What to do if you're called for an interview
By Ashley Babb
At some point in your career, you will probably be called for a TV interview. It could be for a news crew on the street, for a talk show segment or maybe a corporate webcast. This could be a stressful moment, but it doesn't have to be. Here some tips to get you through your time in front of the camera and help you give an award winning performance.
First, be knowledgeable about the topic. If you're doing an interview on a news release you sent out, make sure you are prepared and know all your facts and the background behind your topic. You don't want to be embarrassed by being unable to answer a question or not knowing where to point the reporter to get the right person to answer that question. Talk to the person interviewing you ahead of time to understand the angle/approach of the interviewer and make sure you arrive at least 20 minutes before your scheduled interview. Be sure to deliver 1 to 3 key topic messages and stay on message throughout interview.
Never bring an entourage to the studio, but one extra person is probably okay, especially if that person can provide support, when you need it. Likewise, never ask if you're going to get paid, most people being interviewed do not.
If you are appearing on a talk show with other guests, try to find out as much as you can about those guests. Pump the talk show producer for as much information on how the issues will be presented, what other guests will be appearing, and what position you are expected to fill. Let the producer or reporter know what you are most interested in promoting prior to the interview (website, hotline, etc.)
You should communicate everything you need to in the first minute. You should have two or three talking points that are well crafted. Each point should only contain a single thought that is easy to understand. That way, if your interview is edited or taken out of context, what you said will stand alone as a complete thought. Once you make your key points, any additional time should be spent expanding on what you have just said. Being prepared helps as you never know when your interview segment will go longer or shorter than originally scheduled.
Avoid distractions and know where to look. Ask the producer, reporter or floor manager which camera is your primary camera. Usually, you will be looking at the person interviewing you, not the camera. Typically, you should think of the camera as a third person in the room. Perhaps you would glance at this other person occasionally while you are talking, but you would look primarily at the interviewer. The only time you should look directly at the camera is if you are making a specific point to the viewer. For example, when the interviewer says "Could you give that website to our viewers" you would turn to camera state the website.
Here are some more tips to get you through:
- Depending on the topic you should be energetic and speak with authority. You don't want to sound flat or unnatural.
- Don't sit behind a desk in your office, when interviewed, sit in an open chair, or while standing.
- Don't fidget with your hands or gesture your hands above your chin, wider than your shoulders, or below your mid-chest.
- Don't lock your hands together or put them in your pockets or don't sway back and forth.
- Don't look up while you are thinking about your answer. If you have to look away for a moment, look down. You'll look thoughtful.
- If you are wearing an earpiece, make sure it fits properly. If your earpiece pops out during the middle of a live interview, simply find the earpiece with your hand closest to it, put it back in your ear, and act like it's no big deal.
- Don't curse on the set, even during commercials. Remember you never know when your mic will be on and who can hear you.
- Be prepared to do your own makeup.
- Ask for a monitor to check your dress and make-up on camera, to check the framing of the shot, or to review video used during your segment. But be careful and don't ever look at the monitor while you're on TV, unless you are narrating a video while it is being shown.
- When the interview is over, sit still until someone tells you that you are done and may leave. Be sure your microphone and ear piece has been removed.
Remember, when you are on TV, you are not giving a public speech. You are having an engaging conversation with one or two people. Don't think about the audience; instead focus on the one person you are talking to at that moment.
Don't forget to thank the person for the interview. If a talk show producer really liked your performance, ask if you can be scheduled right away for your next appearance. Your goal should be to get invited back, so you can appear regularly or at least so you can appear when you have a need to be on TV. If you want to get better at TV interviews, watch other people being interviewed and review recordings of yourself on TV. Ask yourself, do you like the way I look? If not, why not?
After you've learned the basics, develop your own style. Remember, being on TV is all about informing and maybe entertaining viewers. If you present the facts and make them interesting, you have no need to stress because you'll be a success!