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Free publicity is what every business owner craves. One way to get that publicity is to be interviewed on developments in your business. Better still, become an industry expert who is available to comment on developments. The better you perform on camera the more likely it is that you will become the media’s go-to expert. To help you look and sound good on video, here is my media interview preparation checklist. Apply some or all of the tips and you will know how to do media interviews well.
How to do media interviews
- Make sure you are prepared
- Cut the industry jargon
- Be interesting
- Be concise and use soundbites
- Make eye contact with the interviewer or viewer
- Don’t self-promote
- Start over if you make a mistake
- Um… Avoid using filler words
- Don’t wear reflective jewelry and glasses
- Don’t let yourself be distracted
- Mind your body language
- Always consider the camera and microphone to be live
- Button or unbutton your suit jacket
- Avoid wearing jewelry take could produce a noise
- Remove ID badges and lanyards
- Wear lightweight clothing in a studio
- Consider your personal grooming
- Control your nerves
- Use your voice effectively
- Ask for permission to use the clip
- Stay in touch
1. Make sure you are prepared
Ask the reporter or producer what they want from the interview. Are they looking for a comment on a current issue? Is it a reaction to an event? Do they want to know about a specific product? The more you can get from them the better you can prepare for the interview.
You should not try to wing your way through a media interview. As in all aspects of business, preparation is the key. You need to come over as “the” expert on the topic you are talking about. You should be perceived as confident and knowledgeable.
2. Cut the industry jargon
Words that you use on a daily basis in your industry may well be jargon to most of your audience. There is a real possibility that they will not understand what you are talking about if you use jargon. So use plain language to ensure you successfully communicate what you have been asked to talk about.
Above all, don’t try to use jargon to underscore status as an expert status. It will back-fire on you and almost certainly ensure you won’t be asked again to appear on camera.
3. Be interesting
Make your message understandable and memorable. Use analogies if they help the audience to get to grips with the topic. If you can create a mental image it will be more effective at explaining the problem than several detailed sentences.
Follow the lead of scientists like Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, and Brian Cox. Each one has translated their insights into language that non-experts can understand.
4. Be concise and use soundbites
Journalists and broadcasters will love you if you can provide them with memorable soundbites. Broadcasters want a quote from you that is short and sum up the answer to their question or your message. You will make more impact, and be more likely to be interviewed again if you become a soundbite master.
No one wants to listen to lecture-style explanations. The long answer may have more detail, but a memorable soundbite will be easy to recall.
5. Make eye contact with the interviewer or viewer
Establish and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. If the interview is a piece to camera, maintain eye contact with your audience by looking at the camera.
By maintaining eye contact you are creating a connection with the viewer. You are implying that the viewer is important to you. In doing so they are more likely to respond positively to your message or proposition and continue watching.
If you look away, stare into the distance or glance down you may look shifty and undermine your trustworthiness.
At the end of your answer do not look away from the interviewer or camera as you finish the last few words. This might make a really good answer difficult to use because it could appear as if you are unhappy with the way you answered. Of course, you could use this approach if you suddenly decide you do not want that answer to be used.
6. Don’t self-promote
If you’ve been invited to talk as an expert do not view this as an opportunity to self-promote if the interview is not directly about you, your product or your service. You will most likely shoot yourself in the foot if you try to promote yourself since it may well have no relevance to the story. Most probably your attempts at self-promotion will be edited out of the final piece.
7. Start over if you make a mistake
If your interview is being recorded and you make a mistake, stop and ask the journalist to repeat the question. Remember, the journalist wants the best answer to his/her question so don’t worry if you make a mistake.
8. Um… Avoid using filler words
Um, ah, er, you know!
These are filler words that are the result of poor speech habits or thinking about what to say next. Other words may also be used as fillers or habitual speech patterns. These might include “like”, “actually”, “basically”, “you know”, “I mean”, “right”, and “well”. In recent years we have also seen the rise of starting an answer with the filler word “so”.
These words fill the gaps and pauses in your speech and may seem annoying, especially if overused. The habit may even be interpreted as showing a lack of cognitive powers.
Try to avoid the use of filler words. Often it is just a habit but like all habits, they become self-reinforcing. So shedding those filler words may become more difficult if you leave it unchecked.
9. Don’t wear reflective jewelry and glasses
If you normally wear shiny or chunky jewelry, take it off prior to the interview. It might cause bright reflections and distracting noise sounds if it knocks against the lavalier microphone.
Glasses or spectacles may be another problem. Unless you always wear glasses and they are part of your public look, take them off during the interview. This is not vanity but a practical move to avoid reflecting the bright video lights.
If possible, wear contact lenses. If you cannot wear, or do not have contact lenses ensure your spectacles have non-reflective coatings. These can substantially reduce the reflective glare of video lights.
Spectacle wearers should also avoid having light-sensitive lenses. The bright lights will darken your lenses and you will appear as if you are wearing sunglasses. The viewer needs to see your eyes, otherwise, they will assume you have something to hide.
10. Don’t let yourself be distracted
Be attentive to what the interviewer is saying and asking you at all times. During a question or your answer do not be distracted by any activity around the studio. If someone or something moves within your peripheral vision do not turn towards the movement or even glance over. The viewer cannot see any of that and will wonder what’s going on.
11. Mind your body language
Be careful that your body language does not betray you. Ensure that you look as if you want to be there, even if you do not. Sit up straight with your shoulders held back and lean very slightly forward. If you are standing, stand up straight with one foot placed forward. This will stop you swaying or shifting your weight from one foot to the other. Keep your shoulders level rather than slouching, which does not look good.
Remember to look enthusiastic and passionate when talking about your business, product or area of expertise.
12. Always consider the camera and microphone to be live
Even when you think the interview is over, concentrate on presenting the professional persona you want the public to see. There are many examples of interviewees being caught out in an unguarded moment by a live microphone. Just because the formal interview has not started or has finished, do not assume that you are not being recorded.
In 2011 President Obama was heard speaking candidly on an audio feed that had been accidentally left open.
A year earlier, Prime Minister Gordon Brown forgot he was still wearing a radio mic and was recorded calling a little old lady a “bigoted woman”. Not the best of things to do when you are fighting an election campaign and already trailing in the polls.
When you record an interview it is inevitable you will be asked to do a sound check. Speak normally, just the way you will when doing the interview. Do not try to make any jokes or make comments that may appear controversial when heard out of context. Moreover, do not say anything that is controversial in context. If it is your intention to be controversial keep it for the interview.
These off-guard comments can be embarrassing or even harmful. In a matter of seconds, you can create a PR disaster that has the potential to damage your public image. Always, always, ALWAYS assume cameras and microphone are live and recording.
13. Button or unbutton your suit jacket
The way you look is important. It says a lot about you and if you are wearing a suit, the way you button up is important. If you are being interviewed standing up then your suit jacket should be buttoned. However, if you are seated while being interviewed you should leave your jacket unbuttoned.
14. Avoid wearing jewelry that could produce a noise
Jewelry makes for an attractive accessory but with it comes potential risks for someone who is being interviewed.
Bangles and bracelets that are loose are potential sources of noise as you move your hands. This is will be distracting for the viewer. Necklaces are another potential noise hazard. If you are nervous you may touch your necklace and inadvertently create a noise. Another possibility is that a lavalier microphone clipped to the neckline of your dress may knock against your necklace. You may not hear anything but the taps and knocks will appear extremely loud on the recording.
Another microphone knock hazard is your hand. If you touch your chest with the flat of your hand you will bump the microphone capsule. Again this will cause annoying banging noises.
15. Remove ID badges and lanyards
Remove any ID badges and lanyards from around your neck. Not only can they look distracting but they may interfere with a lavalier microphone clipped to your clothing.
16. Wear lightweight clothing in a studio
Studio lighting can cause the temperature in the studio to be warm. Consequently, wear light clothing for the interview and feel a little more comfortable.
If you have chosen a heavyweight suit for an interview you will appear uncomfortable. This can potentially convey the wrong message to the viewer. You may even start to perspire, which can look as if you are feeling pressured and awkward. Ultimately the viewer may even assume you have something to hide or are being untruthful.
17. Consider your personal grooming
Ladies might wish to wear makeup that is a shade darker than normal. There is a reason why the stars of the golden age of Hollywood would tan themselves under California’s sunshine. A tanned complexion conveys a healthier look.
Clean-shaven men being interviewed later in the day may wish to shave before being interviewed.
If you are bald consider applying a little powder to the top of your head. This will help eliminate unwanted reflections from the studio lights.
18. Control your nerves
I know it is easier said than done, but controlling those tell-tale signs will make you look better on screen. Stop that toe-tapping, drumming of fingers and repeated touching of your nose or ear. Do not fidget and avoid shifting around if you are seated.
If you are behind a desk clasp your hands and place them on the desk. Alternatively, place your clasped hand on your lap. What you should not do is cross your arms. This will be seen as a barrier between you and the viewer.
If you are standing in the interview don’t sway or shift your weight from one foot to the other. To prevent yourself from shifting your weight, stand with one foot a little forward of the other.
Be conscious that what you might consider a small movement may appear exaggerated on-screen in a close-up.
I’ve written an article about developing YouTube presentation skills and calming your presentation nerves. You can read it here.
19. Use your voice effectively
Speak in a way that is appropriate for the subject matter. If you are being interviewed about a tragic event obviously do not smile and sound upbeat. However, if you are speaking about a new product or service it would be entirely appropriate to sound enthusiastic.
If you a fast speaker, slow down a little. Vary your tone and pace to create interest. Stress words that need stressing. And avoid going up at the end of sentences. Show you have come to the end of a phrase by adding a little punch to the last word. In other words, don’t leave the last word hanging as if you were going to continue the phrase.
Research has shown that the sound of your voice influences the way you are perceived. In one study it was observed that people in high-power roles raised their pitch, became more monotone and varied their loudness.
20. Ask for permission to use the clip
If the clip is used on local or national TV News, ask for permission to use it on your website. Usually, there is no charge for this but they will impose certain conditions of use. These may include crediting the broadcaster as the copyright owner. You can then use the video on your website if you have a “news” section about your company.
In 2016 I attended a business EXPO in Dumfries. Although I was not interviewed, my stands (Tosh Lubek Productions and Websites Love Video) appeared prominently near the start of the report. I asked ITV, the main terrestrial commercial broadcaster in the UK, if I could use the clip. I was given the video file and a free license to use it. All I had to do was acknowledge that the clip was supplied under license and ITV held the copyright. Now that I had the clip and permission to use it I was able to use it on a post on my website and on social media.
21. Stay in touch
Nurturing good relationships with local, national and international journalists can be worthwhile for your company. Not only can you can some good PR but it can help cement your position as an industry expert.
After you have been interviewed ensure you follow-up with a thank you to the journalist. Fostering a good relationship can be to your advantage, especially if you have newsworthy developments in your business. Also, remind the journalist that you, as an expert in your field, would be available for interview or comment in the future.