Imagine yourself facing a TV camera, someone sitting in the chair opposite you, asking you questions. Sounds hard to imagine? You may be surprised.
Landing a radio or TV appearance isn’t so far-fetched. All it takes is the right person recognizing something you’ve said or written somewhere, and contacting you for an interview. This is exactly what happened to me a few months ago when some folks from the History Channel contacted me about an article I’d written over at my own blog, Top Secret Writers.
A few months before that, I was contacted by folks over at Vision TV, a Canadian TV station, to do an interview with them as well. Before that, it was the radio show The Voice of Russia. Each appearance brought with it a number of mistakes and important lessons learned about what it takes to perform a good radio or TV appearance.
If you ever find yourself in the situation where you’ve been contacted for such an interview, I have a few important tips that will help you use technology to make your experience much easier and far more enjoyable.
1. Silence Your Phone
Sitting down for an interview on TV or on the radio requires more preparation than you may realize. I remember when I was being interviewed on the TV station Voice of Russia, my young children suddenly broke out into a loud argument in the other room. Given, I had locked myself in my bedroom to reduce the noise as much as possible, but the argument could be clearly heard over the radio. Very embarrassing moment.
It was also a moment when I realized just how important it is to orchestrate the quietest environment possible when you are doing an interview. Getting rid of any potential source of noise is one of the most important ways to prepare for the event. Whether it’s holing yourself up in a room for a radio interview, or sitting down at a TV studio for an on-screen interview, the last thing you want to happen in the middle of that interview is for your phone to ring from a phone call, or ding from a text message.
So whether you’re setting yourself up to get on a sixty minute phone interview, or you’re sitting down in the hot seat in front of a TV camera, take the five seconds to switch off your phone. Don’t even use silent/vibrate mode, because the microphone will pick up the vibrating sound too. Turn it off.
Oh, and choose a room that is truly quiet. Don’t take any chances with background noise.
2. Display Speaking Prompts Using a Tablet
After doing dozens of phone interviews, and a few TV interviews, I’ve found that the most difficult part of answering questions on mic or on screen is not only remembering what you wanted to say in response to the questions, but more importantly the facts and details that you just don’t want to forget when you’re sitting in the hot seat. And trust me – when you’ve got a huge TV camera pointed directly at your face, it’s very easy for your mind to go completely blank.
So what’s a good solution? Luckily, for most interviews, you’re usually provided with a list of questions ahead of time. You could always jot down notes about your answers to these questions on a note pad (which I did on my first TV interview), or write notes down on index cards (which I did on my second TV interview), but the truth is that neither of these solutions work very well. Whether you’re turning a notebook page or flipping through index cards, you’re going to make all kinds of noise that the microphone is going to pick up on. The sound guy is sure to confiscate your notes.
Instead, type up short and simple sentences that you can display on your tablet. Use a note-taking app that lets you display the notes in large font. Place your tablet just outside the view of the TV camera, and you can tap the screen to change screens and move on to the notes for the next question. Make sure to turn off any battery-saving screen savers you may have enabled, so that you can leave the screen displaying your notes within arms reach.
3. Don’t Look at the Camera and Repeat the Questions
While this may not be specifically related to using technology during your interview, if you’re doing a TV interview you should be aware of a couple of tips that most people have to learn the hard way. There are three things you want to be sure to do when you’re sitting in front of a TV camera and talking to an interviewer. These all have to do with where you look, and how you answer the questions.
First, don’t ever look directly at the camera. Most TV interviews are set up to be a conversation between you and an off-camera interviewer. There are people whose sole job is to take the footage of you and edit it so that the best parts of what you say are portrayed as though you’re talking to someone else – not to the audience. When you look at the camera, it destroys that atmosphere of the audience simply observing the conversation. So, don’t do it.
Second, maintain eye contact. It was during my first TV interview with the Canadian Vision TV that the producer told me there are psychology studies that show people tend to trust a person more, if that person can maintain eye contact. That means looking directly at the interviewer when you answer the question, and not looking off to the side or at the floor.
Finally, always try to incorporate the question into your answer. The reason for this is because people who are editing the final cut will likely not be using anything the interviewer has said. In fact, the or she may not even be fitted for a mic. They are recording what you have to say, and if you repeat the question or somehow restate it, it makes it much easier for the editors to create the context for your answer. It also comes across as much more professional when you restate the question, ensuring that you fully understand the question before answering.
4. Record Yourself Asking Questions
So, how can you use technology to perfectly do all of those things? Simple, use your phone or tablet to record yourself answering the questions.
This may sound silly, but you will be shocked when you watch yourself answering the questions. Didn’t realize you had that odd nervous tic, did you? Didn’t realize that you say “um” after every third word? These are the things you’ll notice when you’re watching yourself on video, actually answering the questions.
Continue practicing over and over until not only can you answer the questions in detail without glancing more than once at your tablet notes, but you can do so while looking straight ahead, without using words like “uh” and “um”. The truth is that giving an expert interview isn’t about being gifted in front of the camera. It’s about practicing so often that when the time comes for you to appear on camera or on the radio, you are so well rehearsed that you make the whole thing look easy.
5. Find Good Quotes to Use
Few things impress people as much as the ability to make use of a famous quote as part of an interview answer. It can be motivational quotes or even just famous movie quotes, but it’s a very good idea to find a few of them that apply specifically to the subject that you’re going to be asked about. There are plenty of quotation websites out there that you can use to search for quotes that apply to the topic at hand.
Make use of them. Pull out some truly remarkable ones, and if your memory isn’t good enough to memorize them word for word, just jot down the quote on your note-taking app on your tablet that you’re going to use during your interview. One glance at the notes on your tablet screen should bring the quote to mind – allowing you to call it up during your answer. You’ll come across as quite the intellectual!
6. Meditation Before the Interview
I know it sounds crazy – but I once read that meditating before giving a presentation can dramatically improve your ability to deliver. I didn’t believe it until I tried it myself, and it worked. Not only did it work, but the difference between my performance when I didn’t meditate versus when I did was so dramatic that I eventually loaded a meditation app on my tablet for this very purpose. Ten to fifteen minutes before I’m due to give a presentation or an interview, I will go some place quiet, plug earphones into my tablet, and take some time to still my mind.
The results are remarkable. My understanding of this concept comes from a documentary I watched a while back the described the public speaking anxiety as a form of fight-or-flight instinct that kicks in when you’re faced with so many other human eyes gazing upon you. Part of this response can actually be a good thing – elevated heartbeat, sweaty palms – these are part of the thrill of public speaking. The ability to harness those emotions and put them to good use during an interview stems from two things – proper preparation using the methods I’ve described earlier in this article, and practicing focused meditation a few minutes before you’re due to take the hot seat.
If you take the time to do all of these things, you’re nearly guaranteed to come across as the expert that you are.