Don’t Panic! at the Studio

Kara Gormley Meador • November 19, 2021

5 1/2 Simple Tips Before Doing an On-Camera Interview

The local news reporter did not draw your name out of a hat, or the fishbowl they used to pick the names of “tributes” in The Hunger Games movie. And while the thought of doing a television interview may make you feel like you’re about to enter a dystopian nightmare, remember you were called because of your expertise. Or, your PR team pitched the story. Either way you are the expert, so own it!

Before you walk into the television studio or hop on a virtual call to do an interview, here are some tips:

1) Know your message.

Traditionally, a journalist is not going to share a list of questions with you in advance of the interview, but if you stop to think about it, you should have a good idea of what he or she is going to focus on. Write down potential questions before the broadcast and jot down responses.

If your business or organization has any vulnerabilities, consider how you will respond to those questions too, just in case. The goal is to never be caught off guard.

2) Prepare

Read the responses you have written aloud. When you hear your answers, you may find that they are too wordy. Writing down possible Q&A ahead of time and rehearsing the answers presents the perfect opportunity to cut out excess language and develop pithy responses. While preparation is key, don’t rehearse your answers to the point that you sound like you are reading Shakespeare. You want to come across as knowledgeable and authentic, not like actor Kenneth Branagh’s, Henry V.

3) Don’t feel pressure to fill the silence

The reporter asks a question. You deliver a smart and memorable soundbite and you are ready to move on to question number two, but the reporter remains silent for what feels like an eternity. This is where people tend to get into trouble. Five to ten seconds of silence during an interview can feel much longer, so instead of owning the silence, people start trying to fill the space, often with rambling mumbo jumbo. Don’t fall into this trap. Just breath, and the reporter will respond by the time you exhale.

4) Dress Smartly

A television interview is not the time to try out your new neon green button down or micro-mini. Okay, you would never do that, but you get the idea. If you are doing a studio interview, look professional. Wear colors that pop on-camera and avoid busy patterns altogether. Ladies should not cake on extra make-up or drape themselves in jewelry. You are doing the interview in order to deliver a message. Don’t let the message get lost because people are distracted by your bling.

5) Remember to listen…and smile.

Sometimes people are so prepared and geared-up to answer the questions they’ve rehearsed, they fail to listen to the journalist. When that happens they miss opportunities to show some personality and engage in a conversation with the reporter. Even worse, the interviewee may not respond to a reporter’s question and come off as pompous or disengaged.

Finally, remember to smile! Smiling makes you look comfortable and confident and draws in viewers. Some might say, “I can’t smile when there is a somber story,” The truth is, your face tends to look flat on a television screen. When you sit expressionless during a television interview you come across as uncaring or indifferent. Leaning into an interview with a pleasant expression can make you seem more human and give you a sense of authority.

Seasoned communications professionals take the time to brush up on media training regularly. If you want to practice your on-camera skills or prepare for a big speech or presentation, contact our team of communications pros!

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