In the last few years I have been very lucky to interview some fascinating people on camera. Mainly live shows that as profile interviews have lasted 30 minutes or so. These included: – astronauts from NASA – a former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy – Doctor Allison Cronin of the Monkey World rescue centre – Charles Tobias, President of Pusser’s Rum. Also successful authors and those writers just beginning their careers.
Some had been media trained for their particular job, but for many it was their first experience of being live in front of a camera.
Today there are a number of options available for online interviews that are filmed with YouTube and other platforms offering access to millions of viewers.
I do suggest that you get a couple of radio interviews under your belt first as it will boost your confidence before facing a camera. I went to the extreme to get my nerve up. I applied to The Weakest Link in the UK and was accepted as a contestant. I managed to make it to the 6th round and was voted off… Tactically of course!!
Whether you are facing the several cameras of a major network programme or a one to one interview with one camera, you still need to pay attention to visual details.
In my last blog, I covered the radio interview which can be daunting enough. A microphone and thousands of listeners can be a challenge. But, if you are an author, going on camera offers you a fantastic opportunity to visually promote your book and with graphics these days you can still feature your E-book.
The preparation for the television interview is the same as for the radio interview and I suggest you pop back to yesterday’s post and make a note of the tips there.
You and the person doing the interview – preferably themselves and not their researcher, need to communicate with each other to ensure that this interview, which can be from 5 minutes to an in depth 30 minutes, is interesting, thought provoking and stimulating for those watching.
It is in everyone’s best interest to make this work so having sight of the questions you will be asked is essential so that you can make sure you have a practice run (or five) before the interview. Ask someone to stand in as the presenter and ask the questions until you feel you are able to give concise, interesting answers to them.
Here are some tips that might help you prepare for what is an amazing opportunity to get your current book and your writing in general in front of the buying public. If they have tuned into the show in the first place, they will be already interested in either you or the topic of your book and it is a captive audience.
IN THE TELEVISION STUDIO
I am much happier, to be honest, behind a microphone than I am in front of a camera. Some of my camera work was during a hiccup in my weight management and every extra pound showed. However, I have learned that you do not need to be beautiful, young and slim to come across well on screen. Personality and likability are much more important. That and of course being prepared! It is actually tough to get on mainstream television unless you are and author such as Wilbur Smith or J.K. Rowling, or have done something stunningly interesting or are asked to voice an expert opinion. With the move back to regionalisation the opportunities are even less and it is important to explore the new generation of local Internet television stations that sprung up in the last few years. You also now have an opportunity for interviews with book bloggers who use software to record face to face and whilst not the highest quality are still more compelling that voice only.
If guests that I invited onto my radio show were nervous you can imagine the reaction when I started contacting people to appear on one of our live television chat shows. Somehow the word “live” conjured up all sorts of horrors and I have been begged to record a show and put out later. Actually the way we recorded shows was as if they were “live” anyway as it saves hours of editing!
I always liked to talk through the interview before sitting down for sound checks and as in radio I always communicated a number of times with the guest by email to nail down the topics we are going to cover. This helps make sure that the viewers, the guest and myself got the most out of the experience. For me having a guest leave the studio wanting to come back for more and receiving positive comments from viewers is what it is about and well worth the effort of being prepared.
However, the addition of the cameras to the interview does add the need to think about what you are wearing and also body language as they need to be in line with what you are saying to the viewer. I once had a young woman turn up to talk about care for the elderly looking as if she was just out for a night clubbing! So here are a few tips on what to wear (check with the specific production team in advance as they may have a blue screen rather than green or different background graphics) and how to position yourself for your interview without looking too posed and rigid.
- You don’t need to look at the camera unless you wish to say something directly to the viewers. Look at your presenter and since 99 per cent of interviewers are not interrogators but keen to make you look interesting and great for the audience, you need to relax. One word of warning, if you keep sneaking looks at yourself in any monitors that are placed in the studio you will start to look a bit shifty.
- If you are near a camera, you must assume it is on and that your microphone is too. This means as on radio that you need to edit your general conversation otherwise you may give the viewers a slightly different image to the one you than intended. This does not mean you cannot be natural but you need to think about what you say carefully.
- Find a position that is comfortable – sit back in the seat of the sofa or the chair, cross your hands in front of you, knees together and lean slightly forward it will make you look more assured. I actually prefer being around a desk rather than a sofa but you will have to go with what is the usual set.
- There will usually be a sound check and everyone else will remain quiet when the producer asks you to test. If you are nervous it can be difficult to sustain dialogue for several minutes whilst levels are adjusted so start with what you ate for breakfast and work your way through the day until told to stop. If you are on the breakfast show then talk about what you ate yesterday.
- Don’t be afraid to move once the interview is underway – as long as you don’t continuously wave your hands around in the air they can be very useful to demonstrate a point you are making. Similarly if you are both on camera at the same time, nodding your head or moving your body in response to your interviewer’s questions or comments adds colour to your interview. There will usually be three or four cameras capturing different angles and feeding back to the production desk. Assume that you are in frame the whole time!
- Try to keep your movement smooth and graceful.
- Don’t forget to smile unless of course the topic of conversation at that point is about funeral directors or something similar. You do not need to grin, a slight smile and nod of the head makes you look confident and relaxed.
- These days the dress code is not as rigid, but with the use of green screens in the background it is a good idea to not wear a matching green blouse or shirt. Stripes tend to be distracting and anything with a small intricate design as it is hard for the camera to pick up. This goes for wearing lots of rings on fingers and dangling earrings offering another excuse for the viewer not to listen to your message. Another colour to avoid is white as it can glow. A light pastel colour is great but black and bright red can be too harsh. I find a block colour such as dark grey or black with a brighter scarf is quite flattering. For guys wear a mid- blue shirt or some of the grey shades. (Check with production team for their preferences)
- You want the viewers to focus on what you are saying which means that it is your face and hair that should get all the attention. (You don’t have to go to town, and at bigger stations there will be hair and makeup teams). This means that even if your legs are fantastic a short mini-skirt will definitely not enable the viewers to absorb your message you have so carefully prepared. (Obviously this applies to the ladies or if you are a Scot who is wearing a kilt)!
- If you are a slimmish man you can get away with leaving your jacket open and these days things are a little less formal so a shirt and optional tie is acceptable especially in the summer months. If you are on the plump side then keeping a well-fitting jacket closed will help slim down your silhouette.
- As long as your makeup is matt finished and natural looking there is no need to go overboard with theatrical paint. Men who have a bald spot can blot that with some powder and you can use slightly darker foundation to prevent your face being bleached out by the lights. As mentioned, most studios will have someone on hand to help you with that when you arrive.
- Returning to the radio interviews and strategies. If you are well prepared and have your three to five topics ready and practiced the supplied questions, you should not need notes. This is especially true if you have already sat down with your interviewer before the show. However, if you feel that nerves might make your hands shaky you can hold a copy of your book if in print or keep your hands loosely clasped in front of you. Get your main points out early and if you have more time you can always expand on them or use any remaining points to complement them.
- My top tip is to forget the audience and put yourself in the situation where you are having a two or three way, relaxed conversation with friends or colleagues, but remember you still want them to get the message you have prepared.
- You will need to up your energy levels and also the variety in your voice without shouting. This is particularly true for your first television interview when nerves will tend to flatten and soften your speech.
- Make sure you have a pit stop before sitting down for your interview and also have plenty of water – it can be hot under the lights and you may sweat and also become very thirsty with nerves.
- If you should be interviewed standing up try not to fidget by rocking back and forth or up and down on the soles of your feet. Do not put your hands in your pockets, keep them in front of you ready to use if you need to illustrate a particular point.
- At all times remember that this one interview could be the starting point of a regular guest spot. By having an opinion, by being interesting you could be asked back even if it is not about your particular area of expertise or because you have sent out a press release about your own product or service. Most of my regular guests began by coming on a show to talk about their projects but were interesting and dynamic enough to offer great contributions to other topics and discussions.
- At the end of the interview remain seated until you are told by the producer that the show is over and you will be assisted to remove your microphone.
- As with your radio interview, make sure that you have given the buying details of your book to the production staff in advance. A cover shot with availability either on Amazon or your own website.
- Some stations will make the footage available to you but it will probably be the link to online playback. You can also ask someone to record the interview so that you can watch later. Do not be overly critical. Practice does make nearly perfect.
When marketing your books, do not dismiss the community radio and Internet television stations when sending out promotional material. They may only serve a few thousand within their catchment area but 10,000 interested listeners or viewers who have tuned into listen or watch your interview will all have the ability to buy online. Local stations are also more inclined to promote a local author than the mainstream channels and stations.
©sallygeorginacronin Media Training the Manual
I hope that you have found useful and I will be back next week with posts on how to attract some more local attention. I look forward to your feedback.. thanks Sally