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Don’t freak out. This is how to smash your next TV interview

Ginger Gorman and Sue White

A TV producer calls you an invites you on her program. Despite your quickening pulse, you agree.

But after hanging up the phone, you start getting nervous. You’re due to arrive at the TV studio in two hours’ time for an interview. Yes, we know. It seems terrifying. The first thing to do? Stay calm.

The truth is that doing a great TV interview isn’t brain surgery. With a few key preparation techniques and a smattering of insider information, you can really sail through this experience.

And once you’ve done it once, all the same strategies will apply the next time you’re invited on TV. The more you do it, the easier it will become.

As we’ve said before, being a great media performer delivers huge benefits for individuals, small businesspeople and organisations. A higher media profile will often increase sales for your business or product while simultaneously solidifying your reputation as an expert in your field. Winning!

This means it’s worth investing the time and effort to become “good talent.” These are the star interviewees: the people who get invited back again and again.

While there are some things all journalists want out of their ‘talent,’ some tips and tricks are particular to TV.

How do you shine on the small screen? Here are our four top tips:

Have a good chat with the producer before your interview

The person who calls you to invite to onto their program will be a TV producer. Make sure you ask this person questions such as:

  • How long the interview will be
  • What kind of things they’ll ask you during the segment
  • You may also want to ask where the interview will take place, what time they need you there and if there’s a parking spot for you

An ABC TV producer we know and love has this extra tip for you: “Make yourself available for a pre-interview with a producer BEFORE your actual on-screen interview. It will help the program hone their questions so they can get the best possible interview from you.”

Think hard about what you’ll wear

Just to be clear, this isn’t about fashion. TV is a visual medium and you don’t want viewers distracted by your outfit. You want them to concentrate on what you’re saying. Did you catch Russell Brand wearing this tiger jumper on The Project? Yes, that’s what we’re saying. It’s charming, but distracting.

DO

  • Wear blue or pastel colours
  • Wear simple, bold jewellery (if desired)

DON’T

  • Wear stripes, herringbone, checks or intricate designs. They can strobe on TV
  • Wear jangly or very shiny jewellery or shiny hair products

Our ABC TV producer friend says: “Research the program and prepare your outfit accordingly. Don’t rock up to a serious current affairs program wearing a t-shirt. Wear a suit. Similarly, don’t show up to a TV shoot with a funky youth channel wearing a suit. You’ll look like a goose.”

Don’t skimp on the prep

The most crucial thing to doing a successful TV interview is to prepare beforehand. Everyone prepares differently: we believe there are numerous steps to doing it well, but the key is twofold. Think about your three points and write them down and ALSO have a think about how you’ll answer the “difficult” question (smart media talent knows there’ll always be at least one).

Now, when you’re actually on TV

Stay calm and relaxed

Ignore the busy set and focus on the presenter/journalist. Use the presenter’s name if you can: that will personalise things and you’ll come across as engaging and personable. Body language is important – so sit in a relaxed way and don’t fidget or wave your hands around.

Just to give you an idea of how grating it can be if you do fidget, our TV producer mate says: “We have a chair that spins on the set. When people are nervous they sit in it and spin and rock themselves back and forth, which is horrible on TV. I HATE it.”

These tips should get you started. But if you’re keen to really nail your next TV interview and understand how to tell your story in the media, on all the different platforms (TV, radio, print and online) AND to put your newfound skills into practice (yes, via a grilling from two working journalists), book into Canberra’s upcoming Media Bootcamp.

This one-day, personalised (maximum of eight people, with two trainers) and intensive media training on Monday, December 11 has just a few spots left, so be quick. Clients who mention “HerCanberra” when they book get a $50 discount.

Find more information about us and “Media Bootcamp” here.

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Ginger Gorman

Ginger Gorman is a fearless and multi award-winning social justice journalist. She has an innate ability to connect and communicate with some of the most interesting and marginalised people in our community. Ginger works hard to translate those untold stories into powerful and insightful journalism. She regularly writes stories, makes radio and TV for media outlets such as: news.com.au, Fairfax online, The Guardian, The Big Smoke, HerCanberra and the ABC. You can follow Ginger on Twitter @GingerGorman.

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Sue White

Sue White is an Australian freelance journalist whose work has been published everywhere from ABC to Vogue. She writes weekly for the SMH and The Age, and has interviewed everyone from media doyenne Ita Buttrose through to Julian Assange’s lawyer. Sue also knows life on the other side of the microphone, and is currently the resident travel writing expert on ABC Evenings. Before choosing journalism ten years ago, Sue spent a decade as a communications specialist for organisations including The University of Sydney’s George Institute and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Today, government bodies and businesses often snap up her copywriting skills.

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