SciencePOD

An in-person interview with a subject matter expert

Conducting interviews – online or in-person?

Conducting interviews – online or in-person?

Video is often seen as a more personal form of communication than text, as discussed in this study on inter-human communication. Are there still benefits to written communication in media, especially when it comes to an interview? 

Interviewing an expert is a brilliant method of conveying medical and scientific information quickly to a wide audience. It is straightforward, quick to digest, and a great way to show the people behind the research. A recorded conversation with a subject-matter expert can be conducted in person, over email, or by phone or video call. The final piece can be presented in writing, on a podcast or video, or across multiple formats. 

Text-based interviews

Written dialogues are fairly common, even in this digital age. The entire dialogue is laid out before the reader, allowing them to consider the questions and answers at their ease. 

That said, increased time pressures and shortened attention spans can work against text-based content. Busy audiences may be unwilling or unable to read a lengthy conversation between people they don’t know. 

Multimedia interviews

A multimedia approach to disseminating information can invigorate dense and complicated subjects. There are many intriguing digital options to consider for expert interviews. 

Video 

Visual stimulation is crucial for engaging digital media. Whether content uses static, animated, drawn, or filmed imagery, pleasing visuals will captivate an audience. For this reason a video conversations might be more compelling to an online audience than a written interview. 

The intimacy of video communication is greater than text communication. After face-to-face communication, video is the next best option for a personal experience. Videos establish a connection for the audience that is difficult to replicate in text format. 

Podcast 

Podcast interviews engages those who enjoy learning from audio sources while retaining a certain feeling of intimacy, much like video. The added spontaneity of a live podcast interview can really boost trust from the audience. 

While a podcast does not combine multiple sensory stimuli like video, it still offers an insight into an authentic conversation, thus inspiring the audience a level of confidence in the messages shared by the interviewee. 

The in-person method

An in-person conversations the most personal approach. The interviewer can build rapport with their subject and discuss interesting, complicated and sometimes difficult topics. The interviewee may be more willing to answer probing questions once trust is established.

This method of interviewing gives the interviewer to spend extra time for extensive pre-interview briefing which leads to the interviewee being more at ease and  as they have an opportunity to rehearse and get ready in a more natural manner. 

Face to face, the interviewer can also read a guest’s body language throughout the interview, and adjust their line of questioning accordingly. 

In-person drawbacks

However, there are some drawbacks with this approach. An in-person interview is more time-consuming and costly, requiring a private space and travel arrangements. Conducting an interview in-person can also be intimidating for the interviewee, resulting in unnatural and stilted answers. The secret to a successful in-person interview stems from the professionalism and ability of the interviewer to effectively handle the interviewee in a manner that puts them at ease.

The online interview method

During the pandemic, in-person meetings have often not been possible. The next best thing is an online video meeting. This method of communication allows the conversation to be recorded easily, and allows all parties to save time and money ontravel. During the interview, online meetings allow participants to share multimedia assets such as slides and clips; these can also be added later to enrich production values and make the message more compelling. 

Online drawbacks

However, this approach also presents some downsides. Since an in-person interview offers more intimacy than one conducted through screens across two different locations, this format may affect the openness of the interviewee’s answers. Online meetings can also make it more difficult to read body language, despite all parties being able to see facial features. 

If there’s a problem with the recording technology, the conversation may be interrupted. This, in turn can make the exchangeawkward, stressful or frustrating. Issues with sound and image quality can also require additional production time to improve the quality of the recording.

Good interview practice

Whether the interview is in-person or remote, the key is to make the exchange compelling for the audience. Below are some tips from the pros:

  • Conduct the meeting in a calm and relaxing environment to get the best answers out of the interviewee. 
  • Tell the interviewee a little about yourself to establish trust and show you have done some background research on their work. 
  • Ask open-ended questions so the interviewee has space to elaborate and touch on other relevant topics. 
  • Leave the interview open at the end to allow them to add extra info.
  • Read our in-depth guide here 

Circumstances change and it’s not always possible to conduct your interview as planned. Maintain a professional manner and use an experienced post-production team. With digital editing, even an interview of average quality can become a captivating piece of media for any audience.