Preparing for Your First Television Interview
Being Interviewed For The First Time
You will be interviewed on television at some stage in your life, especially if you are responsible for the dissemination of information where you work, in your capacity as Director of Communications.
You could also be on television if you champion a certain cause like whales swimming in oceans polluted by oil spills, play unusual sports, have one million YouTube views per month, or your eccentricity, demonstrated by the refusal to have a mobile phone.
Whatever the reason, your first television interview will be a piece of cake if you understand the importance of two things:
· how you look, that is physical appearance and clothes and;
· how you answer questions
How you look supersedes everything because although television interviews should be about information, people tend to remember how you looked and not what you said.
Television and Sensationalism
Visuals. Television stations want to interview you because they think you have something to say, but they are also hoping you will give them ‘great tape.’
Everything is digital now but producers still call it tape. Politicians calling each other names in the House of Commons or Congress is great tape. A prime minister who does not know the first name of a visiting head of state is great tape.
Celebrities caught on camera kissing people who are not on their marriage certificates is great tape. It is about visuals. That is why grief-stricken people with tears down their faces, cause great excitement in the newsroom. “We have great tape.”
Unlike talk shows and documentaries, television news is about brevity. Time is in short supply because producers can only use a short clip of 30 seconds or less, from an interview that is 30 minutes long, so they need something dramatic, people at home will remember. That is where the concept of a great tape comes from.
You can be called at short notice because producers react to breaking news. If a story breaks, about schoolkids dying because they ate oranges from an overturned truck on main street, television could call you, as secretary of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) to explain how you grow tainted oranges.
If you are lucky, you can be called today for an interview the following day. Television is about the camera, so use the rest of the day to re-engineer yourself for the bright lights.
1. Go to the hair salon or barber shop and colour your hair to hide the grey, unless you wear your white hair with pride.
2. Remove the clip-on nails that look like talons. Cut your nails short and colour them with a light brown or pink, almost transparent nail polish.
3. For women, wear a blouse that covers the top part. Wear a blazer or cover it with a scarf. Television viewers should listen to you and not stare at it. We don’t want you to be object of ridicule because of what is known as ‘wardrobe malfunction.’
4. Wear pants or your saree. You don’t want to keep pulling down your short skirt while the interview is on. People at home will say, didn’t she know it is short? It questions your intelligence.
5. Avoid white clothing. Studio lights are also white and we don’t want a head-on collision that might have a negative effect on your face. Wear blue or red clothes. Come to think of it, how often do you see newsreaders and TV presenters wearing white? They prefer royal blue, navy blue, red or purple.
6. Take a cab (taxi) to the television studio or ask someone to drop you off. You don’t want to be late for the interview, get lost or drive endlessly looking for parking. You cannot afford to lose your cool before the big moment.
7. Better still, tell the cab to drop you off at the coffee shop opposite the television studio. Order a latte, relax and go over your facts, and how you are going to handle tricky questions.
8. Bad breath. Drop some Tic Tacs in your mouth before you go to hair and makeup and before you start the interview.
9. Tweeze or wax your eyebrows a little bit and apply understated eye make-up. Apply your usual foundation and choose a muted lip colour.
10. Most television studios have departments called hair and makeup. They will take you there before you meet the anchor person who will conduct the interview. Tell the make-up artist what you like and what you don’t like. He or she will then improve on what you already did at home. Make-up should not make your eyes red or make you blink constantly.
Television Interview Questions
We have handled the physical appearance part of the interview. What comes next is when you are facing the television host, who is there to crush you. There is no way of putting it because producers always have an agenda.
Children are dead after eating oranges from an overturned truck. The nation wants blood and your neck is on the line. Keep your cool and remember why you are on that hot seat: to represent the Citrus Growers Association (CGA).
- · How farmers grow oranges
- · How oranges are inspected before marketed
- · How the CGA complies with federal and local laws about growing oranges
The most dangerous question you should expect from television is:
Q: What do you think killed the kids?
A: There are medical and legal experts that would answer your question.