Do's and Don'ts for TV Interview

By Nonprofit Marketing ArizonaJuly 22, 2017

“Being on television” used to mean that a camera crew would come to your location to interview you, or that you would go down to the studio to appear on one of the local channel’s programs. Today, the definition of “being on TV” is much more than that.  

Video is everywhere. Sometimes you may think you’re doing an interview with a print publication, but then the reporter pulls out his phone or a small camera and asks if he can tape the exchange to put on their website. That is also “being on TV” and all the same rules apply.  

Location. Print reporters are not professional photographers, so make sure you don’t have a pole in the background growing out of your head or a logo of your competitor behind you. If it is a professional crew, try to pick a place where you’re comfortable. Don’t do an interview behind your desk because it puts a barrier between you and the audience. If they try to position you outside with the sun shining in your eyes, try to negotiate a different location.  

Eye contact. Where do you look when doing a TV interview? At the reporter? At the camera? The answer is “it depends.” If the reporter is in the location with you, talk to her and ignore the camera. But if the reporter is in another location and you’re hearing the questions through an earpiece, look directly into the camera. Wherever you’re looking, make your eye contact strong and confident. Continually looking away or from side to side can make you look shifty. 

Facial expressions. You want to project warmth and friendliness on camera. Smiling is wonderful, if appropriate for the topic. A recent study of TED speakers found that those who smiled the most were perceived by the audience as being smarter. If the topic is serious, avoid frowning, which can come across as mean and angry. Instead, use an open face, with eyebrows slightly raised and horizontal wrinkles in your forehead. You’ll still appear serious, but also sincere and friendly.  

Gestures. Whether you’re sitting or standing, use gestures. They will make you feel more comfortable and look more comfortable. When standing, let your arms hang at your sides. If you clasp your hands behind your back or in front of you in the fig leaf position, you won’t use gestures and will come across as stiff or even untrustworthy.  

Posture. When sitting, lean slightly forward so you look caring and engaged. If you lean back comfortably, you will appear sloppy, uncaring, and even arrogant. Pick a chair that doesn’t swivel or you will end up moving back and forth nervously. If standing, find a comfortable balance on both feet without rocking.  

Appearance. Solid colors work best on TV. Avoid busy prints and plaids. Bright colors look better than white, black or pastels. Women, avoid distracting jewelry and scarves, and don’t overdo the make-up. Check the mirror before you go in front of the camera. Make sure your hair is combed, your collar is straight, and you don’t have any spinach in your teeth.   

Most of all, RELAX. I know, easy to say, not so easy to do. Like anything else, practice will help you improve. Good luck! See you on TV.