By Connie Timpson/Sr. Instructor/The Leaders Institute
Relax, Mike Wallace rarely does interviews anymore, and Nancy Grace is only interested in scandal. It’s just you, a camera crew, lights so bright that you wish you had worn shades, a microphone cord running up your shirt or blouse just to remind you, “Make no mistake. We’ve got you!” And oh did I mention a journalist, looking for the next big story that will punch his or her ticket to the next biggest market? Or at least get a good enough quote to put your face above the fold on the evening paper.
And by the way….it’s a bad hair day, and a bad color pantsuit for the camera. But hey…no pressure!
Okay, let’s roll people. The interview belongs to the 24-hour news media!
Now rewind the tape: You take control of the interview. That means understand their craft to better control your message. Today’s media has “next minute” deadlines, they are under a lot of pressure to fill many empty hours.
They key is – Do not let them push you. Give them what you want and can give them. When pushed – humor is a good push back.
Be Mentally and Physically Prepared
Ø Be confident – you have what they want – there is no story without you and your information.
Ø Be prepared to answer any question – know your subject in people terms. Tell “real people” stories to get the lead or be above the fold. Statistics are dry and boring, wrap them in graphic language that brings their findings to life. Or as Paul Brodeur of the New Yorker said, “Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.”
Example “22% of American women smoke.”
Or “If you stop to have a cigarette at the smoking lounge in Atlanta airport, look around. If four of you are women, smoking at the same time – one of you will likely die from a disease directly linked to smoking.”
Ø Set a goal for the interview – both for how you want to be perceived as a person, and what you are willing to say and what you want to cover.
You Keep Control Of The Interview
Ø Talk directly to the interviewer. Forget about the camera. You want to look calm and in control. It is a conversation, not a performance. The camera will follow you and record the best parts of what you say.
Ø Keep answers short to avoid being edited. Practice answering questions in a 10-15 second sound bite. If the journalist asks a follow-up question great. But it is far better to edit yourself. Your best words can be swept into the deleted bin by someone who has news timings higher on the “gotta have list” than getting all the answers.
A sigh, frequent blinking, licking your lips, shaky hands, pinched voice, the camera sees, hears and records all of it. Your goal is to let the camera see and hear someone who is composed, very smart and friendly.
Ø Watch Your Body Language Respond to the interviewer. Relate to the interviewer as if you have just made a friend. Even if it becomes combative you will look like the good guy.
Ø Sit naturally. That means, sit up straight so that you look confident and controlled, but not so straight that you look uncomfortable or “trying to perform for the camera.”
Ø Use your hands. The temptation is to clasp them or hold onto something such as a pen. Gesture as you would during a natural conversation. Be very careful not to let nervous gestures become part of your response to questions. It’s just a TV camera.
“What do you mean JUST a TV camera?” It feels like I am looking into a hungry lion’s mouth, with a pushy journalist telling it to eat me! It sees, hears and broadcasts even what I do not want to say or hear later. Just ask John Edwards, Mark Sanford, or even Caroline Kennedy. And High Def sees every flaw you have, oh yes, wrinkles, botox needle-marks or the spec of chocolate on your tie.
And did I say there are no do-overs and second takes? If you can’t breathe, your lips won’t move, you stumble or…fall, it makes you look more human. And television producers love a good human story.
Connie Timpson is a keynote speaker based in Jacksonville, Florida. Her keynote speech, Don’t Faint, It’s Just a Camera is a light-hearted and fun keynote presentation where Connie uses her experience as a TV journalist, news director and trainer to help the audience understand that the camera is just an electronic box. She will help you keep your wits and check your nerves, and keep your head off the floor and out of the lion’s mouth. She is available for association meetings, corporate meetings and conventions, and other keynote events and breakout sessions. To book Connie for your event, call The Leader’s Institute Speakers Bureau at 1-800-872-7830.