A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to draw on my (too many) years as a broadcast journalist to offer some tips on how to make the most out of those rare opportunities to talk about our writing on TV or Radio.
I thought I would share some top tips with you here…
Radio Top 10
- Who is that masked man? Research the show you are going to be on and the person who will be interviewing you. Listen to the show and gauge the tone they are seeking and who the audience is.
- Have answers ready. When approached to do an interview, ask what they’ll be talking to you about. Prepare some answers, especially for the tough questions they won’t warn you about. Don’t overdo the promo.
- The microphone is always live – no swearing. There is a delay button – but don’t rely on it. You won’t be invited back if you turn the air blue.
- Don’t touch the microphone. The slightest touch creates a loud noise. Control of the mic is control of the interview and must always be with the interviewer.
- Speak normally during the sound check. Don’t go ‘test –one – two – three’ – that’s not how you talk. Speak a couple of full sentences to give your voice time to return to normal level. If you can’t think of anything else, say something about how easy/tough it was to get to the studio. You will relax as you talk.
- Don’t do a J-LO. I once saw an interview with Jennifer Lopez where her clunky jewellery kept banging on the desk. It was really irritating and distracting. Leave the chunky jewellery at home.
- Don’t do a Greer Garson – who famously made the longest acceptance speech in OSCAR history. When approached, ask how long the segment is likely to be. You will need different approaches to ‘news’ style interview with 10-15 second soundbites and talk show interviews. Don’t use really complex sentences. If you lose your thread – stop.
- Don’t do a Gwyneth or a Halle or a Kate – other famous OSCAR moments. Keep control of your emotions. Don’t get angry. A radio audience doesn’t see your face or body language, and they can misinterpret your emotions.
- Get your message across. Know what you want to say and say it clearly.
- Watch the interviewer for guidance. You’ll see from their face how it’s going. They may also give you clear instructions e.g. a windup.
Television top 10
- See radio top ten
- The camera is always hot. Don’t do anything embarrassing even during the commercial break.
- Don’t be a deer in the headlights and stare wide-eyed at the camera. Look at the interviewer – you’re talking to them and they represent your audience too. If you are remote you may be told to look directly at the camera – if so, look straight down the lens, not to one side.
- Don’t do a Barbara Cartland. The Dame is famous for writing many many popular romance novels and for at times getting her makeup wrong. Be understated with your makeup. If you are in a studio, there may be a makeup person, but don’t count on it. Outside the studio, you are on your own. Wear the makeup you would wear to a business meeting.
- Don’t do a Ga Ga, or Katie or….. Outrageous clothes are fun, but they often don’t do you any favours on camera. Avoid stripes and checks, fluorescent colours and complex patterns. Solid colours are best. Wear something you are comfortable in otherwise you will fidget.
- Don’t do a Mariah Carey – who is quoted as saying she doesn’t ‘do’ stairs. Wear shoes you can walk in.
- Don’t do a Sharon Stone – and you know the movie I am talkign about. Be aware of the camera position if you are wearing a very short skirt. And be aware of your neckline, especially if bending over to take something from the coffee table.
- Don’t do a Joe Biden who famously seemed to nod off during President Obamas State of the Union Speech. In a group discussion, don’t fidget or look bored or fall asleep when someone else is talking. Look interested.
- Don’t do a Tom Cruise. Remember how he jumped up and down on several TV show couches when talking about getting engaged to his now ex-wife. Don’t make sudden and unplanned dramatic movements. It is hard for the cameraman/ director to follow. It can look pretty silly as well.
- What do you do when good interviews go bad? Unless it is a factual error and seriously damaging, you have to live with it. Seeking recourse might make it worse – unless it is worth legal action.
And here’s an extra tip. To help overcome those nerves, get a friend to do an interview with you, using their mobile phone as a camera. Play it back and look at what you are doing, how you sound. If you do this a few times, you will be able to overcome some weaknesses… at the very least it should make you feel better in front of the camera.
So when it’s you time to collect your OSCAR – you will do great!