How to Prepare for a Broadcast Interview

By Candace BelAir

Being interviewed on television is one of those proverbial double-edged swords. Yes, you have the chance to shine before hundreds of thousands of people. But it’s also the chance to blunder before those same hundreds of thousands of people.

So what should you do if you are presented with the opportunity to appear on TV? Play it safe and pass it up? Absolutely not. I say, “Carpe diem!” But in the same breath, I say, “Prepare, prepare, prepare!”

Appearing on camera is intimidating for most people. You not only have to be concerned with what you say, but how you look. And with a “live” (rather than taped) broadcast interview, you get only once chance to state your case.

So, how do you make the most of your “fifteen minutes of fame?” The following tips will help avoid some of the more common mistakes media novices make.

Planning for a Successful News Interview

Have a topic outline. If you could make only three points about your subject, what would they be? Write them down ahead of time.

State your main point first. You may not have time to state the others.

Get to the Point. Avoid long, drawn-out sentences to finally make your point. The reporter is listening carefully for that succinct “sound bite” in which you state the essence of the story. Practice saying your message “short and sweet.”

Time is limited. You can’t cover everything, so don’t try.

Watch the technical jargon. Your audience is not as familiar with your subject as you are. Avoid “shop talk” and use conversational English.

If you don’t know the answer, admit it. And offer to find someone who does.

Stay calm. Even if the reporter takes an antagonistic approach, remain calm and polite. Avoid getting into a verbal sparring match. You stand the greatest risk of losing.

Don’t badmouth anymore. If you do, you can be sure that is what will end up on the evening news!

Tape rolling. Ask the reporter is the tape rolling. Because of the reporter’s casual attitude, you may be unaware that the tape is rolling and the microphone is on – recording your every gesture and word.

Clear your desk. Yes, reporters can read upside down!

On/off the record. It is important to remember that whatever you say could end up as the lead story on the news. There is no such thing as “off the record.”

Tips for a Successful Talk Show Interview

Know the Show. By the time you appear on a talk-show, you should know the format and the host(s). If time permits, tape and review the show before you go on.

Watch what you wear. Avoid all black, all white and busy patterns. A solid-color suit, pastels and earth tones look good on camera. Shiny or noisy jewelry is distracting. Wear glasses if you do normally.

Be aware of your body language. If you’re nervous, you may tap your foot or squirm in your chair without realizing it. Try to sit up straight, keep your feet planted on the floor and your hands folded in your lap.

Think like a star! Assume you are on camera at all times, not just when you are talking. A camera may be focused on you during the interviewer’s remarks to show your reaction. After the interview, do not assume you are off the air until you are told so.

Avoid one-word responses. Sometimes a question can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. But this is a mistake on a talk show. Always elaborate a little, possibly using an example.

Don’t ramble. Although you want to avoid one-word answers, don’t get carried away with long explanations either. Taking control of the interview is rude to the host and other guests. Remember, the audience has a short attention span and time is limited!

Flow into your point. If you feel the interview is not getting your main point across, answer the question and then make a transition such as, “It’s also important to point out that…” or “However, a key point I’d like to make is…”

Show and Tell. No matter what your topic, a television interview can get boring without something to look at. Props, graphs or demonstrations are generally encouraged, but clear it with the host or producer first.

No sales pitch! Interviewers cringe at anything that sounds like advertising. However, you can subtly promote yourself by saying something like, “Many of our customers write to tell us that our product saves them hours each day.”

Be Yourself. Television is an intimate medium. Try to treat the interview like a meeting with an interested client.

Smile! Usually on a talk show the audience is friendly, not hostile. By smiling, you appear relaxed, open and approachable. Don’t be afraid that an occasional smile will lessen your credibility – it won’t.

Media coverage can do wonders for your business. It gives you the kind of credibility and publicity money can’t buy.

Heed the above tips when it’s your turn to face the camera and you’ll appear knowledgeable, confident and sincere – exactly the type of guest that interviewers invite back!

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