What's in this session?

  • #1: Tell me about the time when . . . (2:15)
  • #2: Tell me the story of . . . (2:46)
  • #3: Describe the conversation . . . (3:25)
  • #4: Tell me about the day you realized . . . (4:38)
  • #5: What were the next steps that got you from here to there? (4:58)
  • #6: How have you changed in the last 5 years? (5:32)
  • #7: How do you see yourself? (6:22)
  • #8: What was the pivotal moment for you? (6:56)
  • #9: What have you not talked about that you'd like to mention? (8:08)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills. I’m joined as always by the boss man. It’s Brady Shearer and today we’re talking about nine questions to ask in your next church testimony video.

Brady  Shearer: One of the places where I got my start in church media and communications, Alex, was in video. Some of my favorite videos that I’ve ever made have been testimony story videos, where we sit down with someone in our church, and basically we spend three, four, five minutes telling that individual’s story …

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: … through video. The bulk of that video, the entire foundation for it is the video interview. It’s them, from a first person perspective, telling their story. Then we piece it together in post production. We add some B Roll over top and we share that story with our community. It fosters more community. Often you can sit next to someone in church and you know their name maybe, but you don’t really know what’s going …

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: … in their life right now. Or maybe you know what’s going on right now, but you don’t know where they came from, and that’s what makes these story videos so great.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: Of course, your ability to actually execute on the video and make it quality all comes down to that interview. Over the course of my many, many story videos that I’ve made, I’ve kind of got this list of nine questions that I think are the absolute best questions to ask. We want to share those with Pro Church Nation.

Alex Mills: Before we hop into these, I do need to say, I’ve never made a testimony video, but what I will do is I highlight testimonies of people on Facebook. That’s great content for Facebook, whether it’s a page or a group, just to, like you said, just to get to know each other more and learn about each other’s stories. If you don’t have video gear, if you’re not set up to do a video, and you prefer to do photos, you can actually use these same questions in the same context. Take a few different photos of one person, ask them these questions, document them however, and then use that as the text on the photo post on Facebook. I’ve done that and seen really, really great engagement on Facebook. Also, like I said, it helps to learn about each other and so it helps you grow in relationship with one another.

Brady  Shearer: Great point.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: Applicable to different mediums. Question number one, “Tell me about the time when …” First couple questions we’re going to go through are very open ended, and this is purposeful. You want to set the stage for your interviewee, and then hand over to them, and they can just take it wherever they want.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: “Tell me about the time when your parents split up.” That is such an open ended question. It is forcing them, by the framing of the question, to tell a story. The best way to make a story video is to have your interviewee actually telling a story.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: Second question, very similar, “Tell me the story of …” Just a different way to ask it, so you’re not asking the same question in the same way every single time. We use these responses very frequently as the bulk of our video, …

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: … because we need the story in the story video to be the main focus.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: We’ll just kind of set them up, put that ball on the tee, and then they can hit and go with it.

Alex Mills: Yeah, you’ll often use the answer to one of these first two questions as the overarching theme.

Brady  Shearer: Correct.

Alex Mills: The trajectory, the story arch of the whole video using, you know, snippets or B Roll from other things, but this, the big story here is generally going to drive the arch of that video.

Brady  Shearer: Correct. Question number three, “Describe the conversation …” Another open ended question. This one is so very important, because one of the best ways to tell a story is to actually recapture, recap the conversation that you’ve had with somebody in a way like, that says, “So, describe the conversation between you and your wife when you realized that maybe this wasn’t working anymore.”

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: That question, you could say, “Yeah, my wife and I had a big fight and we realized, you know, maybe it was time to separate.” Or if you frame it as, “Describe the conversation,” now the interview is like, “Well, I looked at my wife and I said, ‘I just don’t know if I can trust you anymore,’ and my wife responded, ‘Well, you’ve got to give me another chance.'”

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: Now you feel like you’re in the story.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: Rather than recapping it, you’ve become a part of that conversation as if it’s happening right now.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and not everyone feels well equipped as a story teller themselves, and so these are great, you know, ways to open that door for them, and allow them to naturally …

Brady  Shearer: Yes.

Alex Mills: … do what we know to do as people who tell stories, which is use, you know, descriptive language and use these literary tools that help the listener get involved and feel like they were actually there.

Brady  Shearer: Correct. Question number four, “Tell me about the day you realized …” I’ll use this when I’m looking for kind of that epiphany moment. A huge part of the story arch is that big change in your lead character. Where is that epiphany moment? I’ll ask right out, “Tell me about the day you realized that your marriage wasn’t over and you could figure this out.”

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: Then go with that. Question number 5, “What were the next steps that got you from here to there?” Again, now you’re kind of figuring out the final piece of the story. You’re like, “Okay, so, you talked about the beginning, marriage was on the rocks, and you talked about the epiphany when you realized maybe there was hope for the future.”

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: “Talk about the actual steps you took to get from A to B.” Now, they’re kind of finalizing that third act of the story.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and this is the one that’s going to give the listener the opportunity to insert themselves into this, and say, “Okay, they took these steps to get where they are now. How can I mirror those steps in my own life?”

Brady  Shearer: Question number six, “How have you changed in the last five years?” This is a very, very useful, introspective question that forces the interviewee to look deep within themselves. They usually … I don’t like to send the questions beforehand, especially because these aren’t like specific enough at all.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: They’re all just abstract questions, which makes them great for you, Pro Church Nation, because you can use them in your context.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: But this type of question, “How have you changed in the last five years,” I will not tell the person ahead of time that I’m going to ask them. Then on the spot they have to go, “Wow. How have I changed,” and they’re working it out in real time. That gives the audience that’s going to see this video that same first person, in-the-moment response that you’re seeing, because you’re capturing it on camera.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: This is great, because now, you’re in the moment, hearing it for the first time, but it’s captured on camera, your audience will be in the moment, getting to hear it for the first time …

Alex Mills: Great.

Brady  Shearer: … as well. Question number seven, “How do you see yourself?” Another introspective question. This is something that almost nobody thinks about …

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: … on a day to day basis.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: You don’t wake up and go, “How do I see myself,” but it is a fascinating question when it comes to the psychology of each individual, and it adds so much depth and layering to a story. You’re not just talking about events. You’re not just talking about A to B, but now you’re talking about real emotion…

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: … real psychology about the way that we interpret the world around us, and the way that we play a role in that grand story.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: Question number eight?

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: Keep you rolling. “What was the pivotal moment for you?” Kind of similar to, “Tell me about the day that you realized.” You’re trying to pinpoint the climax of the story.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: Pinpoint the epiphany moment. I’ll usually ask this question twice, so that I can give them two chances at it.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: That way, I can take the one that’s best.

Alex Mills: Right, because you’re going to need it. To complete the story arch, you’re going to, like, you alluded to it earlier, this is a very important moment in the story, and so you’re going to need the answer to this question, so asking more than once in a few different ways is not going to hurt. Like you said, if it’s a great answer both times, you can take your pick. You can splice them together. You can use different content from different answers.

Brady  Shearer: Much of the interview comes down to, is my interviewee feeling comfortable.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: I’ll spend at least an hour with the camera rolling, talking. At least an hour, and what I’ve always found is that by the end they are so much more comfortable …

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: … that, a lot of the time the tape at the beginning, the first 20-30 minutes, I won’t even us any of it, maybe …

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady  Shearer: … because the tape at the end is so much better. Not that the tape at the beginning was bad, necessarily, but comparatively …

Alex Mills: Of course.

Brady  Shearer: … it was so much worse, and that’s why I’ll also always take time to ask this final question.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady  Shearer: What I would perceive to be the most important question you can ask. Question number nine, “What have you not talked about that you’d like to mention?” Up until this point, you, the interviewer, have been driving the conversation. You’ve been leading the conversation. You have been triggering the questions, that have then led to the response. You are the one that’s starting off looking for something, searching for something. I like to close out the interview, they’re at their most comfortable, and I’m going to hand it over to you to complete.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady  Shearer: “What have we not talked about? What are the holes that we need to fill, the gaps that we may have missed? It’s your story, not mine.” I’ve found, time and time again, that this question brings about the best responses and the best tape that brings the entire final video together.

Alex Mills: That’s so good. You know most people that you’re interviewing probably don’t spend too much time in front of the camera, so coming into this experience, they may not be all that comfortable. But what they’ve probably done, because they know that they are coming to get filmed, is that they’ve probably premeditated something, like, “I want to say this. I want to say this,” but maybe they didn’t have that opportunity in those first handful of questions. By the end, like you said, they’re warmed up. They’re comfortable.

Brady  Shearer: Yeah.

Alex Mills: They’ve probably forgotten about the camera, and maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to get to that thing that they premeditated. You’ve got them primed and ready to ask that question, “Hey, what’s something that you haven’t had the chance to say yet,” and it’s the optimal time to ask them that question. Like you said, most of the time you’re going to get your best tape there, so really important.

Brady  Shearer: Nine questions to ask in your next video interview testimony for your church. Hope you find them helpful. That’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you next time.

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