Best Practices for Broadcast Interviews

As a TV news reporter, what used to irk me about interviewing someone for a story was when the interviewee acted unnatural. While reporters are experienced working in front of cameras and handling microphones, most other people are not. So when they suddenly find themselves as the subject of a broadcast news story, they’re unsure how to present themselves – it makes them uncomfortable, and it often shows.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Sure, it can be intimidating at first, but anyone can nail a broadcast interview. Follow these rules the next time you have an on-air debut, and you can, too.

Remember, you’re talking to the reporter – not the camera.

Just because there is a camera pointed at you doesn’t mean it wants you to make eye contact with it. Remember to talk to the reporter – the human – as you would with your friends or colleagues.

Speak in full, complete sentences.

You’re being interviewed because the journalist thinks you have something interesting to say.  Don’t answer questions with head nods, or only a yes/no. Yet, try not to ramble on, either. Make the reporter’s day by paraphrasing his/her questions within your answers to ensure your soundbite is usable within a news package. Their editor will also sing your praises if you do this – journalists love good soundbites. You might be wondering, “What makes a good soundbite?”

“Soundbite” is TV lingo for “quote.” What kinds of quotes do most of us remember? Memorable ones. You needn’t be a poet during your TV interview, but try to be thoughtful. As long as you are concise, effectively express your opinion or make a point, your soundbite will be good to go.

Be conversational.

Don’t use big, fancy words or insider jargon to make yourself sound more credible. Reporters are trained to tell stories in a conversational way for a reason – to connect with viewers. Keep that in mind, and do the same.

Don’t yell into the microphone.

The microphone’s job is to pick up sound. Don’t bend your neck awkwardly to try and talk “into” it if it’s attached to your shirt’s collar – it’s unnecessary and not a good look. Speak at a normal volume.

Look presentable, but not overdone.

This goes without saying, but you’re about to be on television. Make sure your hair looks neat, and that you are wearing something you could walk into the office with on casual Friday. Avoid wearing “out there” patterns (stripes are ok). If you’re wearing makeup, go for a natural look. Your number one purpose is to be an interesting source of information. You don’t have to be a model.

Last but not least…

Smile! Of course this depends on the nature of the story and what you are talking about. So long as you are not discussing a tragedy, remember that it is okay to smile. It shows that you’re enthusiastic – and human.