I remember very clearly my first television interview. It was terrifying and exhilarating, all at the same time. Which is probably why it sticks in my mind just as firmly as my first kiss or the births of my children. And no matter how many times I’ve been on camera, I still get butterflies in my stomach. Pretty ironic, seeing as how public relations is part of my chosen profession.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how confident or knowledgeable you are on the topic at hand, or how many times you’ve done it in the past – almost everyone freaks out a little at the idea of being interviewed on camera. Especially if the interview is aired live.

So what can you do to quell the terror and make your next television interview come off without a hitch? Here are a six tips to keep in mind.

  1. Practice, But Don’t Aim for Perfection

Television interviews don’t afford a lot of time; most are only two or three minutes in length. So take some time before the interview to think through your key messages. What are the main points you want to convey? Focus on that highlight reel, and make sure the most important information is burned deeply into your brain.

Next, practice how to deliver your salient points. Make sure you can present them clearly and concisely without rambling, that you offer enough detail without going down the rabbit hole of too much information. Think in 10-15 second soundbites, and try to keep your answers brief.

But don’t script and memorize answers! Why? Well, for starters, scripted answers usually sound false and untrustworthy – like marketing speak rather than a conversation between you and a reporter (and that’s what a television interview is, a conversation).

Also, depending on the question, a memorized answer might not quite fit the bill. So you either a) look like you’re avoiding the question, because you don’t answer it fully (and avoidance NEVER looks good on TV) or b) get flummoxed during the interview because your answer doesn’t fit the question, and you’re scrambling to come up with a coherent answer on the fly because you were prepared to just recite a memorized answer.

Remember, the goal here is to feel comfortable with the material so that you come across as an expert, not a programmable robot. Know the material, not the pat response.

  1. Watch What You Wear

The best interviews occur when you feel good about how you look and comfortable with what you’re wearing. So your top clothing contenders should be your favorite wardrobe pieces. That being said, some types of clothing just work better on camera than others.

  • Pick camera-friendly colors, such as sky or navy blue, brown, gray, light pink, light purple or forest green. Black is OK in moderation but may make you blend into the background, depending on the set.
  • Steer clear of clothes that are white (the lights can shine right through the material), red (it really does bleed on camera), neon (it glows onscreen) or green (especially if you’re standing in front of a green screen – no one wants to be a floating head).
  • Opt for solid colors or small-print patterns. Stripes, checks, large dots and busy floral designs can confuse the camera and make you look washed out.
  • Choose your accessories Jewelry that clinks or reflects light can be a distraction, as can laminated ID badges or large broaches. Keep these add-ons to a minimum.
  1. Look This Way

Remember how I said a television interview is just a conversation between you and the reporter? So be sure you’re talking directly to the reporter. Just ignore the camera(s) and all the other people on set (easier said than done, I know). Trust me, the more you focus on the reporter, the easier the interview will be to get through.

  1. Repeat After Me

Whether your interview is live or recorded, the reporter is still looking for soundbites. But soundbites don’t always make sense if you don’t know the question. So it’s important to always work the question back into your answer. For example:

Take 1

Reporter: “Tell us a little about the Great Streets Festival and what people can expect to see.”

Festival Organizer: “We’ll have local bands, face painting and a petting zoo for the kids. It’s going to be a great day!”

What if the viewer missed the beginning of the question; how do they know where all these great activities are going to be available? All it takes is one little change to reiterate your goal for the interview.

Take 2

Reporter: “Tell us a little about the Great Streets Festival and what people can expect to see.”

Festival Organizer: “The Great Streets Festival will feature several local bands, face painting and a petting zoo for the kids. It’s going to be a great day!”

By tweaking your response, you’ve worked the meat of the question into your answer and reinforced your primary objective – promoting the Great Streets Festival.

  1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Just like with any public speaking engagement, taking part in a television interview goes better if you follow a few basic delivery tips:

  • Speak clearly, pace yourself, and enunciate your words – Noonewillbeabletounderstandasinglewordyou’resayingifyouspeakreallyfastandstringitalltogether.
  • Eliminate “um” and “uh” from your vocabulary – They, uh, don’t sound too professional, um, and, uh, while you may, uh, be the, uh, foremost expert, um, on a subject, uh, using words like, uh, “uh” and, uh, “um” just, uh, make you sound, um, well, um, unprepared and, uh, not, uh, credible.
  • Stand tall, and don’t sway – Most of us don’t realize how much we sway when standing. But rocking back and forth can be distracting, and you could even lose your balance during the interview! Instead, stand with your feet about six inches apart, distribute your weight evenly, and keep your shoulders relaxed and your back straight.
  • Don’t be too handsy – A few well-placed hand gestures are find, especially if you’re trying to emphasize a critical point. But don’t overuse them. Wildly gesticulating takes the attention away from what you’re saying to what you’re doing. So unless the point of your television interview is to promote hand gestures, keep those mitts still.
  1. Smile!

A warm, genuine smile makes all the difference in a television interview. Really! Not only do you appear more relatable and trustworthy to the audience, but smiling at the reporter makes them more open and friendly toward you. Which lightens the mood for the interview. And a lighter mood will make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. So even if you’re nervous, give ‘em a grin.

Fielding a request to take part in a television interview might sound scary, but with a little practice and prep, you’ll do just fine. Think you or your team could use a little more help preparing for media interviews? Our PR team is always available to help with media preparation and coaching. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve your on-screen delivery.