What you must know before your next TV interview

You may feel confident about your talking points, but do you know how to handle props or behave during split-screen shots? This author shares his top tips.

Appearing on television can feel odd.

In one of the stranger (but more common) formats, someone will escort you to a closet-size booth where you will speak into a camera whose technician is hundreds of miles away.

This article will arm you with 10 logistical and technical details you should know before appearing on TV:

1. Arrive early. Avoid unnecessary stress by allowing plenty of extra time before your interview. That buffer will be valuable if the producer, makeup artist or crew is running behind. Plus, you may meet some interesting people in the green room (the room where you’ll wait for your interview).

2. Bring makeup. Most major networks and some large local stations provide a makeup artist. Ask in advance whether you will have access to one, but bring your own makeup and hair products just in case.

3. Look in the mirror. Do a final check before your interview. I’ve seen guests with lipstick smeared on their teeth, chunks of food stuck between teeth, and even an open sore.

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4. Check your microphone and test your earpiece. You’ll probably wear a lapel microphone during the interview. Be sure to hide the wires. Men and women can run the cord underneath their tops, and men can also tape the cord to the back of their ties. Make sure the microphone doesn’t brush against clothing or jewelry, because that will muffle your voice. You may also be fitted with an earpiece or IFB (interruptible feedback). Test the audio before the interview, and immediately tell the crew if the volume isn’t right.

5. Turn off your cell phone. Few things are more distracting than a cell phone ringing in the middle of an interview. Also, the phone’s signal can interfere with the audio. Vibrate mode isn’t good enough; turn off your phone.

6. Turn off monitors. Television monitors in the studio often show a delayed feed. It can be distracting, so ask the crew to turn off or move any monitors.

7. Beware the split screen. In some interview formats, you will appear on camera even when you’re not speaking. Those split-screen shots simultaneously show you and at least one other person, and reaction shots show your response to the other guest’s comments. Act as though you’re always on. Don’t wipe your face, adjust your hair or fix your clothes during your segment.

8. Restrict your nodding. It’s normal to nod when listening to someone else, but nodding can send the wrong message if you disagree with someone’s question or comment. Listen attentively, but nod only if you agree.

9. Avoid (or plan) props. We’ve all seen that television guest who holds up a newspaper article or piece of paper during an appearance. It’s usually a bad idea. Few people know how to position an item for the camera, so they end up distracting the audience. If you want to show a visual during your interview, talk to the producer first. The producer can help the crew prepare for the shot.

10. Stay in your seat. Avoid the temptation to flee your chair the moment your segment ends. Maintain your pose for a few seconds, and remain seated until a crew member says you’re clear.

Brad Phillips is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and author of “The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview.” He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this article originally appeared.

Topics: PR

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