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How To Conduct Vox Pop Interviews At Events

17th June, 2011

Vox Pop Interviews

We’re producing more and more event videos these days and we’re often asked for tips on how to obtain the best sound bites from the vox pop interviews that tend to form the backbone of these sorts of edits.

So I thought I’d write some down. What follows below isn’t an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts but I‘ve found them helpful over the years.

The process usually falls into three phases and I’ll take them in turn.

The first happens before the event – Writing the Questionnaire.

A questionnaire is like a script – you can make a bad film out of a good one but you certainly can’t make a good film out of a bad one.

  • Make sure you stick to up to 5 questions, no one wants to miss too much fun so you must be brief.
  • The questions must be open-ended – that is to say – no yes-or-no answers. It’ll get you far better soundbites
  • It’s important to know what the objective of the video is, are you encouraging people to come next time? Then ask them about the value of the event to them. If it’s just a reference video, ask them to describe their experience so far etc
  • Ensure that the client knows what you’re asking. It’s important that your client has input in this process but don’t let them add too many questions

Next is Recruitment.

When at an event, you’d hope that people are happily enjoying the occasion. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Happy people offer much better soundbites than grumpy people but by the same token, they may not fancy being dragged away from the merriment so:

  • Choose your targets. People who are on their own are easier to recruit so single out friendly looking loners – sounds like an unlikely combo but you’ll be surprised.
  • Make sure you’ve had a good chat with your client to find out who they want to interview – they may not have a wish list but when you ask the question you’ll find that they can usually point out some people – it helps to narrow down the throng for you.
  • Approach with confidence. Inevitably you’ll need to interrupt some people but just be polite and open with a line like ‘excuse me, sorry to interrupt, can I ask you to give us a short interview for the event video?’ don’t over talk – if they don’t want to do it, don’t insist or get whiny.
  • What is critical is your tone, you must remain friendly and non-confrontational but assertive and confident. A perfect mixture of those qualities will recruit most people.

Finally is Interview Technique

Once you’ve positioned your interviewee the way you need them, the chances are your cameraman will need a second to set up; so chat with your respondent about what they should expect and what you’re after.

  • Contracting is a psychological tool from Transactional Analysis*. If your respondent knows what to expect, they won’t be surprised when it happens, so tell them what you’re after and if they agree to take part, no one has any nasty surprises or any reason to get narky.
  • Tell them that you may want to repeat sections and may ask for shorter and longer responses
  • Tell them that you’re after full-sentence answers for fuller soundbites.
  • Once you get rolling, don’t talk! If you feel you haven’t got much from an answer say: ‘tell me more about that,’ it puts people at ease and gets you much meatier content.
  • Don’t overspeak or murmur your agreement; you’ll ruin perfectly good quotes.

The key is making your respondent feel at ease. Contracting at the beginning makes sure that the respondent understands the rules of what you’re doing and if you’ve let them know what to expect when you were setting up the camera, they won’t be upset if you ask them to repeat sections, embellish an answer or do a little dance (that’s usually a tricky one).

When done, thank your respondent and let them leave, sometimes, they’ll want to have a quick chat but allow that to be their decision. Then you’re done. But don’t get lazy, there’re plenty more people out there and you probably haven’t got that long to grab their soundbites – no one wants to watch a video with only 2 people in it!

*for those who want a more detailed explanation of the contracting concept, great resources can be found at

Chris Tongue

Creative Director

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