engage Experts

Look for people who have expertise about the subject you’re covering in your video: people who know the information, have lived the experience, are comfortable talking about it, and whose stories can move viewers to action, if that’s what you’re aiming for.

Tip 2

Don’t Let Politics Guide You

If possible, don’t let office politics guide you.  Sometimes it’s important for the CEO to make a statement to show that the company is behind the idea, and sometimes the Executive Director is the best person to make an appeal for your cause.  But often, people in positions of power appear in videos only because they’re in positions of power, not because they’re the best spokespeople.  You want to choose people who are close to the topic, passionate about it, and great presenters.

Tip 3

You Don’t Need a Million Voices

Less is more.  Often organizations don’t want anyone to “feel left out” and include more of their staff members in a video than are necessary, which can make the resulting video feel choppy (or unnecessarily long). You don’t need multiple people saying the same thing.  Find a few spokespeople who are good at conveying the points that need to be made and let them sing! In some cases, you may just want to profile one person with a really powerful story to get your message across.

Tip 4

Cast Mindfully

Less is more.  Often organizations don’t want anyone to “feel left out” and include more of

In a way, you’re casting different characters for your video — each one representing a different, important point of view.  Think about diversity in your casting.  Who needs to be represented?  

When you’re making a video for or about a particular group of people (e.g. people with diabetes, math students, parents, homeless people) make sure the actual people from that group are included, rather than just having others talk about them.  Your video will be stronger for it.

Tip 5

Go for “Good Talkers” 

Make sure the experts you enlist are good on camera, not just on the printed page.  Professors and others who are used to public speaking are good bets. (Though not always.  As anyone who has sat through a horrible lecture knows, some are deadly boring!) A good way to find out if someone is likely to be good on camera is to do a research call where you tell them about your project and ask them about the topics you’d like covered in the video. If their answers are thoughtful, energizing, moving, etc. then you can dig deeper and determine what their best contribution areas will be and ask them if they’d like to appear on camera.  If not, thank them for their time and valuable research input and move on.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sometimes, despite your best intentions and thorough screening, the interview with the person you selected doesn’t go well. It happens. People freeze in front of the camera, are having a bad day, or the stars just don’t align for whatever reason. If this happens to you (and it’s happened to all of us), first, take a break from the project and check the recording later.  Maybe it wasn’t as bad as you thought.  Maybe a lot of it was bad, but there are a couple wonderful gems you can extract from the interview (and that may be all you need).  And if worse comes to worst, just don’t include any of that footage in the final video.  No harm, no foul.


Now you have some tools you can use to select the most effective “cast” for your video.  Just remember:

  • Engage Experts
  • Don’t Let Politics Guide You
  • You Don’t Need a Million Voices
  • Cast Mindfully
  • Go for “Good Talkers”

Happy Casting!