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Specific Guidelines for Television Interviews

  1. Remember Your Appearance. Viewers will decide within eight seconds if you appear credible.
    More on Successful Interviewing

    5 General Guidelines for a Succesful Interview

    Message is Everything


    Interviewing Tips

    Techniques of the Pros

    Follow-up: After the Interview

    I Have a TV Interview

    Back to Succesful Interviewing

    The TV screen can intensify messy hair or a crooked tie, so look in the mirror before going on camera.

    • Dress conservatively; distracting clothing gets in the way of your message.
    • Dark suits of solid color with a pale shirt are good. White reflects light and close stripes can look wavy on TV screens.
    • Socks for men should be knee high, hosiery for women should be almost colorless.
    • No flashy jewelry -- it shines "hot spots" on cameras; no sunglasses, lapel buttons or pins; and keep bulky items out of your pockets.

  2. Maintain Eye Contact. Always look at the interviewer and not at the camera. Looking around the room or at the camera makes you look shifty and hurts credibility. Sit only halfway back in the chair and lean forward -- this keeps your body upright and projects a look of engagement. Avoid nervous twitches like clearing your throat, tapping your foot, rolling your eyes, fiddling with your hands, etc.

  3. Always Assume the Tape is Rolling. Sound is recorded when the tape is rolling, so be aware of what you say even after the formal on-camera interview because it may end up on the air.

What to Wear on Air

Women: Bright colors are best. Avoid all white or cream ensembles. No heavy jewelry. Every day make-up.

Men: Solid suits in grey or navy with a cream or other light colored shirt. Be careful when choosing a tie. Check, hounds tooth and complicated patterns create optical illusions on TV and distract viewers. You want them to pay attention to what you say, not what you wear.

Logistics Specifically for Radio and TV

Arrive early. Make friends with the crew and with the person interviewing you.

Use the host's first name, unless they specify another preference.

Make sure the equipment is working. Check microphones and earpieces if you are being interviewed by satellite.

You are always on the air. Say what you have to say, then be quiet. Don't fill "dead air." This is an old journalist's trick to get you to say something you really don't want to say - for example, Reagan's off-the-cuff remark about bombing Russia - or to ramble off-message. Ask where to look at the beginning of the interview - at the host or at the camera - and then keep looking. Don't make faces or scratch your nose.

If standing, place your feet one in front of the other. If you place them side-to-side, you will rock, and it will show on camera.

Hand movements should be small - it is best to keep them in your lap. If you must gesture, stay within an imaginary box that's below your chin, no wider than the inside of your arms, and no lower than your rib cage.

If you are sharing the stage with others, particularly those who are hostile, you need to be more aggressive. If a question is addressed to the entire panel, jump in - don't wait to be asked directly.

When on talk radio, lead off with the most compelling fact.

If on a panel, know the other panelists' viewpoints and likely arguments. Have soundbites ready to respond to their main points.

For in-studio radio interviews, sit 6-8" from the microphone.

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