My library is lucky – our local TV news station loves the library, and gives us a spot every Tuesday afternoon called “Library Tuesday.” The afternoon anchor does a quick 3-minute interview with someone from the library.
Once in a while, that someone is me. I’ve been able to talk about a website redesign, a new library catalog, and our Podcamp Topeka annual conference.
If you combine that with also being on regional TV news a couple of times for my new book Face2Face, I can honestly say I’ve been on TV more than the average librarian
Between being prepped by the library’s marketing director, by reading a couple of articles, and just by doing it, I have picked up a few pointers along the way that I’d like to share with you.
So – here are some Tips for being interviewed on TV:
Looking good on TV:
- Dress the part. Check out what the interviewer usually wears (by watching a clip online or by watching the day before your interview), and dress in a similar style. Stick to plain colors – no loud stripes or big shiny jewelry.
- Look interested and attentive. So mind that posture! Sit up straight.
- Don’t be nervous. If you’re like me, I tend to think “how many people will be watching this?” Then it suddenly feels like I’m talking to thousands of people. Not a good thing to think about! Instead, look around you in the studio – my guess is that there are probably 2-5 people there, including you. If you think like that – that you’re only talking to a handful of people, you’ll probably feel much better!
- Talk to the interviewer. They might direct you to just look at them. So do that, and simply have a good, quick conversation with that person (yes, with lights shining on you and a camera pointing at your head … just ignore that stuff).
- Ask where to look. If no one tells you, feel free to ask the anchor or the camera operator where you should look. You will usually be looking at the interviewer. But if you want to look at a camera (which loosely translates to looking at the people watching on TV), there’s one main camera and 1-2 other cameras that get cut-away shots, etc.
- It’s just a conversation. Don’t read a script on-air, don’t memorize something and then try to say it back. You will come out sounding pretty amateurish if you do that. Just talk about whatever it is you wanted to talk about with the interviewer. They’re professionals, and they can help steer the conversation where it needs to go (sometimes, not always).
Getting your message across:
- Stay on message. be brief. If the interviewer strays off-topic, feel free to steer that person back if you can.
- Be succinct. Short, succinct answers are the best answers in interviews. It gives the editors something to edit down to if it’s a pre-recorded interview, and it helps get your points across clearly in a live setting. TV likes byte-sized bits of information, so the more you can do that, the more (potentially) you will be heard.
- Be knowledgeable. At my library, our marketing person sends information out in advance to the news anchor that will be interviewing me. That way, he knows what we’ll be talking about. If that happens, make sure you get a copy of that information and that you can talk about that topic for three minutes. It’s helpful to have 1-3 key messages you want to get across, and to stay focused on that message during the interview.
- Have a closing thought. More than once, I’ve been asked “is there anything else you want to say?” I generally have a main last point ready, just in case they ask.
Other important things to remember:
- The camera and the microphone are always on. Just assume that, even if it’s not always true. So don’t do anything that would be embarrassing if it “accidentally” went live (cursing, picking your nose, etc.).
- Don’t repeat the question! This isn’t a huge deal in a live studio setting, but when the interviewer is doing a pre-recorded thing, don’t repeat their questions, or back into your answer. Just answer the question succinctly. More than once, I’ve seen an editor “snip” the first part of someone’s quote out-of-context, and then that’s the “official” quote used as part of the story. So none of that “Hmm. I know it looks that way, but…” Instead, just jump into the thing you really need to say.
- Mute that phone. Or even better, turn it off. Once, my phone was muted during a live TV interview … but it started buzzing in my pocket, and I had to turn it off on-air. Sorta embarrassing!
Now – go out there, get on the news, and share good stuff about your library!