The interview coaching everyone *actually* needs

4 minutes read

Picture this scene: it’s 2020 and a pandemic has raged across the land, driving everyone indoors to bake sourdough, stockpile groceries and relearn how to wash their hands.

Sensing a shift in mood and behaviour, media outlets also soften their approach to news interviews.

Out are the demands for studio appearances, formal pieces to camera and established “talking heads”; in are webcams and smartphones, everyday experts and new media voices.

Two years on this relaxed interview approach continues, granting access to anyone who wants to join the news agenda.

Great for those with knowledge to share and valuable contributions to make, but a daunting prospect for those without any media training or experience.

To help you navigate your first media interview – be it a quick call with the local paper or a starring Zoom role on national TV – we have some simple tips and tricks to help you shine in the media spotlight.

What am I going to say?

If someone is only going to recall one thing from your interview, what do you want it to be?

Before you dial into your interview, write down three to five Key Messages – essentially, the core messages and facts you want your target audience to hear and remember.

These should cover the important basics like Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Mention them frequently and naturally throughout your interview.

How am I going to say it?

The tone and manner you use when delivering your Key Messages will influence your interview, whether you’re speaking on camera or not.

Try a few simple speaking techniques to help articulate your messages:

  • Speak clearly, succinctly and eloquently.
  • Watch the pace of your delivery – too fast and listeners may miss key points, too slow and they may lose interest.
  • Keep the tone of your voice measured and neutral.
  • Pause before answering to gather your thoughts – a second or two is barely perceptible to listeners but will make a world of difference to you.
  • Pause briefly between sentences so they don’t run together.

What happens if I accidentally say the wrong thing?

Stop and correct yourself.

If it’s a pre-recorded interview, stop and restart your sentence from the beginning. Editors and journalists will appreciate having a ‘clean take’ they can use.

If it’s a live interview, only backtrack far enough to correct your fumbled words before continuing with your point.

How do I navigate a video call or webcam interview?

You may be wearing pyjama pants off-screen, but treat everything on-screen with the polish and professionalism of an in-studio interview. To avoid becoming an inadvertent viral sensation, follow these tips:

  • Test your camera ahead of time, removing filters and virtual backgrounds.
  • Test your microphone and unmute it just before the interview commences.
  • Dress up to present a neat and professional appearance.
  • Use earbuds or in-ear headphones with a microphone where possible. This delivers clearer sound quality and limits ambient noise.
  • Elevate your webcam to face height, where a TV camera would be positioned.
  • Select a neutral backdrop, free of distractions.
  • Find a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted – a lockable room is best, but a quick word to your housemates or a sign on the door will suffice.

Where do I look? What do I do with my hands?

How you say something has as much impact as what you say.

Look straight down the barrel of the camera, whether that’s a professional DSLR, your phone’s camera or your computer’s webcam. Staring off into space, darting your eyes from side to side or visibly reading notes in front of you all distract audiences and detract from your Key Messages.

Present a warm personality and keep a positive or neutral expression on your face.

If you naturally talk with your hands, don’t try to fight it but do try to tame any larger movements and keep them under control.

I made it! What do I do now?

Thank the journalist for their time, either immediately after the interview or via email, if the interview is live. If you quoted data, research or facts, email them a link to the information you discussed. This not only verifies your statements but enables them to easily double-check the data in the context of their news story.

You *could* also extend your 15 minutes of fame with some savvy social media promotion…

Media Training

Never stutter in front of the shutter.

Do you have questions about Key Messages? Need a little one-on-one Q&A coaching? Perhaps you want to practice in front of a camera before your big moment? The Aruga Guide to Media Training is a personalised program tailored specifically to your interview needs. We can gently step you through the basics or push you past your comfort zone, in-person or online.