How to be highly effective in media interviews


Sooner or later, most professionals will find themselves in front of a camera or microphone.

Sooner or later, most professionals will find themselves in front of a camera or microphone.

The setting might be for purposes of practice publicity, you may be an invited expert guest, or you could find yourself in the middle of a hot or controversial media storm.

All professionals should know the basic elements of how to be effective in media interviews. Here is a very quick course that will help you in a pinch. For more extensive education, media training classes are highly recommended.

The Basics:

Know your hosts' names and use them when responding to questions. This helps dramatically to connect with the host and shows the audience you are attentive and involved. Don't overdo it, though.

Be sure to check out the format of the show in advance and get a feel for how much time you will have. The worst thing you can do is to get caught up in general "chat" at the beginning of an interview and let your valuable time slip away.

Never go into an interview thinking "I know my subject better than anyone and I don't have time to practice. I'll just wing it!" That is a media disaster in the making. You may very well know your subject extremely well in your practice setting, but in the highly distracting environment of a television or radio station, it is amazing how key points leave your mind.

Make a list of your key points and practice them. If the interview begins to stray from your subject, learn good bridging techniques to get the interview back on your subject.

Be proactive with your message. It is easy to get involved in a chatty conversation with the show host that chews up your valuable media time. If the host does not lead you toward answering questions in your key message area, then it's up to you to find a way to deliver your message points.

The most effective answers in any medium are very short! This will take some practice, because we don't normally speak so succinctly. Your job is to deliver these in a natural, conversational way that leaves the reader, listener, or viewer, with a short, clear point they will remember.

The Details:

Plan now to get rid of highly technical language. Jargon, or complex words specific to our profession, are wasted seconds in an interview and may tend to put your audience off or, worse yet, make them change the channel!

Be direct, concise and practical. This takes practice. If you are abstract, (as many experts are) the audience will not understand you. If your audience begins to feel like they are "not getting it," they will tune you out!

Have props, animals, X-rays and perhaps even video footage ready for use. Show your props to the producers in advance so that they can begin planning the use of video, close-ups, or even pre-produced graphics.

Try to meet the hosts. Frame your interaction to match their energy and style. Even if you have to be artificially "up," it's best to match their energy level. You may be a world-renowned expert, but if you are reserved and quiet, you could come across as dull and slow next to the energetic show host.

Wear dark blues or grays. Accent your outfit with a bold scarf or tie. Avoid patterns, stripes, red, trendy fashions, logos and big jewelry. Leave the white coat at the hospital!

Many shows have large upholstered chairs and couches. They all seem to put you in a horrible position for giving an attentive interview. If you sit back, you will look disconnected and disinterested. Sit on the edge of the seat and act attentive and involved.

Deep breaths will help you relax, and coffee will help you be mentally alert. Keep your eyes fixed on your host to keep you focused. Smiling helps you relax and makes you look accepting. Remember, relaxed delivery is easy on the eyes and ears. Hand gestures are good and show that you are involved and relaxed. In most interview situations you will not look at the camera.

Finally, send a thank you note or email. This can help you get your foot in the door for another appearance.

You'll know you've done a good job when they say it went well and that they'd like to have you back. Congratulations!

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