Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The grab-and-go checklist for last-minute TV or radio interviews

There's plenty to do to really prepare for media interviews, and most of that shouldn't happen at the last minute. But even if all you have is a half-hour before a broadcast interview on TV or radio, you can be better prepared with this grab-and-go list. Keep it handy when your moment arrives, and remember, now that many radio stations and newspapers are capturing video of interviews for their websites, the wardrobe tips are not just for television anymore:
  1. Message first. Can you boil down your core message into three points? Of course, you have much more to say. But those three things should offer the interviewer a roadmap of choices, so she can take the interview in a direction on which you are prepared to speak. Ideally, you have this figured out in advance, but if you only have a few minutes to prep, spend most of them on this. 
  2. Pick one. When you're answering a question, you may have a piece of data, an example, and a story. Just pick one to start. If the interviewer wants more, then you have the other two in your back pocket. Let him or her draw you out, and feel prepared while you do so.
  3. Wear saturated color so the lights don't wash out your outfit's advantages. All skin tones look better in a French blue shirt or similar color near your face--for women, that might also include a scarf or sweater. But in general, saturated (jewel tones rather than pale or pastel) colors stand up best to all that lighting. Prefer solids to busy patterns, especially checks and tightly patterned plaids. Frequently called to interview at the last minute? Keep some spare shirts or accessories in the office in these colors.
  4. Black and white and red all over? Both all-black and all-white outfits are difficult to light well. You may have a great black suit jacket with intricate detail that looks smart in person, but all the detail will disappear on camera. White's the opposite: often too bright and distracting, it draws the camera's focus. In general, avoid wearing only these high- and low-contrast colors. If you're wearing a black suit, make sure you have a shirt, scarf, or tie in a saturated color. And ladies, leave the red jacket behind. On camera, it can appear to be disintegrating at the edges, or "bleeding."
  5. Watch the paleness factor: If you have white hair, light hair, or no hair, plus a pale complexion, wear a dark suit to bring yourself into focus. Don't forget: Colors that look great on you in person may not do you favors in the studio.
  6. Stand if you can:  The longer you sit, the more your body wants to put itself to sleep. To feel and sound energetic, stand while you are waiting to go on the air on television. If you're lucky enough to be doing a phone interview for radio, stand up while you do it. Your voice will sound energized.
  7. Flyaway hair? The fastest fix is to drag a comb through it, after you've sprayed a little hairspray on the comb.
  8. Smile, for two great reasons: It will calm your nervous adrenaline and make you feel better (so start doing it in the taxi en route to the interview). And it will counter the natural tendency of the mouth to look either downturned or flatlined--neither of which is attractive. Even a slight smile will do. On the radio? Smiling helps enliven your voice and contributes to the energetic voice you want.
  9. Remember to let the interviewer get a word in edgewise: Nerves can make the best interviewee forget that the interviewer has a job to do. Using a three-point message lets you sum up a few key points, then stop to see where the interviewer wants to go. 
  10. Nurture your inner introvert. Don't fritter away your energy talking to everyone off-camera. Instead, head for the stairwell or restroom to grab some quiet moments alone, both before and after the interview--just make sure the producer knows where you are. "I need a moment to collect myself" is all you need to say.
Once you're done, look at the video or listen to the audio of your interview, using the checklist I give to speakers whose talks are recorded so you know what to look or listen for, and are focused on what you can learn from the recording. Then get ready for the next time--well ahead of time.

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