By Debbie Goetz
1. Eye Contact is King
If you’re on-set, focus on your interviewer and NEVER, EVER look at the camera. However, if you’re on a satellite hookup maintain eye contact with the camera lens at all times. When pausing to think, look down – not up – so viewers don’t think you’re rolling your eyes.
2. Dress for Success
Dress conservatively, wear solid colors – blues, browns, no white shirts, no plaid, no checkered patterns. It’s a good idea to have a backup outfit on hand in case of coffee spills or rising levels of perspiration (TV lights can be extremely hot). Don’t wear a hat or anything that would cast a shadow on your face. Men: hair combed neatly, clean shaven. Women: hair pulled back off face (if it’s long), light makeup. If possible wear contacts not glasses (TV lights can reflect off the glass).
3. Strike a Pose
Posture matters; if you’re on-set, you’ll want to lean forward around 20 degrees when you talk – it’ll open up your diaphragm, which increases your air supply. It also prevents you slumping, plus you’ll look engaged in the discussion. A good rule of thumb is to not let your back touch the back of your chair. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, shoulders square and your butt firmly in the back of the chair.
4. House of Pancake
A layer of pancake makeup will prevent the glistening that hot TV lights can produce. Guys usually cringe at the thought of makeup but, hey, if it’s good enough for the leader of the free world, it’s good enough for them.
5. Acknowledge and Bridge
You have “must air” points or key messages prepared – use them. Attention spans are short. Your on-air time is also short. Acknowledge and answer any questions you’re asked but always try to bridge back to those key messages during your interview. Also, reiterate those messages if you’re asked to provide a sound check or give a summation/closing thought.
6. Practice Makes Perfect
Being on TV under lights, wearing makeup and looking into a camera is an artificial environment and can be extremely stressful. You literally have seconds to sell your story. Practice in your bathroom mirror with a stopwatch – of if you can stand it use a video camera and have a trusted friend/family member/colleague critique your delivery. This sort of preparation will enable you to exude calm cool confidence during the actual interview. It also prevents a case of the “ums” – a disease that causes a lack of future TV appearances.
7. Remove Distractions
Turn cellphones off, lose the gum; remove coins from pockets. If you’re on a satellite hookup ask the technician to turn off the TV set by the camera so you’re not tempted to look down and see how you look during the interview. Request that you be outfitted with an earpiece and a lavalier microphone before going on-air to make sure it fits/works and is comfortable. Also, avoid chairs that swivel and rock – they’re simply too tempting, especially when you get nervous.
8. Energy Matters
Everything counts on TV – posture, energy, facial expression. For proof just watch the delivery of TV news anchors. Smile, you’re not under deposition! This can be fun. If possible, exercise before going on camera so your blood is flowing and you’re fully awake (a little caffeine might also help). This will help avoid what one CEO called “Dead Man Talking” syndrome.
9. Tell Stories
Media outlets tell stories for a living – help them do their job and it will benefit you and your company. Examples, anecdotes and graphics can all help communicate your message – use them. Telling stories also helps break your conversation into soundbites – ideal for TV interviews.
10. Expect the Unexpected
TV news is dynamic – an in-studio interview can quickly change to a satellite hookup; what was to be taped can suddenly be carried live; reporters will sometimes try to ambush you. Remain calm, be prepared and try to accommodate any unexpected changes.