How to prepare for a media interview

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Being interviewed on TV or on the radio for the first time can be thrilling and nerve-racking at the same time. Is there anything you can do to prepare and make the most out of your media appearance? “Yes there is”, says Martin Luhan, the Czech TV and radio personality, whom I had a conversation with recently. Here’s a few great tips I extracted for you from the original interview conducted in Czech

 

Do's

  • Speak to the moderator: If you’re one of those people who thinks “Why prepare if I already know my topic inside out and have no way of anticipating the questions?”, then you may want to reconsider. According to Martin, at least a basic preparation is essential and can go a long way in helping you give a great interview. Speak to the moderator in advance and find out a) about the program and b) about the listeners and what they care about c) duration of the interview. This will give you invaluable information about things your listeners may be interested in or want to learn about your topic and the time you have to get your message across. 
  • Think of your goals & key idea: What’s your goals for the interview? What ideas/feelings/emotions you want to leave the listeners with? What’s the big idea you want to convey? Think about these points and have your supporting argumentation ready. It’ll help you stay focused during the interview. If you want to make some notes and take them with you, that’s fine but don’t bring along a document binder ;) Not only it’s bound to be noisy and could distract your audience but you’ll get lost in all that information and get more nervous.

  • Images speak louder than words, show it! If you have something to show, show it. If you have a story to tell (your own or your customer’s), say it. If you are interviewed on TV about a new app you designed for instance, you can do a demo. Tell the listeners what kind of problems & situations the app can help them resolve and show them how. The point is to make your audience quickly grasp the big idea and relate to it in their own way.
  • Keep it short and sweet: I know, it’s very tempting. You’re an expert and love talking about your subject. But your listeners do not need to know every single detail. Less is more to get your point across. If you offer too much information, people may get confused, loose interest in your message and mentally (or literally) “switch off”. Listen to the questions, stay focused on your message, be brief, to the point and avoid jargon. You can think in tweets - if you only had 140 characters to express your idea, what would you say? 

  • Let yourself be guided by the moderator: When the moderator interrupts you, do not worry, do not get upset. A good moderator is simply trying to help you to get your message across as quickly as possible and make it entertaining and relevant for the audience. 
  • Get in the right state of mind! When on the radio, your voice is your only instrument, use it wisely! Unless you plan to do interviews on regular basis, there’s no need to worry about getting any specific voice training. But there are things you should do in order to animate your voice. You have to get yourself in the right state of mind. If you feel passionate and enthusiastic about your topic, step into that emotion, it will reflect in your voice. Keep your throat well hydrated, have a glass of water always at hand. 

  • You’re not nervous, you’re excited, ok? The only difference between fear and excitement is the way you think about it. For the body it’s the exact same thing. Use your nervous energy to your advantage, frame it mentally as an excitement. Think about your interview as a great opportunity to share something that matters to you with others. How exciting! Feel the excitement and others will feel it too! If after that you still feel a little nervous, it doesn’t matter! It’s better to be perceived as a nervous “enthusiast” than just nervous. Another thing you can do to help with nerves is hold something in your hand for instance (pencil etc). Drink plenty of water so that your mouth don’t get dry. 
  • This is your chance to make a difference. Enjoy it! You have been invited to the program. The media is interested in you and for a moment you’re the star of the day! Take the opportunity to make a difference for yourself and your audience! 

 

Don’ts

  • Don't script & memorise your answers: You may also be one of those people who like to have everything prepared in advance in the hope of having morel control over the situation. Maybe you’re tempted to request a list of questions from the moderator and script your answers and memorise them. Not a good idea! That is unless you want to kill the spontaneity and flow of the conversation. What’s more, having your lines memorised will make you feel uncomfortable and you may even get totally thrown off when the moderator decides to change the order of the questions or god forbid (!), add other questions spontaneously. 
  • Don’t be hard on yourself: The moderator does not expect you to know everything and have answers to the world’s most pressing issues. You’ll be asked questions related to your field of expertise, nothing more or nothing less. 

  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”: If you get an unexpected question and do not know the answer, do not try to invent it on the spot or lie. It’s OK to say “I don’t know xxx because I am not directly responsible but I can find out or you can find this on our website etc… 

  • Don’t underestimate the power of your image: TV interviews require more preparations than radio interviews because people actually watch you. Your image is important, it can support your message or quite the contrary. Consider your choice of clothing, colours etc, you want to look and feel great! Be aware that some patterns do not work well for TV - eg. stripes! It may be good to ask the moderator what colours/visual elements to avoid to keep your image nice and neat. Careful about any strong visual element that could distract the audience from your message (green nails, stain on your trousers, pencil line on your face…)

  • Don't focus on yourself: Do not imagine the crowds of people who could be potentially watching you, that will only make you more nervous. Focus solely on the moderator and their questions. 

  • Don’t underrate your audience: Avoid using phrases such as “I am not going to into details on this as the audience might not understand”. Also avoid phrases such as “In my opinion, I believe, I think, in my view”, it goes without saying that you’re expressing your opinion.

  • Don't drink ;) Do not use alcohol to keep the nerves in check. Yes, alcohol has a calming effect but it’ll make you a worse speaker. It not only dries out your throat, but it impacts your memory, mental processes and your ability to stay focused. Water is your best bet :)

 

Typical structure of a media interview  

And finally, this is a structure a moderator would typically use to conduct the interview. 

  1. About you 
  2. Big picture (What is this idea/product/service good for? For whom? Why?)
  3. What does it do specifically? 
  4. How did you get to do this? 
  5. How can we take advantage of it? 
  6. Show us, give us a concrete example, tell us a story
  7. What’s the success/achievements of this so far? 
  8. What are the next steps? What’s your plans for the future?