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Lights… camera… now, talk!

Lights… camera… now, talk!

The Top Five Things You Should Know to Pull Off a Great TV Interview

“We’d like to interview you.”

Those five words can strike both excitement…and simultaneous fear. Have you ever had someone stick a camera and microphone in your face then ask you to act natural?

Right. Like THAT’S going to happen.

Let’s face it. Reporters today are working under tight deadlines and with little research. They have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, and they are looking to you to give them some answers. But putting you at ease is not necessarily high on their list of priorities.

That’s why preparation is key for any TV interview. When the call comes for you or your company to get that feature spot you’ve been hoping for, there are some things you can do and important steps you should take to help calm those nerves and pull off that interview like an expert.

  1. Know your messages. Go into your interview with three key message points you want to get across and stick to them. Back up your points with examples and facts. Prepare yourself for the “tough questions” and how you will redirect back to those key messages. The average television news soundbite is 7-12 seconds long. Ensure that your message is what gets across by speaking succinctly and concisely.
  2. Get rid of the jargon. Every business has its share of big words and acronyms. Ditch ‘em. Few people outside your industry will understand what you are trying to say and reporters won’t use soundbites even they can’t understand. The basic rule is to pretend you’re talking to a 6th grader or your best friend. Explain your messages as though you were talking to someone who knows nothing about the subject.
  3. Mind your body language. Besides your words, your body language says a lot about who you are and what you are trying to say. You want to be sure to come across as someone who is knowledgeable and honest. Keep your hands out of your pockets and don’t fold your arms across your chest. Lean in to your interviewer slightly and feel free to make natural hand gestures.
  4. Make eye contact. In 13 years of TV news, I can’t even count the number of times I was asked “Where should I look?” You are having a conversation with the reporter (or interviewer), not the camera. Unless you are doing a remote interview where it’s just you and the camera… the answer is to always look at the reporter.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! You will almost always have a few minutes to prepare for any interview. Take advantage of that time. Jot down your message points and then practice talking about them out loud. Listen to your voice and how the words come out of your mouth. Saying the answers in your head is not the same as actually speaking… so close the door to your office and practice alone or with a colleague or friend. The more you practice saying your messages aloud, the better you will be.

And there you have it. Five key points that will help you survive any TV interview. With practice and preparation – and a few deep breaths – even you can be ready for prime time.