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Media Training: How interviews go wrong

  June 27, 2022

A TV interview can be a challenge. You have an opportunity to broaden your reach, but the risks can also be high for you and your business.  Here are a few things than could go wrong:

  • Your mind goes blank.
  • You don't work in any of your talking points.
  • You appear to run out of breath.
  • You get angry and walk off.
  • You get a case of the giggles.
  • You mix up important facts and don't correct your mistake.
  • Your appear nervous (everything from a sweaty face to broken eye contact to overly rapid speech).
  • You let the interviewer or another guest/panelist push you around.

Some executives would rather avoid the media altogether rather than risk blowing an interview and embarrassing themselves and their business.  But with media training, practice and the right frame of mind, most business people can make it through relatively unscathed.  How?

  • If you blank on an answer, stall for time to settle yourself down.  You could direct viewers to your website or ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase the question.  
  • The best way to work in your talking points, is to write them down.  Read them again just before the interview.  A good media trainer can teach you how to bridge back to your messaging regardless of what question you are asked.
  • If you learn to speak in concise sound bites, you are less likely to appear to run out of breath.  When you try to jam too much into each response you can get into trouble.
  • Unless you truly have anger management issues, you should be able to keep your temper in check for the length of a typical TV interview.  Your practice interviews should include aggressive questions so you learn how to sidestep them.  The last thing you want is to get so annoyed that you walk off in the middle of your interview.  We've all seen it.  But then you, and not your messaging, become the story.
  • Even TV pros occasionally get the giggles.  If you're dealing with a serious topic this can be a disaster.  Try biting the insides of your cheeks a bit, or dig your nails into your palm (not in an obvious way).  Or, have a go-to sad thought you can conjure up quickly to wipe any smirk off your face.
  • If you practice enough, you likely will not mix up the big things.  But if you do, and you realize it during your interview, take the time to correct yourself before the interview ends.
  • You may feel nervous inside; the trick is to not show it on the outside.  Start with your face.  Use blotting papers before air time to dab off sweat and shine.  Just before your interview, find a quiet space to say your talking points outloud.  Use your normal tempo.  Envision this positive experience when the cameras roll.  To help maintain eye contact, think of your interview as a conversation.  When you are speaking with a friend or colleague, you look them in the eye don't you?  Same thing is true during a TV interview.
  • Some interviewers or panelists interrupt other speakers.  It's rude but you need to prepare some basic comebacks.  For example: "If I may finish, your viewers may find what I have to say interesting."  Or, "I didn't interrupt you. Please be polite and allow me to continue."  Or, "Before we run out of time, I need to make my position clear."  Before you agree to an interview, familiarize yourself with the journalist's style and the format of the newscast or program.  If it looks like a bad fit, you may want to pass on the interview.
  • Get some media training.  You are an expert in your field, but that doesn't mean you will be a natural in media interviews.  It is a developed skill set-- one that many bosses value.  
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