Getting interviewed as a guest on a TV talk show or a video program is easy, isn’t it? You might think it’s the interviewer who has the tough job. The person asking the questions is the one that is supposed to be in charge and keep things moving along, ideally in an interesting fashion. Well, there are a few things to know about being interviewed that can make you look better on camera. In fact, failure to abide by some of these points can make you come across poorly. (I’ve produced some programs that we ended up not broadcasting, simply because the guest violated one or more of these points and we didn’t want to publicly present the guest in an unbecoming manner).
8 Tips For a TV Interview Guest
1. The main point is being relaxed enough to come across naturally. That’s sure easy to say, but for some folks that’s their main hurdle. A good interviewer can help the guest be comfortable, but even so, some folks freeze when the cameras goes on. If that is a potential problem for you, one thing to do is put all your attention on the interviewer and focus on the conversation, which should help you ignore the cameras. If you are able to take a short walk before the interview, that can be beneficial. (However, be sure to coordinate with the Director or Floor Manager, as you may be asked “not” to go away if it’s too close to starting time.)
2. Knowing the material that you are going to be interviewed about is another way to support coming across naturally. However, even if you have a list of “talking points” from the interviewer beforehand, don’t try to memorize what you will say, which can make you appear stiff and unnatural. Just answer the questions as you would in a regular (off camera) conversation.
3. Related to the first point, even if you aren’t afraid of cameras, lights and TV studios, generally speaking, you still don’t want to look into the cameras when they are rolling. Simply look at the interviewer (and not the cameras) in the same manner that you would anyone else you were having a conversation with.
Note: There are certain instances when a person will intentionally look into the camera. For example, the host of the show “may” look into the camera to speak directly to the audience at the opening and the closing of the program, but that generally does not apply to a person being interviewed. Even if that were desired for some reason, you would be specifically requested to do so. However, that would be rare.
4. The interviewer may have some notes to refer to during the discussion, but you won’t. Unless you are specifically required to cite some reference as part of your interview, don’t bring notes onto the set. The information you are imparting as part of a conversational interview should come from your head, not prepared notes. In fact, bringing anything on the set can be distracting to the audience. For that reason, even if you are the author of a book, which is the subject of the interview, in many cases it will be the person who is asking the questions who will physically handle the book itself.
5. Short answers are best. Even though you may have a lot to say in response to a given question, you don’t want to speak more than a few sentences at a time. This keeps the dialog going back and forth, which makes for a more interesting program for the viewers. Also, unless you are confident that your program is being produced for a specialized audience, you will connect better with more viewers by avoiding technical jargon, as well as avoiding terms specific to your industry. Use simple language that will be understood by a broad audience.
6. If the video interview is being conducted in your home or office, instead of a TV studio, you’ll want to use chairs that do not swivel. Interviewees, in particular, tend to move when they are uncomfortable and this is noticeable on TV.
7. Another point about interviews in a home or office is that it’s best to use a room that has as little outside light as possible. Unless the Director specifically prefers to have natural light in the background, it’s trickier to balance the brightness of inside lights with outside light. Furthermore, outside light (daylight) has a blueish cast compared to most lights used inside, which would also require added effort to balance for the camera and lighting crew.
8. Get plenty of sleep the night before, so that you are well rested. Also, have a good meal beforehand so that you are well fed (but don’t eat so much that you become groggy). You may also want to have water readily available so you can start the interview without being thirsty.
BONUS TIP! If you are able to interject some appropriate humor at an apt point or two in the interview, that will help make the conversation more enjoyable for the viewing audience. However, unless you are a comic, or are doing a comedy show, there is no need to go overboard on the humor. For most interviews, the idea is to keep things light. This can help, at times, even if the discussion is about a serious matter. (However, “appropriate humor” is the operative term here as well as good judgment).
By the way, if you are interested in how to dress, you may want to check out this article on What Clothes To Wear For A TV Interview.
It’s worth re-stating that the main idea here is to present yourself on camera at ease and naturally, which contributes to the ease and enjoyment of the viewing audience.