What’s a talking-head video? It is the image of a person, usually with only the head and upper body visible, talking to the camera, as in a documentary, news show, interview or similar work.
Let’s discuss the merits of Talking Heads and all without a mention of David Byrne, we promise. Talking-head style video is an address to the camera typically of the subject’s head and shoulders. This style of video is predominantly about the public address or informative/conversational video.
Expedia – London Hotelier interview
It’s fair to say there is a slight stigma against talking-heads which are deemed a bit too corporate and boring. But we firmly believe that the stigma stems from poorly executed videos, muddying the waters. Here are some pointers to avoid muddying those waters.
Begin by having a message to convey and understand that message thoroughly. Bullet point the key messages you wish to get across in your video. Then, formulate questions or prompts to trigger these. The Interviewer should work with the Interviewee so that they have a common goal.
There’s no rule on how many questions or what the length of the video should be so the best advice is to get the message across as concisely as possible. Have the Interviewee introduce themselves, lead to the key messages and then sign off if you wish to.
Typically, a talking-head video would only have the Interviewee talking. However, during filming, the Interviewer will be asking questions and/or providing prompts.
Make sure that the Interviewee forms the question into their answers. This is, in our opinion, the best way to keep the flow of the video going, without having to break for on-screen text highlighting the questions.
Let’s see an example of that:
Interviewer: How do you feel mobile technologies have changed your business?
Interviewee: Mobile technologies have changed my business through…
Interviewee: We’ve recently seen lots of changes within our business, these are partly down to the advances in mobile technologies…
Now that you have your questions drafted, get them to your Interviewee. Make them familiar with what’s going to be asked on the day of filming.
If you liken a video shoot to a presentation, you would expect the presenter to have prepared themselves for the talk. They should not merely turn up without a prior knowledge of what’s to be discussed.
People can be camera shy, this isn’t uncommon. When the lights are on you, the pressure can set in unexpectedly. Being prepared, knowing what you’re going to say, is a surefire way to relieving those pressures.
It’s definitely worth doing some practice questioning before the cameras begin to record. I would certainly advise you to do a couple of run-throughs of the questions whilst recording.
The Interviewee will relax more the second time around, they will give different variations on their answers (that’ll be great for the edit). For safety’s sake, a second take might save you the cost for a reshoot (although sometimes necessary, these things happen).
Whilst planning the shoot day, consider a room/space which is aesthetically pleasing. This space should have the best soundproofing from external and internal noise. It should also provide the best privacy for the Interviewee and of course, a controllable air-conditioning!
These things aren’t always possible but try to cover these criteria for the best shoot-day setting you can host.
Accenture – Consulting experience interview
Whilst the shoot is underway, keep an eye on things like the presentation of the Interviewee, watch for continuity issues.
This is when, for example, an Interviewee with long hair has their hair forward over their shoulders but during a break pushes their hair back, behind their shoulders. If the editor needs to use two different takes to create the final video, and the hair is in different places at different points in the shoot, then it’ll look odd in the final video.
Keep the Interviewee relaxed, chat with them, make light of the situation, anything to put them at ease.
All in all, our main advice is that you should be prepared with the script or key messages, that is the primary factor for keeping the shoot as short as it needs to be and the final video as good as it can be.
Next time you’re thinking of circulating some internal communications or portraying a brand message, consider a talking-head video. These really humanize the brand and are much more engaging than written reports.