How to Perform Successfully During a Broadcast Television Interview

By Geoffrey James

In previous newsletters we’ve dealt with the basics of how to cope with reporters. You’re now ready for the big time – broadcast television. While it might seem unlikely that you’re going to end up on television, with cable networks and Internet broadcasts doubling in number each year you never know when a successful sale or a big win might turn out to be newsworthy enough to get the attention of a camera crew.

You’d better be prepared to know what to do if and when this happens to you. We know of one sales manager who was asked to appear on a business program on a local ABC affiliate in New Hampshire. During the interview, which was broadcast throughout his sales territory, the sales manager wore a pair of half-lens reading glasses that made him look like Old Mother Hubbard. He also kept tapping his foot during the interview as if he were bored or nervous. This was not the image his ultra-high-tech firm wanted to portray. He kept his job, but was the butt of in-house humor for the next six months.

Fortunately, it’s easy to look and sound good on television if you follow the rules. Here they are.

Rule 1. Look the part. An appropriate appearance makes the message more convincing. Conversely, a poor appearance can have a negative influence on an audience. In most cases you should dress conservatively; blue or dark gray business clothing is best. Wear a solid color shirt or blouse, preferably light blue, as white tends to reflect light onto your face. Keep ties or bows simple; a touch of red is effective. Don’t wear flashy jewelry or leave bulky objects in your pockets. Don’t wear sunglasses or light-sensitive glasses, and forget those half-lens reading glasses.

Rule 2. Focus on the host. A television studio can be intimidating, what with the bright lights, equipment and technicians moving around, and the weirdness of seeing yourself on a monitor. Don’t let the environment unnerve you. Try to concentrate only on the host. Keep your eyes on your interviewer throughout the show. Remember that a typical television studio has more than one camera and you often will not know which one is being used at any given time. Assume you are always on camera.

Rule 3. Keep your energy up. Use natural gestures, facial expressions and voice inflection to your advantage. Because you’re in the software business, you’ve got an exciting and interesting story to tell. Tell it well with the enthusiasm that’s part of your job. Remember that sudden body movements, such as standing up or leaning back in your chair can take you out of camera range. If you must change positions, do so deliberately and slowly. Sitting erect and leaning slightly forward in your chair gives the impression that you are alert and in control of the situation.

Rule 4. Keep your cool. Don’t lose your temper or get flustered if the interview seems to be going poorly. Just continue to focus on the interviewer and let the interview move forward. During the interview, avoid nervous movements such as swiveling in your chair, moving your feet or gripping the arms of the chair. All of these are distracting and the needless movements give a defensive appearance. Remember the cameras might be rolling even when you think they’re not, so don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want your customers to hear.

The above is based on training the newsletter author received as a public spokesperson for Digital Equipment Corporation’s software business.