You want to grow your brand. You’ve read how getting more exposure via word-of-mouth mentions will help bring the kind of recognition you hope will help people remember you or your company.
Great news! You’ve been asked to speak about a topic you know and love on television – LIVE television. Oh, crap. Now what?
It’s okay and perfectly normal to panic. Do that, now. Try not to panic during the interview.
To help ease your fears, I share tips I have given to countless business owners, company executives, board members, colleagues, and friends – all with the same fears and goals as you.
The key is to take advantage of the audience a media outlet can offer but present yourself in the best possible manner. That should include speaking clearly, calmly, without a lot of company or industry jargon all while making sense – in the case of a television interview – you don’t want to master the deer in the headlights moment and babble uncontrollably until you have the urge to run from the camera. Screaming.
At some point in your career, you’ll want to sell a book, offer a service, further the mission of a non-profit organization or simply grow the recognition of a brand. You’ll be looked upon as the expert in your field and/or about the brand. Often that brand is YOU.
A little preparation, now, even just slightly before the interview, will help put your mind at ease. I promise.
Tips to Master Live Television Interviews
Prep work, pre-interview. What to ask the person requesting the interview. Even if you pitched the outlet the interview and they accepted, most of these questions can and should be asked.
- How long is the live segment? Most news and feature segments offer no more than two to three minutes, often less. But this varies based upon subject – news verses feature – relevancy, breaking news, local or a national/international audience, and frankly, how well you are doing on camera.
- How much time is scheduled for the actual questions and answers? Often, b-roll, or video and graphics are used as part of the segment. You might be talking while they are showing footage. This is good to know in advance.
- Will you be the only person interviewed? If not, can they tell you the others being asked to join you? This helps you determine what notes you may want to prepare.
- Do you need to bring any visuals with you? Or can you? If so, how long will you have to set up?
- What is the format of the interview? Will you be seated behind a desk, on a couch, perched on a high chair, or will you be standing - either behind a counter or desk - or out in the open? This helps you determine how to dress for the interview. My advice is to dress as if you think the viewers can see you from head-to-toe. Also don’t choose an outfit you’ve never worn. A dress, skirt, pair of pants, suit, tie, any garment, can do funny things once you sit down or move while you speak. Better for you to see how the clothing moves before the camera is on you.
- Don’t simply rely on your vast knowledge of the subject. Yes, you may ‘have this,’ however, nerves, coupled with seeing a red light on a camera focused on you or meeting someone you’ve watched on television in your living room can make you forget your name. Really. Again, this is normal! Place your notes, in bullet form - I feel this is much better than full sentences – on index cards. Not enough cards to fill a file, just a few, maybe 2-3 cards. The cards can help you review and stay on topic, even while you wait for your interview. I suggest having them with you for the interview. Having too many cards or too much detail on them will force you to read the cards. Bad. Having a few bullet points to jar your memory or keep you on task? Good.
- Practice what you plan to say in advance. Remember the bullet points? The person asking the questions has much of the control in the interview, but don’t allow them to have ALL of the control. This is your brand. Take your notecards and sit or stand in front of a mirror (Do what they’ve told you, regarding the format of the interview). See how you look as others will see you, where and when you smile or get animated (or not). If you don’t smile naturally during the conversation with yourself, you likely won’t with the person asking you the questions. Try to find a few places where a smile seems natural, or even a warm look, rather than a nervous look. People tend to listen to someone offering a kind look or smile over someone who looks miserable. Obviously the subject matter dictates your look somewhat. Simply try to remain calm and on task. This is a conversation between you and the interviewer. Others are simply watching.
- Simulate the interview with a small audience. Once you’ve practiced in front of a mirror a time or two, or fifteen, ask a colleague, friend, or family member to help you practice the interview. Seriously. Seek their honest feedback. You’ll feel much more comfortable during the real interview.
Day of the interview.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you’re going. Rushing or thinking you might be late will only add to your already over-active nerves. If you’ve never been to the studio or location of the interview, a dry run makes a lot of sense.
- Dress comfortably for YOU. While you want to present the best YOU on camera, you also want viewers to listen to what you’re saying more than focus on what you’re wearing. The only exception to this rule is a fashion interview. Choosing color, especially more solid ensembles tend to work best on camera. Avoid wearing horizontal or vertical stripes, they often show up odd on television. Be careful about anything shear. Also avoid jewelry which may have a lot of movement, such as multiple bangles, especially if you talk with your hands. They can mess with the microphone and that noise can distract from what you are saying. Know that you will often have a microphone placed somewhere near your mouth. A collar comes in handy. The audio technician will hand you a clip microphone and ask you to feed the wire up or down through a shirt or jacket. A hand-held microphone might be used too, often they plan with both, in case one goes out during the interview.
- Wear make-up. Even if you normally don’t. Yes, even men. A little. Be aware you might get patted down with a bit of powder before you go live in the interview to help take away any shine. I suggest ladies wear a bit more of a matte color palate and go slightly heavier on your eyes, cheeks and lips than you would in a normal office environment. Not stage make-up per se, but you want to enhance your features a bit more than not.
- Wear a watch. You will want to glance at the time as the interview begins to know how much more you may or may not have time to discuss. There are clocks in the studio, but you might be outside or on location and the chances are better that you’ll look at your own watch over a clock somewhere else. Time can fly. Two or three minutes or even 30 seconds of you talking may not sound like much, but a lot of ground can be covered. On the flip side, a lot can be left out, especially if you stumble over your words or talk so much to help calm your nerves . Leave 20 seconds at the end of your last answer to say what you want to say!
- Pack a small bag or attaché. Remember to take your index cards with your bullet point notes. Include a bottle of water, a spare shirt (spills happen), a small mirror, the make-up you’ve applied, hairspray, an umbrella, and any items you’ll display and talk about during the interview.
- Collect your thoughts. A brief pause or two is not deadly while being interviewed. ‘Saying ‘um, uh, and, I’m sorry, I forget’, sighing loudly or long bouts of silence are a bigger problem. If you need a moment to get back on track, taking a drink (of water, grins) might be all you need.
- Breathe. Do whatever helps you relax (okay, within reason) before, during, and after the interview. Sometimes all it takes is closing your eyes for a moment, looking at a photo of someone you love, or smiling to relax your facial muscles.
- Watch your segment alone. Critique, but don’t be overly hard on yourself. Make mental notes of what you feel you did well and what you can improve upon.
- Watch your segment with someone else. Ask for their honest feedback. What was their takeaway from the interview? Use it to guide you for future presentations with anyone, not just the media.
- Answer your phone, text, or email when someone requests another interview. If you don’t, someone else – the competition – always will. If you want you or your company known first on the minds of others, accept the interview.
I’ve been interviewed a lot. This is what I do as a company spokesperson. I actually enjoy it most of the time, however, I can still get a bit nervous. This is such a natural feeling. It is how you use those nerves to your advantage which will give you the edge.
Practice makes perfect holds true with media interviews, as in any presentation, most especially those on camera. Appearing too staged becomes stale and boring. You are not a robot. If you want people to pay attention to you, speak with authority and personality. Learn to enjoy yourself, allow your confidence in the subject to show. Live interviews are a bit more tricky, certainly, but they can be highly effective and the results after the interview are often exactly what you are looking for to grow your brand. At minimum, you will be more confident for the next one.
If you have advice I’ve not covered or an experience you’ve had during a live or taped television interview, please share. Let’s continue the learning. I learn something new from each interview I conduct or grant.