Preparing for the TV Interview
At this point in your life you should know how to prepare for the job interview, but do you know how to prepare for the TV interview?
I recently interviewed a C-level executive with a very influential technology company. Minutes before he sat down in front of the camera, a woman from corporate communications tried to brief him for the interview.
As the producer, I stayed quiet and listened as the corporate communicator prepped her boss with a briefing document that detailed answers to the anticipated questions.
Luckily, the interview was taped because the executive flopped. This was a friendly interview and the questions were softballs, yet this executive made the same mistakes that I continually saw throughout my TV career.
He tried to read from a script, rather than speak from the heart and mind.
If you ever do a TV interview, throw out the script. Don’t try to memorize sentences, especially if they are long because you are guaranteed to forget the words no matter how hard you study. And if you’re preparing a briefing document for a client, don’t write out long or even short sentences. In fact, don’t write out any sentences. Instead, communicate the thoughts in bullet-points that should be articulated in the interview. These bullet-points will force you to learn the topic and understand the issues rather than memorizing words.
I’ve made this mistake myself when I was interviewed on TV for various topics. Initially, I tried to memorize sentences rather than key points and I stumbled in front of the camera just like everyone else. It wasn’t until I forced myself to communicate what I knew that my words flowed freely.
But I was shocked with this C-level executive because he was discussing a topic he knew intimately. After 10-minutes of sharing in his misery, we stopped the interview and I asked the cameraman to stop rolling.
I politely asked the executive if we could toss his briefing document in the trash and have a one-on-one conversation about the topic. I reminded him that he knew what he was telling me and he had to explain in his words – not the words from his staff – what the message was. Within 2-minutes after the camera started rolling again, we had the best sound any producer or viewer would want to hear.
You know why? Because he spoke from his heart and mind, rather than from memory.
That is the key to doing an interview on TV. All kinds of distractions will appear that you really can’t prepare for – the studio lights, the siren outside on the street, the crowd watching. Your memory is the first to go, which is why you don’t want to memorize lines. But if you know the topic intimately and speak from the heart, you won’t mess up.
Even if the question is rephrased, you will know how to answer it because you will be speaking from experience, and that is why you are being interviewed on TV. You are the expert, so communicate what you know – not what you memorized.
And don’t forget to breath deeply from your diaphragm. Every doctor will tell you breathing from your diaphragm brings more oxygen to your lungs and steadies your heart rate. It will help you feel less nervous when the camera starts rolling.
Finally, I don’t want to sound like Deepak Chopra, but when you accept your nervous energy as natural, suddenly the TV interview gets easier. It’s when we fight the nervous energy that our anxiety becomes more pronounced. So embrace that emotional energy and remind yourself that the best communicators always communicate on a level where others can feel it. If you feel it, your audience will feel it if channeled in the proper way.
That’s something you won’t get from a script written by another person.
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Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.