The DOs and DONTs of a Live On-Air Interview

Symptoms include (but are not limited to): profuse sweating, involuntary shaking, loss of memory. Yes, the very three things that you want to avoid during public speaking are the things that MOST of us experience in these nerve-wrecking situations. And when you’re on live television, it’s not pretty.

Ok, now that I’ve terrified you even more, we can move on to the good news: YOU CAN OVERCOME YOUR FEAR!

Now I’m not promising that you’re going to grace the studio of your first live interview and from the moment you walk out, you’ll have people knocking down your door to represent them. But you should be a little more prepared after reading this. (And after a handful of interviews… you’ll slowly, but surely become a pro.)

DO speak in easily understandable terms. Yes, it’s impressive that you’ve earned your PhD in Comparative and Interdisciplinary Arts, but for most of us… that doesn’t mean a whole lot. How would you describe it to a friend who has no idea what you do, or the subject your discussing? Go with that!

DON’T look into the camera. It’s tempting to look right into the camera, or look off to the side where the production assistant just dropped a coffee on the floor, but don’t do it! Instead, look at whomever is interviewing you, or if there is a visual aid that you’re using for an example. It will look and feel much more natural, and it can help you forget that the camera is even there.

DO speak in short phrases. Typically, sound bites are about 7 seconds. Try to practice your most important key messages (try to keep it to three) in sentences that can be delivered in this time. It’s easier for a video editor to clip it out later.

DON’T be afraid to pause. Taking a few seconds to compose yourself and think will seem much longer to you than it will to the reporter or audience. PLUS, you’ll seem thoughtful and deliberate.

DO be a little over-the-top. Remember the phrase “the camera adds ten pounds”? Well… it also sucks out about 50% of your energy too. You’re going to feel a little silly, but it really does work. Test it out with your smartphone and see which version is more engaging.

DON’T fake an answer. If you don’t know, be honest and refer people to a source where they can find the answer. We promise it’s much better to be honest, than have someone point out your lie.

DO be yourself. Ok.. ok… I know I said to push the enthusiasm, but you still need to be yourself. You are the expert in your field. That’s why the reporter wants to talk to you. Just be yourself and be honest in your answers. Credibility goes a long way.

DON’T assume the microphone, camera, or tape recorder is off. Especially immediately before or after an interview. Basically… don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want broadcast to the world.

Easy, right? It might not be right away, and (excuse the cliche) practice does make perfect! One last thing: don’t forget to breathe.