10 things I learned from shooting people

Disclaimer: I do not own a gun and don’t intend to. All I own is an iPhone and ‘shot’ some people with it. The click-bait title was just to get your attention. Sorry if you were expecting a gory encounter.

In our company we celebrate an “Engineering Week” each year, where the best minds from various teams present their ideas to the company at large. This year, the organizing committee decided to record few employees speaking about the event. It was something I had never done before and so volunteered to interview people. These are the 10 best things I learnt from my experience as an interviewer/videographer.

1. A well-defined agenda saves a lot of time

The first couple of meeting invites just had the time and location since these employees were already intimated earlier about the questions they had to answer. This lead to a lot of retakes. Since it was the first time many were going on camera, not being prepared in advance required a lot of time to help them figure out the right words to convey. Once we started sending the questions along with the meeting invite, things went really smooth and a lot of people got it right in the first take!

2. Men are from Mars and women are definitely from Venus

In general men are quite shy when it comes to facing the camera compared to women. It was a bit funny to hear men saying they should have shaved or worn a better shirt :) It took a lot of coaxing but they did come around and spoke confidently after the initial hiccups. Women came well dressed and prepared with their answers. I must really give it up to the women for taking the extra effort.

3. Patience is golden

At times it took over ten attempts to record a 30 second montage correctly. This experience taught me to remain calm and patient. Hurrying things would have only made it worse.

4. Make people comfortable

If there is one thing I learned from Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGenres, people open up when you make them comfortable. I made sure people felt relaxed and comfortable before I whipped out my phone to record. Each person is different and this taught me to adapt my approach to get to know a person better in a short span of time.

5. Think before you start

I did a huge blunder which I realized only after 3 days of shooting. I had recorded all the videos in portrait mode instead of landscape mode. Now all my videos were going to look different from the rest shot by the other volunteers and would require additional post processing.

I was obsessed about making sure other people doing their job right, I had forgotten the fundamentals myself.

6. When you screw up, come clean

Once I realized my mistake, I googled frantically to fix this problem. And once I learnt it was not possible, I decided to come clean. I apologized to the organizing committee and they were quite understanding. Besides we did not have time to re-shoot. And so I walked away scot-free. Phew!

7. Finding value in your work

Once while speaking with a senior employee at our company who started out as an engineer but was now the operations head, I asked if he was happy with his job now. He said, “As long as the work I do, adds some value to the people around me I am fine with it.” Simple yet profound wisdom.
Staring at a computer monitor all day can get monotonous at times. An opportunity like this to get out of the cubicle and help people made me realise what he meant. Life is not perfect, it is up to us make the best if it.

8. Multi task like an octopus

There were moments in the last week I wished I had eight hands instead of two. Following up with people, making sure they turn up and rescheduling if necessary in addition to my existing job was challenging but still fun. It made me realize the super-powers I possessed.

9. Do not read too much into other people’s actions

I got the chance to observe different facets in people. Some people were in a hurry to get it over with and some kept asking for a retake. Some just left without a Hi/Bye. Initially I found this a bit bizarre but then later realized everyone has a lot of stuff going on in their work and personal lives. Heck, I myself behave odd at times. So it is best not to read too much into other’s intentions and just do my job.

10. Have fun

Being at a party is fun but cleaning up afterwards isn’t. Though I had to clock in extra time to complete all my commitments on time, at the end of the day I loved engaging with people and learnt some new tricks as well. When you love what you do, you are no longer working.

Have you ever signed up to do something completely different from what you regularly do and how was your experience treading unknown borders? Drop in your comments below.

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