Television Interviewing Tips
Office of Communications and Marketing
For additional tips on speaking with reporters, please see "When a Reporter Calls."
- When dressing for telelvision, remember that less is more. Subdued colors and simple jewelry lend authority to your remarks and read better on camera. Women should avoid dangling earrings or other large jewelry that may reflect light back into the camera lens. Men should avoid pinstripe suits, which often appear "electrified" on monitors.
- If you wear glasses instead of contacts, consider dispensing with them while you are on camera or investing in a non-reflective coating for your lenses. If possible, avoid wearing glasses with light-sensitive coatings. (They will darken perceptibly when you are beneath bright camera lights).
- Sit up straight. If the chair is not a stationary one, avoid swinging, turning, and fidgeting. Subjects who move excessively come across as uncontrolled and perhaps a little wild on cameras. If the chair is not the proper height, see if you can adjust it so that your feet don't dangle. Otherwise, you may appear diminutive.
- Pay attention to your body language. When people get nervous, they often scratch, play with their hair, or engage in other repetitive motions. Using hand gestures for emphasis will make you a more energetic, lively interviewee, but if you don't know what to do with your hands, simply fold them in your lap.
- Remember that warmth and enthusiasm for the subject are good things in a television interview. Try to relax, have a conversation, and enjoy yourself.
- Speak to and look at the interviewer, not the camera.
- In taped interviews, don't be afraid to stop mid-sentence if you need to rephrase or start again.
- Keep your sentences short and simple, and try to explain technical material in layman's terms. Remember, the average soundbite is only eight seconds.
- Stay focused on your message. It often helps to prepare a few message points before an interview. Practice different ways of reiterating these points. Why? Even after the interview is edited, your message will still most likely make the cut. As well, keeping your message points in mind will give you something to say if there is a lull in the interview or if you become nervous and feel the urge to babble.
- Speak with the interviewer ahead of time and inform him/her of what areas you will or will not comment on. If a reporter refuses to tell you in advance what he/she plans to discuss, you should decline the interview.
- Show common courtesy. Arrive to the interview on time, and if you're wearing a pager or a cellular phone, don't forget to turn it off before you go on camera.