How to look and sound your best during a TV or smartphone interview

A first-time interview with television camera rolling can be intimidating, with a harsh light warming your face and boom mic picking up every aside.

You might try to recall interviews you’ve seen, and wonder: Do I look at the interviewer, or the camera? Should I smile, or not? And why is the photographer moving around and fidgeting with equipment?

A good photographer will work to capture the more photogenic side of your face (yes, typically there is one) and tell you whether jewelry or a printed jacket might distract and confuse viewers. The reporter is likely to make small-talk to start – but be aware that anything you say might be on the record.

Here are some tips to becoming proficient at on-camera interviews.

Be aware

An interview with a TV station can mean opportunity for prime-time “earned media,” but in today’s world, you’re more likely to encounter a spontaneous “interview” with a reporter, photographer, blogger or advocate-citizen with a smartphone. Video drives clicks online.

Be savvy

Get your message across clearly and succinctly, in as short amount of time as possible. TV news editors will look for good “ins” and “outs” in your comments to grab a short “soundbite.” Time constraints, editors and producers can decide what stays or gets cut. In broadcasting, 30 seconds on-air can be a long time; expect to get about half of that time.

Be positive

You’re the expert in politics or business or nonprofit work with insights the news crew seeks. Stay on message, even if the interview becomes testy for any reason – especially if it’s an impromptu smartphone encounter. No one wants to see his/her angry words play over and over online, or on the nightly news.

Look sharp

If you know you might be interviewed, it’s important to “dress for success” with appropriate business attire. Avoid big necklaces and dangling earrings; avoid busy or loud prints, such as stripes, checks, polka dots and wavy lines that “flutter” on camera. Bright white reflects light and can wash out your face; stark black absorbs light and can diminish you. Navy blues, grays, purples, dark creams, browns, and neutral colored suits work well. Check your hair and makeup if there’s time.

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