Three tips for a successful on-camera interview

By Gabrielle Perret

Sometimes it’s easy to spot exactly what went wrong in a bad interview! Interviewees looking into the camera when they should be looking at the interviewer, over zealous hand gestures or a stiff body, rambling answers, being caught off guard and stumbling around in a response, or worse — saying the wrong thing!

Here are some tips for getting your interviewees prepared, well spoken, and staying on their talking points:

Tip #1: Have natural and engaging body language.

When it goes wrong: Slouching shoulders, awkward hand gesturing, stiff body

How to get it right:

  • Hold a prep session and record it so the interviewee can see how they look on camera.
  • Offer written tips before the prep session, like:
    • Sit up straight
    • Look at interviewer when answering
    • Look at other panelists when they speak (not the camera!)
  • Use hand gestures strategically to emphasize your main points.
  • Offer feedback immediately after the prep session. Go over these tips again when viewing the video with your interviewee. Point out where they did well and what they should work on.
  • Advise appropriate clothing choices for the interview, including not to wear specific colors/patterns if they interfere with filming.

Tip #2: Get your message gets out there concisely and clearly!

When it goes wrong: Interviewee rambles, goes off topic or off message, stumbles when caught by surprise

How to get it right:

  • Lead with your main message, then explain or expand on it. This ensures your message will get out there in case the reporter shortens response time or interrupts with a follow up question during the response.
  • Limit written talking points to one liners, rather than pages of narrative.
  • Check with the reporter if there are time limits on interviewee’s responses (this can be the case for timed programs like podcasts!). Your interviewee will want to practice giving their response with a stopwatch to ensure they can get their message across in a restricted time frame.  
  • Interviewee should be mindful to take a pause between sentences when speaking. Often interviewees get excited about their programs and achievements and run their sentences together. This can be hard for a viewer to follow their response.

Tip #3: Keep responses on message. 

When it goes wrong: Answers are incomplete, wrong, off message, have a critical tone when it should be a positive tone

How to get it right:

  • Interviewees should stay on talking points, avoid speculating, and don’t improvise! If your interviewee chokes, instruct them to revert back to main message. Practice in prep sessions by giving them unexpected, off topic, and tough questions to get them used to how to best answer with their talking points.
  • Know your sensitive topics and issues up front. Interviewees should plan and practice how to use their talking points to navigate tricky questions.
  • Develop your list of vetted public speakers. Know who you can rely on to perform well  with a tough reporter.
  • Know your reporters. Send your seasoned interviewees to tough reporters and let newbees start out with those that ask more softball questions.
  • Touch base after interviews to go over what went well and lessons learned.
  • Keep track of who needs more media training before they’re back out there again. If needed, hold a second media prep session to specifically address concerns in a positive, supportive environment.