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More Tips on How to Be a
Great Spokesperson on TV

By Marsha Friedman

Now let me share the next 10 tips that will help you capitalize on the valuable air-time at your disposal, when you appear as a guest.

1) Be mindful of what you wear. If you have a favorite plaid dress, checkered suit or white blouse keep it in the closet the day of your interview!  Small and detailed patterns have the propensity to look like they’re vibrating on-camera while white clothing can be problematic with lighting. Instead, try wearing dark or neutral colored solids as they will create a distinct outline on-screen. Also, be sure to seek out shades that complement your skin tone, hair and eye color so you don’t look washed out. Once you find the right attire, give it the once over and make sure there are no missing buttons or stray threads.   You want your appearance to reflect the high level of professionalism and expertise you bring to the table.

2) Remove the clutter from your environment. If a television crew is scheduled to interview you at your office or home, make sure the space is clean and orderly and a picture of professionalism!  Looking organized adds to your credibility. Also make sure your desk and bookshelves are cleared of any overly personal items or knick-knacks that could distract from the interview. I know that religious, sports or political paraphernalia may be near and dear to your hearts – but, if your audience doesn’t share your allegiance, they may be turned off to you before you even open your mouth.

3) Silence noises and potential interruptions. Before your interview, silence as many ‘noise-makers’ as possible. Make sure to turn off your cell phone and turn down the ringer on your landlines. And, don’t forget to turn off the speakers on your computer. There’s nothing worse than being interrupted mid-sentence by the “pings” of new emails or instant messages. Now about those potential interruptions - if you’re at the office, let all of your colleagues know about the interview beforehand, not for bragging rights necessarily – but because you don’t want people barging into your office during the interview! These same rules apply at home. But, of course at home we have other potential interruptions to think about – our children and of course our loving pets. Create a safe, and quiet, space for them during your interview - out of the camera’s way!   Go one step further and put a sign on your front door asking that people refrain from knocking or ringing the doorbell. In the end you don’t want any loud or unexpected interruptions to ruin a good sound-bite!

4) The camera is always on. No matter where you are being interviewed, always assume the camera and your microphone is on unless you are told otherwise by the crew. An interview is not over until you are given a clear instruction by the floor manager that it is. If you don’t, your snarky comments, eye rolls or yawns will be seen by your audience and then watch your credibility crumble! Remember the CNN anchor who was unwittingly broadcasting from the ladies room because her mic was still on? Talk about an embarrassing pit stop!

5) Listen to and follow the crew’s instructions. No one knows the “ins and outs” of the show you’re appearing on better than that show’s crew. Trust these men and women to lead you through the interview, and they will ensure that you sound, and look, great!  Take their advice to heart - these people are experts in creating the perfect setting and making your conversation with the host(s) come across as natural as possible. And remember, the camera already adds extra pounds, so don’t ignore the photographer’s suggestions or you could end up looking larger than you want!

6) Don’t overdo the makeup ladies…and gentlemen? Yes, both women and men are repeat offenders in the “too much makeup” category. If you have an on-set interview, don’t go to the station with a full face of makeup. Most shows are prepared to give you a quick once-over. If you’re being interviewed outside, your makeup should look normal and everyday. Shallow as it may sound, it’s hard for viewers to take you seriously if they’re too busy zeroing in on a face that’s overly made-up.

7) Check your props. As TV is all about visuals (no matter what your topic is) it’s more than likely you’ll have some kind of props for your interview. The trick is to take stock of them before the interview to make sure they’re in good shape (no tattered edges) and that all parts are in tact. For example, if you’re doing a cooking segment and will be using their stove – make sure you’re familiar with it. If you’re conducting a “how-to” demonstration, make sure all of your equipment and tools are clean and at the ready. If you require electricity for your demonstration, make sure there are available outlets and you test them before the interview. You want to make sure everything you need for your interview is in top shape and working order. If your prop is your book, take it on-air and hold it on your lap with the front cover facing the audience. Props are a great way to interest an audience, so make sure you use them properly.  

8) Stay seated!  When your interview draws to a close and it appears that the camera has stopped focusing on you, don’t take off your mic!  When your interview is over, it’s the job of the floor manager to help you take off the mic – and give you the all clear - at which time you’re free to go. By leaving before instructed you could run the risk of ruining a perfectly good camera shot while coming off as unprofessional and confused. By sitting until given the cue, you will ensure that your interview has a clean cut ending.

9) Speak in a conversational manner. The best interviews are those where you sound very natural. When people get nervous about being on camera, they tend to speak too fast and sometimes tense up so their breathing doesn’t sound natural - all of which can be very distracting for the audience. To combat this – first thing to do when you arrive at the studio is look around and get as familiar with the room as possible. Introduce yourself to not only the host and producer, but the camera men as well. Make yourself comfortable as you would in any new and strange environment. When the cameras are on, listen carefully to the questions being asked and try to answer as you would in any normal conversation.   Having a natural conversation will make you look like the ultimate pro!  

10) No arguing!  Your goal as a guest is to win over the audience; something that can be tricky if a question makes you feel angry or combative. And that can happen, especially if your topic is controversial. If you’ve been ambushed with a nasty question, remain dignified and answer calmly. Losing your temper won’t boost your credibility; plus, it makes you look defensive which is definitely not the way to promote your message.

11) Share Valuable Information. To build your credibility and keep the attention of the audience make sure to concisely present information that is of value to them. Fully develop quality sound bites before the interview, making sure to omit any unnecessary information, or "segment clutter." Remember that the audience can only digest so much during a 5 minute segment, so don't overload them with useless information. If you provide quality the audience will surely "stay tuned."

 12) Remember Important Names. This is a fundamental rule. Make sure you know and remember the name of the producer that you booked the interview with and the host that will be interviewing you. Its good manners and shows respect for them and their position. If you forget the host's name when you are on-air you will not only look foolish, but the chances of you being asked back may be greatly reduced.

13) Don't Sound Like an Infomercial. Your goal as a guest is to communicate the message of your book in an engaging fashion while tactfully mentioning your book's title or company name as well.  Mention this often enough so that it is impressed on the minds of the audience, but not in a way that will sound like an infomercial. Be sure to plug in a natural and tactful way.

14) Do Your Homework…Use the Web. With a few exceptions, most television stations have a website full of valuable information about their anchors and shows. Do a web search using the shows name, the station call letters and/or city as your keywords and you will find the official site. If the show is strictly a morning news format, you will be able to learn more about the hosts in addition to being able to watch some previous interviews.   Afternoon formats generally have host information as well as segment videos in order for you to get a feel for the format of the show. This research will help you prepare for a good interview.

15) Develop and Use Visuals. Before you start pitching, think about what sort of tips, statistics, graphs, on-air demonstrations, or pictures that will really bring your message to life…visually. Remember that TV is an interactive medium and producers relay on visual elements during guest segments. To grab the attention of the overworked and over-saturated producer, design and present your own. This is a great way to land an appearance, and once you are on-air it is a great way to engage the audience in your message.

Read other articles and learn more about Marsha Friedman.

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