So, you’ve landed a TV interview. That’s great news. Even if it’s a local broadcast, you’re still likely to reach hundreds of thousands of people. But wait, you’re thinking. Hundreds of thousands of people are going to be watching little ol’ me? After the initial thrill of securing a TV segment wears off, reality will sink in.
If you’ve never been camera before, much less live TV, it can be intimidating. Few of us instinctively know what to expect when going “on-air.” But like anything else–from driving a car for the first time to acing a job interview, practice makes perfect. Even if you haven’t had media training or don’t have time for media training before a big TV interview, you can practice some important techniques so that your interview goes smoothly and that you appear polished to the viewing audience.
One of the best ways to be a great TV guest is to prepare carefully in advance. And by carefully, we don’t mean spending hours and hours obsessively trying to map out every detail and possible scenario. We mean taking the time to anticipate key questions, prepare concise answers, and build your confidence level.
Ready to get started? Here are a few of our top tips for a TV interview:
1. Build your confidence. Remember, you’re not going into battle, you’re going on TV! Relax as much as you can, practice some breathing exercises before you begin, and try to visualize a positive outcome. Imagine that you’re talking to a friend and try your best to appear calm and friendly. And of course, always try to give honest answers. It’s also true that confidence comes with time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t nail that first TV interview–it does get easier. We had one client who was very nervous the first time he did a TV spot, but the minute it was over, he couldn’t wait to plan the next one. Once those endorphins kick in, going on TV can actually be fun.
2. Plan ahead: What kind of information do you want to share during the interview? Maybe you have an upcoming conference or a new product to highlight. Or perhaps your business is doing a pop-up or special event. The first thing you’ll want to prepare is a bulleted list of talking points that convey key information succinctly. Practice those with a friend or colleague so they don’t sound rehearsed when you work them into the interview. You’ll also want to get comfortable using transitional phrases (e.g. “Let me just add that…” or “That’s a great question, but what I really wanted to tell you is…”) so you can guide the interview back to your talking points and control the direction of the interview.
3. Practice sound bites. Merriam-Webster defines a sound bite as a “a brief catchy comment or saying.” And as we all know, politicians love them. Why? Because they are easy for people to remember and make for good quotes. Before you sit down for an interview, try to come up with a few memorable phrases or sound bites. Imagine that the journalist and his or her audience know very little about the topic you’re discussing. Keep your descriptions simple, avoid jargon, and emphasize key words or ideas, especially if they are technical or complicated.
4. Amp up your energy. A normal speaking voice sometimes can sound flat on TV or the radio. To avoid this, or even worse, boring your interviewer and audience, take your energy up a notch, and put some pizzazz into your voice. Be mindful of the cadence and tone of your voice, emphasizing certain words and phrases a little more than others. If the interview is done standing, you’ll want to use gestures appropriately rather than keeping your hands by your side or locked together in front of you, which can appear stiff and unapproachable. At the same time, you should be careful not to go wild with gestures, using them in moderation and a sense of purpose.
5. But slow down the pace. People have a tendency to talk quickly when they’re nervous. And when you know that you only have a few minutes to get your point across, it can be tempting to verbally race to the end of the interview. Try to resist this urge. Instead, pause for a beat or two before answering questions or between statements. You’ll come across as more thoughtful and authoritative.
6. Watch for verbal tics. Almost everyone has a few verbal “tics” or phrases that they come to rely on during normal conversation. Perhaps you say “like” or “um” a little too much when you’re not sure what to say next. We had one client who was very nervous during her first TV appearance and repeated the same adjective at least five or six times during the four minute segment. She wasn’t aware of her tendency to overuse this particular word until she watched herself in the playback video. We can tell you that next time she went on air, she paid very close attention to her words and made sure that she varied her descriptions, and didn’t fall back on bad habits.