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Media Training: Top Tips for TV Interviews

  June 25, 2024

You get a text from a local TV news producer. She asks if you are available for an on-camera interview.  Start by asking her a few questions.

  • What is the specific topic?  
  • Will this be live or taped?
  • How long will the interview take?
  • Will it be in the studio or on-site at my business?
  • Will I be interviewed alone or be part of a panel?
  • Who will conduct the interview?
  • What is your deadline?

Getting answers to these basic questions will help you prepare so you can be as professional as possible in your interview.  If it's a topic you are knowlegable about, go for it.  But if it's really not a good fit, just thank the producer and let her know other topics you could talk about in future interviews.  You want to make a connection for upcoming opportunities.

Questions about logistics just make sense.  You need to know how much time you have to prepare. If it is a studio interview, you need to leave enough time to drive there and not be so rushed that it impacts your interview.  As for live vs taped, there are advantages to both.  In a live interview, your sound bites won't be edited.  But you need to be on your game right out of the gate.  There are no do-overs.  In a taped interview, you may ask your interviewer to start over.  Maybe you just got a bit flustered and need to reset. If it's a softball interview that should be no problem.  But if this is more of an investigative piece, don't expect that consideration from the journalist.  

It's always a good idea to find out who will interview you.  You might not be familiar with his/her work and need to Google.  If you are to be part of a panel, you should know who else will be interviewed with you.  If they are still booking the segment and can't give you an immediate answer, ask again later.  You don't want to be caught off guard when you are on-air.

If the interview is live, obviously you need to be available at a precise time.  If it is to be taped, you may be able to stall for more time to prepare.  That's why you ask about their deadline.  Try to be flexible though so the producer doesn't pass on you, assuming this is an interview you want to do.  

Once the interview is set, review your talking points.  Remember since this is TV you'll be expected to speak in "sound bites" and not hog the mic trying to jam in every detail. And since it's a visual medium, you'll need to give some consideration to your appearance.  Don't become obsessed with clothing, hair and makeup.  But your look should be professional if you want to get your points across without any distractions.  Flashy jewelry, loud patterns and wild hair can pull attention away from your messaging.  That said, you still want to look like you and feel comfortable.  Just give it some thought.  

A good rule of thumb for TV interviews is don't wing it.  Prepare for every interview even if the time is short.  There are some interviewees who are so rehearsed that they don't come off natural.  You'll need to find a happy medium.  Ask for help from your communications team, an outside media consultant or a brutally honest friend. 

Media Interview Training is a good first step.

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