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Media Training: Keep Calm

  April 6, 2023

It's normal to be nervous before major life events.  You could have pre-wedding jitters, high anxiety waiting for medical test results or a panicky feeling before a job interview.  So too, you can develop a case of nerves before and during a TV interview.  And people are watching!

A few butterflies may actually be helpful.  If you can channel that into enthusiasm that's great.  But if you are so anxious that it literally is showing on your face, your intended messaging is being diluted.  So what can a case of nerves look like on TV?

  • A sweaty face
  • Nervous laughter or inappropriate smiling
  • Odd hand movements 
  • Stumbling over your words
  • Darting eye movements
  • Overly rapid speaking
  • Speaking too softly
  • Answers that are either way too short, or the opposite--rambling on and on

Media training that includes on-camera practice is a great way to work through these issues.  During mock interviews, you'll see what your audience will see during actual TV interviews. Bad habits can be broken with enough practice.  A few tips to keep calm and carry on with any TV appearance:

  • Know your talking points inside and out.  Practice, first with a professional and then with willing family and friends.
  • Speak in complete sentences. Practice responding to questions in thirty seconds "sound bites." Have the confidence to stop when you have completed your thought.  It's up to the reporter to pick up with another question.  In other words, don't ramble.
  • Before your interview, be sure to check up on the latest news on your topic.  Has some news broken that may impact your interview?  You don't want to be surprised.
  • Don't rush to any interview.  You need time to relax your mind and  body.
  • Deep breathing exercises just before a TV interview can be a game changer.  
  • Have room-temperature water on hand.  You don't want to be hit with dry mouth during your interview.
  • Either powder your face or use blotting papers to make sure you aren't all shiny.  Don't let them see you sweat.  
  • Carefully consider what clothing you plan to wear for a TV interview.  Will it distract from your messaging?  Or will it make you appear like the professional you are? 
  • Ask how long your "live" interview segment will be.  That way you can pace your answers.  If it's a long segment (think five minutes), some of your responses may be a minute long, rather than thirty seconds.  You have a bit more flexibility with a taped media interview, but expect your answers to be edited down if they are too long.
  • Remember, the more confident you are in what you are saying, the more confident you will appear on camera.

If your company is facing a crisis, you may find yourself ambushed by the media. That's harder to prepare for than a planned TV interview. It's why high profile individuals and executives of high risk industries take  Crisis Communications training, including  crisis drills before the real thing hits.  A TV crew and reporter could follow you to your car, camera-rolling.  Or, your bad news might first appear on social media.  First responses really matter.  Always have a plan.  No matter if you are booked to do a light TV interview or walking a line of TV cameras, keep your cool.  Mistakes are magnified on camera.  But with enough practice, you can take control of your media presence.

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