Purpose Focused Conversation
Unlocking an authentic human tone in your interview.
By Wes Kennison
A simple and intuitive dynamic that just might have more going on than meets the eye,... er, ear.
In 12 years of Directing I’ve done hundreds of video interviews, and literally from the very first one I’ve always felt my way through it vs. reading the questions I prepared in advance. I still prepare the questions every single time, and I still don’t ever read a single one of them verbatim. Ever. This has worked incredibly well for me in my body of work, and while I don’t do much interview driven content any more (different story), I want to share my experience so you can be better at it.
This article will provide some thought starters to take into your next on camera interview that will help you capture the magic that is a connected conversation.
We tend to think of “resonance” as primarily a phenomenon of sound waves. The best definition I found for this context defines resonance as
“A moment when one object vibrating at the same natural frequency of a second object forces that second object into vibration.”
My favorite example of audible resonance makes an easy, if not anecdotal, case for the idea that sound waves are more than an audible phenomenon. For a more empirical take, we can look at cymatics, under the larger umbrella of normal modes wherein wave theory gets rather firmly rooted in the physics of our era, rather quickly. But cymatics can also get quite fringe, quickly, 😂, so let’s just store that in our noggins as a visual example of sound.
“Sound as a visual” allows us a different lens to look just a wee bit beyond the [highly materialist] notion that resonance begins and ends with sound.
When we adopt this lens, one of the first things to pop up in our human experience is “emotional resonance”. Simply put, we are emotional beings, and sharing in each other’s emotional journeys is a huge part of what makes us human.
THE ABILITY TO CAPTURE THIS ASPECT OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS THE ONLY REASON TO DO AN INTERVIEW VIDEO. Yes. That’s right. If you’re not capturing a comfortable and purpose centered conversation with the camera and microphone, then it’s completely pointless to make an interview driven video.
The market is overwhelmingly saturated with talking head content and if it’s not authentic you’re wasting your money and your time because it will RESONATE with approximately no one.
Now that we’re full circle, I can connect some dots, thank you for sticking it out with me. Getting a person to talk about WHY they do something is infinitely more difficult than getting someone to talk about WHAT they do. We are all VERY comfortable in the little social auras we create for ourselves that revolve around WHAT we are doing, or WHAT we need to do, or WHAT happened that doesn’t/does need to happen again, I could go on and on but you get it, so I’ll sharpen this by offering that “WHAT” is simply a RESULT [of something more intrinsic], and should never be the point. WHY is where we are at our deepest connection to what we hold dear and that 100% comes through on camera and through the microphone, so as an interviewer
it’s your only job to position the entire thing as a purpose focused conversation.
Or better yet, as steps, 1) Purpose 2) Focus 3) Conversation.
Or as a call to action “Ask purpose based questions while remaining intently focused on what comes back and constantly engage in the art of conversation.”
Or as a bumper sticker [curiosity clicky blog title],
Based on the feedback I get, there’s a contingency of my readership that work in deeply hierarchical corporate environments, so let me say very directly that just because the interview is about earnings or performance or SOPs or something equally mechanical that what I’m saying doesn’t apply to you.
Quite the opposite, the corporate world NEEDS more purpose-based language and intent, so when you choose to intentionally go there, even in small quantities, it rings out like a church bell at midnight.
This is where the “modified why” approach enters our story. The old sales trope of asking why 5 times to get to what they actually want to buy is a good start, but a interview video edit can get aimless and repetitive if it’s built solely on literal “Why?” questions, so we modify the why in the question to accomplish the same thing, and energize the responses (and vicariously the video edit) in the process.
Some examples of modified common questions:
|Common question||Modified Why|
|What are your responsibilities in your role here?||How does your work here affect those around you?|
|What is a benefit of working here that not many people know about?||What’s the connection between choosing to work here and your quality of life?|
|Describe the team of people that work here?||What invigorates you all as a team? What do y’all get excited about?|
|What problem do we need to solve?||Why does this problem warrant our attention?|
|Can you tell me about yourself… what is your story?||What excited you as a kid that still excites you today?|
|Can you walk me through the process from start to finish?||Tell me why a robot could never replace you and your team in performing process x?|
|Talk me through the earnings numbers, what needs to happen?||What’s the single most impactful thing the average employee can do to affect earnings Quarter over Quarter?|
See? I could go on and on, but getting people to get excited about something that’s deeply important to them on camera is the number 1 way to mitigate their nerves AND make the editing process an easy one, because the edit charts itself!!
To summarize, at the end of the day human beings are still highly in tune with the subtleties of tone and timbre that we all bring to our day to day experience, made sharper when we gather in the same physical space. The video interview and edit process OUGHT to be a proxy for this beautifully weird (and borderline magical?) part of who we are.
If you’d like to talk about resonance or share any experiences with the weirder parts of this dynamic I’d LOVE to hear them. I’m thinking of making a mini documentary on this topic and would love to gain some collaborators.