Wednesday, June 30, 2010

6 top TV talk show interview mistakes

It's an exciting moment when you get that call inviting you to be a guest on a TV talk show. It doesn't matter if the show is local or national -- it's a big deal for you and your business. A TV interview seen by the people you want to communicate with can make a big difference in the success of your product, business, or service.

So don't blow it.

Here are the top mistakes I see made by talk show guests on national and local TV shows:
  1. Forgoing media training. Don't appear on national television without at least a few hours of professional media training. When you appear stiff or frightened or your voice is noticeably shaky, we don't absorb your messages because we're distracted by your body language. Professional training will help you relax and be your usual confident self. You know your stuff -- get a little help presenting it in the big time.
  2. Locking your hands together on your lap. Are you afraid they'll run off the set without you? When you're off camera, you use your hands when you talk, so don't tie them up when you're on camera. You can't appear (and feel) natural if you're not using your hands to help you make a point or give your comments emphasis.
  3. Relying on your memory and not your knowledge. Don't memorize what you want to say and then recite your messages like a bad cue card reader. You know your subject better than anyone -- that's why you're on the show.
  4. Not preparing enough. You want to make the most of this opportunity and there are no do-overs with live interviews, so prepare for the event by watching the show so you know what to expect. Give some thought to the questions you'll be asked and practice your answers. Ask a colleague or friend to critique your answers -- too long? short? dull? -- and presentation -- flat? scared? low-key? Which of your anecdotes does the best job of making your point?
  5. Wearing distracting or inappropriate clothing. This is a problem for women, especially. You don't want anything around your face that will distract from what you're saying, so no large earrings, flamboyant scarves, or heavy necklaces, even if they reflect your personal style. We are easily distracted and you want us to focus on your words, not your accessories.
  6. Getting too comfortable. Sit on the edge of the chair with your back straight so you're more energetic and animated during the interview. This is important because an energetic demeanor is more engaging for viewers (and channel surfers) than one that is low-key and relaxed.
Remember, too, to listen to how you're greeted. I've blogged about this knee-jerk "thank you for having me" response no matter how the guest is greeted, and while it's entertaining for people like me who notice these things even if we shouldn't, it's not how you want to start your TV conversation. Listen, respond, listen, respond.

What's your best tip for TV talk show interviews?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Be aware of camera locations, but never 'speak' directly to the camera in a normal interview setting.

I always recommend making consistent eye contact with the host/reporter and not 'speak' to the camera. This portrays a realistic conversation and supports the other tips posted.

The worst case scenario is when interviewees continuously switch the direction of their eyes from the reporter to the camera lens and back.

Sandra Beckwith said...

I agree! That eye-switching back and forth between the interviewer and the camera is very distracting. I recently did a quick interview with a local TV photojournalist -- both an interviewer and a cameraman -- and said to him as he stood alongside his camera on a tripod, "You want me to look at you, right?" He sounded surprised when he responded, "I guess you've done this before."