Best Practices for Conducting a Television Interview

Interviews with the press can make even the most seasoned executive uneasy.  But while a telephone interview with a print reporter may be stressful (even with notes in front of you), an interview on camera – either in studio or on location – brings a whole new set of challenges.  Here are just a few tips to help you prepare for your TV interview.

First, when you find out you have an interview opportunity with a television reporter, here are the first questions you need to be asking:

  • Will the interview be live or taped?

  • Will it be conducted in studio or remotely on location?

  • Will it be a one-on-one with the reporter or will other guests be on the program?

  • Who is the audience? Business executives? The general public?

Prior to conducting the actual interview, you should prepare the following:

  • Select no more than 3 messages for your media interview - regardless of whether the interview is three minutes or 20 minutes long. Keep your audience in mind as you develop your key messages for the interview.

  • Include the name of your company in at least one of your key messages, but not in all of them or you run the risk of sounding too promotional.

  • Craft a headline for your story and use that as a guide for what you choose to say during your interview.

  • Be prepared to provide facts or figures to support your case and examples or anecdotes to crystallize your points.

  • Make sure you provide the correct spelling of your name and title for the “reader” that will appear on screen during the interview.

Television interviews can be the most challenging because of their brevity and broad reach.  Here are some suggestions for nailing the interview:

  • Successful interviewees engage and interact with their audience - maintain a dialogue with your interviewer.

  • Keep your answers short. Talk in sound bites - a sound bite lasts between ten and fifteen seconds.

  • Segments may last 2 mins to as much as 10 mins for magazine formatted programming. Public affairs programs can last a full hour. Regardless of the length of time, the impression you leave will be remembered as much -- or more than -- the message you deliver.

  • Before conducting the interview, know your material thoroughly. You cannot refer to notes on television.

  • Arrive early. Become familiar with the studio and personnel. You may have a short pre interview with the host.

  • Ignore all the commotion in the studio.

  • You will be asked for a sound check to match microphone levels. Position yourself forward in the chair with your feet on the floor.

  • Whenever possible, if it is a positive story, stand in front of company signage while conducting your interview, if it is being conducted on location.

  • Keep your eye contact with the interviewer if the interview is in studio or in person. If you are conducting the interview remotely and the interviewer is not on the set or it is a “live remote,” look into the camera or monitor, as directed.

  • Remember you are always “on camera” even if someone else is talking. Directors and producers love “reaction shots.”

  • Be mindful not to squirm, tap your foot or look around the set.

  • Feel free to use gestures to appear friendly and to animate your face and voice, especially if you normally gesture while speaking. But be mindful not to gesture wildly, which can be a distraction.

  • Use the name of the interviewer when answering. Be positive and friendly toward the interviewer. The audience watches this show because they like the on-air talent.

  • Smile and be animated. Physical energy translates into conviction and enthusiasm, and ultimately credibility.

  • Wait for an “all-clear” signal before leaving your chair.

  • Nothing is off the record before, during or after the interview.

  • Dress appropriately -- business attire is most appropriate for in-studio interviews. A simple, dark suit is a good choice. Wear minimal jewelry and keep makeup basic.

  • A television interview shot on location, however, might be done in more casual clothes; for example, an interview about a food drive at a local food pantry would require different attire that is more business casual.

  • Men should shave within an hour before the show. This is not the time to try a new hairdo.

If you get a call from a TV reporter looking for an interview, always inform your PR person or marketing department.  They can help run through the interview with you beforehand, as well. 

If you have a good story about a TV interview you’ve conducted, we would love to hear about it.  If we can help you prepare for your next TV interview, please reach out to us.  We would love to talk with you.