10 Pointers – Ace Your Next TV Interview

Andy Warhol is famous, among other things, for saying that everyone has his or her 15-minutes of fame in a lifetime. And it’s truer than not. Unfortunately, some of that fame can come in the form of an unflattering video gone viral: that TV interview you did in which you flubbed your comments so badly the audience wanted to sign you up for speech therapy, or the one in which your little-patterned tie looked as though it was crawling with insects, or your earrings jangled so much the host couldn’t hear you, or your mobile phone rang…

Communications — and these days it’s largely via some sort of media — is crucial to effective leadership. Having sound ideas without the ability to put them across is a sorry state of affairs, but can be rectified. The secret is to put at least as much time into your delivery as you do into writing up your ideas in the first place. Good ideas sell themselves, indeed, but even good ideas need the right packaging, especially today when new innovative disruptive ideas are springing up all over the place, vying for attention.

Acting Like a Leader On-Camera

My four decades of conducting TV interviews — including many international business leaders while with CNBC in London and Paris — have taught me something about what it takes to be effective on-camera, particularly in a studio interview, and I share some of those pointers here…
1. Credibility is king. Do you own your topic? Know what you’re talking about? Believe it? Can you summarize the topic of the interview in two sentences? The most important elements in effective communications know what you’re talking about and doing so with enthusiasm.
2. You’re the expert. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been asked to participate in the interview in the first place. Don’t let performance fear undermine your self-confidence. And remember that you know more about the topic than your host.
3. Keep things simple: short sentences, oft-repeated to make your point. Don’t stray or allow yourself to be led away from the topic. “Let’s come back to the real topic” is a good way to get off a sidetrack.
4. There are no ‘take-overs;” the journalist will be looking for a sound bite; the way you craft your answer will give them one YOU want them to use. Example: Q — How do you plan to increase your operating margins next quarter? A — Well, on the operational side we can create efficiencies and on the finance side we can find a better way to use our cash. Better A: We will be increasing our sales staff so we can get out there and sell more because our market research shows there’s still a lot of untapped demand for our services.
5. Slumping undercuts your authority o-camera. Sit up straight, shoulders down and back. And if you’re wearing a jacket, pull it down in the back so you can sit on it; this prevents it from bunching up (and no. It’s not just comic relief from that famous movie about broadcast news some years ago…)
6. Speaking of clothing…stay away from black, white and red. Those colors contrast with your skin and play havoc with studio lighting. Stick with Navy, gray or camel and pastels. Avoid tiny patterns or anything iridescent. Yes, this means shiny patterned ties, too.
7. Be conversational, not confrontational — even if the reporter seems aggressive; this is an interview, not an inquisition.
8. Speak the truth. Especially important in this era of fake news. If you don’t know the answer don’t try to fake it. “I’ll have to look into that,” is acceptable, as is “I’m not I a position to answer that.” And don’t be pushed into speculating by a reporter on a fishing expedition. It’s OK to say, ”I really can’t speculate.”
9. Look at something — preferably the reporter. Don’t look away or down at your feet; this makes you look sneaky. The camera accentuates small moves, so collect yourself.
10. Speak more slowly than feels “normal.” You’d be surprised at how fast you actually speak. Enunciation is important – especially as your audience may not be native English-speakers.

And…something obvious but oft-forgotten: turn off your mobile phone!

Editor’s Note: This Article originally appeared on Forbes and is published here with Author permission.


Shellie Karabell
Shellie Karabell
Shellie Karabell has spent more than 40 years in international broadcast journalism, including executive news and management positions in her native USA, Europe, the USSR/Russia and the Middle East for ABC News/WTN, Dow Jones Broadcast, PBS, AP Broadcast and CNBC, responsible for news coverage, bureau management, and budgets of several million dollars. She has specialized in business news since 1982, covering hundreds of tier-one international companies and executives. As a TV correspondent in Europe, her coverage included the release of the American hostages from Iran in 1981; the Pan Am 103 crash in Lockerbie, Scotland,1988; the civil war in Lebanon in 1983; the civil war in Yugoslavia in 1991-92, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. She is a recognized expert on Russia, having started her coverage there in 1986 (including interviewing Boris Yeltsin and Edvard Shevardnadze) and continuing to the present day, and living/working in Moscow from 1996-1998 for ABC-WTN. Before moving to Europe in 1983, she was a chief news editor and field reporter for ABC Radio Network News in New York, and the business anchor for Satellite News Channel. From 2009-2013 she was Director of Media Relations and Editor-in-Chief of INSEAD Knowledge, the business school's online business magazine. Born in Philadelphia, PA, she has a BA in English from Pennsylvania State University and masters work in political science (Penn State) & Russian History (NYU) and lives in Paris.

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