TV interviews tips in a remote era
June 4, 2020
By now, many of you will have mastered a video conference. You’ve nailed a team meeting and probably had Friday after work drinks in a virtual pub. Maybe you’ve chaired a board meeting. Whatever your experience of this new virtual way of working, you’re likely feeling confident with both the technology and the etiquette required.
But what about if you were on live tv via a video conference? Could you successfully judge the (virtual) room in a group press conference? Would you have the same confidence?
If the answer is no, we’ve put together some hints and tv interview tips that can help.
Our top tv interview tips
1. The technology
This goes without saying, but get the tech right.
Journalists and news outlets are now adept at using video conferencing for live or pre-recorded interviews. They’ll be able to advise on which platform they prefer and any specific guidelines. But if you haven't had practice using Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams over the last few weeks, then make sure you have a few trial runs with friends, family or colleagues before your interview.
Video-conferencing platforms are all pretty intuitive and there’s very little that can go wrong, but the practice will make you feel confident and allow you to focus less on the technology and more on what you want to say.
Having said that, you obviously need a good connection. A mid-sentence screen freeze is not a good look for anyone. So check your wifi beforehand, make sure you are physically close to your router and minimise the number of other devices using it when you do the interview.
Avoid wifi issues ruining your big moment
2. The set-up
The last few weeks have forced most of us to set up a remote working space – if we didn’t have one already – even if that's a small corner of a kitchen table, with toys / dirty mugs / drying laundry / bottle of wine just out of shot (delete as applicable). But you should pay even more care and attention to your set-up and surroundings if you’re doing a media interview, especially if the video is going to be broadcast live.
A few do’s and don'ts:
- Use a laptop or desktop rather than your phone for the interview.
- Make yourself comfortable. Ideally be sat down, with your computer on a stable surface in front of you. Have your screen at the right height so your whole head is in shot with some space around it and so the viewer isn't looking up your nose.
- Choose somewhere with a clean, neutral background. If you’re at home, this can be more challenging, but you want to make sure that what’s behind your head doesn't distract too much from what you’re saying. And check the lighting situation. You want a well-lit room with a good overhead light above you – don't sit directly in front of a window or lamp.
- Wear neutral clothes. This isn't about fashion (unless your interview actually is about that), but there are some basic facts: stripes don't look good on screen, black tends to wash people out, patterns or wording can distract viewers.
- Look anywhere but at the camera. It sounds obvious, but it’s easier said than done in a video conference. Don't look at yourself on a smaller screen, don't look at your notes laid on your keyboard and don't look around the room. It makes you look distracted and nervous. Remember, you’re having a conversation, so eye contact is just as important, if not more so, via technology. Keep focussed on the camera lens.
- Wear your pyjamas. Everyone knows these are extraordinary times and people aren't expecting you in your best outfit, but people will make a judgement about you, and the organisation you are representing, from how you look. So think about the image you want to portray and dress accordingly.
- Worry too much about children if you have them around you – but perhaps schedule the interview for a time when they’re asleep or someone else in your household can entertain them. Having a toddler hit you over the head with Lego is good if you’re talking about the challenge of working from home with children, but if not, make sure they’re otherwise distracted so you and the viewers don’t lose focus.
Robert Kelly and his family became famous after his children interrupted a live BBC interview.
3. The Message
This is the harder bit.
The most challenging thing about any media interview, at any time, and in any circumstances, is what you say. What do you want to get across? What are your key messages? What are the facts? How do you answer a difficult question? What are the difficult questions?
This is the area that you need to give the most time and attention to. And be aware that the current crisis puts even more emphasis on getting your tone right and not slipping into generalities about the situation.
Media training via Zoom is now common, widely available and acts as the perfect preparation in how to conduct a good TV interview. Having some media training is always a good idea before any big media interview. It can assist with the practicalities, helping you hone your messaging, craft your answers to difficult questions and get hints and tips on your tone and responses.
Hoxby PR operates on a global stage, across every PR discipline and in a range of sectors. We run campaigns for people, products and brands with unrivalled expertise and results. Our offer is versatile and scalable – the antithesis of a traditional PR agency. Working with us gives you the benefit of PR consultancy and campaigns delivered by highly experienced, flexible, diverse and passionate PR experts.
Laura Voyle is a senior communications and campaigns advisor and part of the Hoxby community.