As a corporate video producer, the customer testimonial video is one of the most requested types of video from clients. Most companies have a need for testimonial content since it adds valuable social proof to their product or service and gives them a chance to shine a spotlight on their happy customers.
After creating plenty of great customer testimonials (and, let’s be honest, a few average ones) I’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. Here are five tips to help you nail your next testimonial project.
TIP 1 - Do Your Homework
Projects live or die in pre-production. Pre-pro is the time to make a plan, catch errors, notice impracticalities and most importantly - save time and money. The items below should be on your customer testimonial pre-production checklist:
Pre-Interview - I always do a 10-15 minute pre-interview with each person I’m interviewing, sometimes longer. The pre-interview allows you to get a good idea for where the story is and what you should emphasis during the interview. It also allows your interview subject to get comfortable with you before meeting in-person on production day.
Tech Scout - Have you ever showed up to an interview location only to find that it’s right next to a busy street with noisy cars? Or maybe the room the client told you was “definitely big enough for an interview” is actually a 12ft x12ft conference room? The best way to eliminate annoying surprises is to do a proper tech scout. B&H has a great resource on common issues to spot on a tech scout.
Create a Shot List - I highly recommend using a shot list app such as Shot Lister for every production. Getting all your shots down in one place will help you envision your video, spot B-roll holes that need to be filled and schedule your day smoothly.
TIP 2 - Take Away the “Gear Fear”
Being interviewed in front of camera, lights and crew can be very intimidating for people who have never done it before. Comfortable interviewees look more relaxed and deliver much better interviews. Below are some ways you can increase their comfort level.
Pre-Light - Make sure all your lighting is dialed in before your interviewee sits down. Nothing makes a person feel uncomfortable like being analyzed and scrutinized as a lighting subject through HD monitors.
Sit Close - In order for an interview to look and feel like a natural conversation, it helps to be as close in proximity to your counterpart as you would be in a normal conversation. Sitting close will also allow your DP, sound mixer and other crew to fade in the background and encourage your interviewee to focus on you.
- “Rolling!” .. “Sound Speed!” .. “Action!” .. These are terms historically used by film crews to communicate with other crew and actors. While useful in scripted narrative work, to non-professionals they draw attention to the “production” part of the experience and might cause them to lock up and become nervous. Rather than using these Hollywood terms, develop a system with your crew that communicates readiness non-verbally.
TIP 3 - Guide Your Interviewee to Give Context for Their Answers
Your editor will thank you for this one.
When you’re filming a customer testimonial interview, you are essentially recording one side of a two-sided conversation. In order for the end viewer to make sense of it they need to know what question was being asked. They need context for the answer being given.
This is why I have the following exchange for every interview:
Me: “Keep in mind that my image and my voice will not be in the final video. That means the viewers will not get to hear my question. So, as often as you can remember, can you try to rephrase the question at the beginning of your answer to give the audience context?”
Interviewee: “Got it!”
Me: “So for instance, if your favorite flavor of ice cream is rocky road and I said ‘What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream’, you’d say…”
Interviewee: “My favorite flavor of ice cream is rocky road!
Once you have that exchange, your interviewee will catch the drift. After that, the important part is to listen carefully for the duration of the interview. If you catch a phrasing that you know would make the answer unclear, don’t be afraid to go back and have your interviewee rephrase.
TIP 4 - Shoot with Two Cameras
Sometimes you ask a short and simple question but get a long and meandering answer. This is normal when working with non-professionals. This could leave you in an awkward spot during editing where you have to hold on an interview shot for an uncomfortably long time. This is why I almost always shoot testimonials using two cameras. This gives me the ability to cut out unwanted rambling simply by switching camera angles. If having two cameras isn’t an option, another way to accomplish the same result is to shoot 4K and crop in on your edit points.
TIP 5 - Shoot the Interview First
Even when you plan your shots and build a shot list, the conversation during the interview will almost always bring up new ideas for B-roll shots and scenes. I keep a pad of paper during the interview so I can jot these ideas down as they come out. Shooting the interview earlier in the day allows for extra time to film these additional scenes and shots without going into overtime.
I hope you can implement some of these tips in your next testimonial video project. Do any of these prompt new ideas for you? Did I miss any tips? Hit me up and let me know!
About the Author
Chris Raines is a corporate video producer from Nashville, TN. His company Bullhorn Media helps businesses and nonprofits reach their goals and build a human connection to their audience through the power of video.