5 ways to Put People at Ease When Taking Video Testimony or When Hosting a Dinner Party

Last Thursday, we invited a few clients into the office to shoot video testimonials for our website. We knew these clients would say something nice about our firm. Honestly, how could they not? We helped them win a large settlement and gave them some hope for the future. But even with great results, clients are not actors. Discomfort in front of the camera can lead to forced or canned testimonials, leaving customers with a less than favorable impression of your firm. Getting them comfortable in front of the camera is the key to a good testimonial, video deposition, or any other situation requiring a open and relaxed atmosphere.

To help us do this we invited our friend Jeff Larrimore up from his home in the New Hampshire woods. He is licensed in California but resides in the Leominster. Jeff teaches at Gerry Spence's trial academy and has the gift of putting people at ease. I sat and watched the man work and picked up a few things from him. Here's five ways to help people relax and make them comfortable in front of the camera or anywhere else for that matter.

  1. Be genuine. Just as a jury can spot a phony as soon as he or she walks in the door so can any person that you might have to interview for the camera. Keep a professional attitude. Remember your objective: to generate more cases for your firm. If you expect an authentic and honest response from your client then you have to offer yourself honestly as well, even if that means that you have to admit that you would rather be doing something else. Chances are the person you are interviewing would rather be doing something else also. So, now by admitting that to a person you have found common ground.
  2. Be Grateful. You have called this person in for your benefit. They have had to miss work and drive to your office to be interviewed about something that they would like to put behind them. They are doing you a favor by helping you with your case or by promoting your business. It's a simple gesture but thank them.
  3. Film More Than You Need. Go Back and Edit. The other day, I watched a partner in our firm sing a country song into the microphone prior to recording a radio commercial. It was his way to get comfortable before the real take. He reasoned that it was harder to sing in front of someone than it is to read advertising copy. After watching him record two radio spots on the first take, I'm a believer. Let the tape roll. Get a few minutes under your belt before you go into the meat of the interview. This allows everyone to settle down and relax.
  4. Be Respectful. Often, the person you are interviewing has just been through some terrible experience that you are asking them to recount. We need to honor that by being respectful and listening to their experience. Seek out ways in which you can empathize with them. Put yourself in their shoes and walk with them a bit. Ask questions. Make sure they understand that you know where their coming from even if you cannot identify with their plight directly.
  5. Show Them Yours and They Will Show You Theirs One way to get someone comfortable with opening up with you is to open up with them. They've just been in an accident. Tell them your accident story and how that accident affected your life. Be open, honest and forthright. Do not withhold details; give them the whole account even if you have some negative emotions associated with it. At worst, it will make you seem human and they will appreciate you taking the time to open up to them and at best they will see that you're a person with whom they can identify and trust and will feel secure in opening up with you.

Once you have created an atmosphere of mutual respect, gratitude, honesty, and authenticity then you can sit back and listen to them tell their story. If it's a testimonial then it is helpful to lead them through their case and let them relive it in front of you. When it comes time to ask them to recommend you to another person then they will come across as enthusiastic and genuine.


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