Testimonial Videos – Simple Equipment, Simple Questions


Above is a testimonials video I created recently for a non-profit professional association. It's very easy to create one of these.  The equipment I used during the shoot included the following:

  • Camera setup (about $800 a year-and-a-half ago.  But, you can do the same thing using a Flip Camera for a lot less... about $200.)
    -  Canon Vixia HV40
    -  Tripod
  • Microphone setup (Which I purchased from eBay a couple of years ago for about $200.)
    -  Wireless lapel microphone
    -  Wireless microphone transmitter (you see some of the interviewees holding it in their hand)
    -  Wireless receiver (see image below)
  • a square paper napkin (free)

In case you're wondering about that last bit in the list, the napkin was a quick-and-dirty "people positioner."   I dropped it on the floor at the spot where I wanted each interviewee to stand.  :)



In terms of the microphone setup, I use a wireless lapel microphone arrangement.  (The picture on the left shows the receiver plugged into the mic-in port on my camera.  Meanwhile, the other end--meaning the transmitter and mic can be seen in the hands of some of my subjects.  [*sigh...*].  I should've clipped it to their belt or something.)

However, you don't have to go the route I did with the sound setup.  You can accomplish similar sound quality via a $40 wired microphone you can get from Radioshack, Best Buy or some other similar electronics store.  The main thing is to not rely on the camera's built in microphone to capture your subject's sound.  In this case, the camera was positioned about 8 feet away from the subject, so you want your subject's sound to be more pronounced than the ambient room noise.  To get a feel for how my subjects might have otherwise sounded, just listen to my voice as I introduce each interviewee.  Since I wasn't mic'd-up, I came across as a little more echo-y than my interview subjects.  And, while that may be acceptable to have me sound that way in a short-form Q&A type session, you definitely don't want you primary subjects sounding like that.  It doesn't make for compelling video testimonials.  (A quick note:  For longer form interviews--as in a "Larry King" type format--it would be advisable to have both subjects mic'd up.)

Simple Questions - More Compelling Responses

The other thing you'll notice, too, is that I kept the questions simple.  In this case, there were three primary questions I asked each participant:

  • What is (organization name) about?
  • Why do you attend (organization name)?
  • If someone were to establish a similar organization in their area, what success tips would you give them?

You may discover your own technique.  But generally speaking, I like to keep the questions simple and few when I conduct testimonial videos.  And, keep the questions open-ended.  (Meaning, the response requires a short essay-type response, rather than one that could otherwise satisfy the question with a simple "yes" or "no.")  The rationale for keeping the questions simple and on-point with a specific, discrete and simple idea is because your subject will fill in the "blank" with his or her own thoughts and words.  If you make the question too complex, they'll have to think about it more which subsequently creates a longer pause on camera.  (Less compelling.)

The other thing is that, from the viewer's perspective, by asking each interviewee the same simple question, you make it easy for them, too.  And, by holding one of the variables static (i.e., limiting the variability in the questions asked), you make it easier for anybody watching your video to do a compare/contrast analysis in their head; viewers have less variables to have to wade through and can quickly evaluate the testimonials on the basis of how different people answer the same questions.

Your Thoughts?

Your thoughts?  What are some of your favorite testimonial questions to ask?  What are your thoughts about keeping the questions simple?  Good idea?  Or, do you prefer more complex interactions?

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About Mel

Mel is the online training architect and screencasting wizard at Kareo, one of Forbes' 2013 list of 100 Most Promising Companies in America. He's also the creator of Digital-Know-How, a training website devoted to developing learners' skills for screencasting and web video course development. Mel is also the chief blogger of ScreencastingWizard.com; Mel's personal blog. The comments and opinions you read here are Mel's and not associated with any other company.
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