Before a TV Appearance, You
Need to Know . . .
by Ellen Ratner and Kathie
are booking a television interview, ask whether it will be taped or live. It
makes a difference. Interviews are often done live-to-tape, which means the
interview will be treated as if it were live. During commercial breaks, you may
just sit there for the scheduled length of the commercial that will be added in
postproduction. If the interview is taped, ask when it will air to avoid dated
remarks. For example, don’t use words like yesterday or today—say
are unfamiliar with the show, the person who sets up your interview should give
you briefing materials in advance about the host and the format. Will the host
put you in the hot seat, try to make you look stupid, attempt to make you sound
more knowledgeable than you are, be fair, be honest, have a personal gripe or
personal preference about your issue? If the regular host will not be doing
your interview, seek the same information about the guest host. Also, determine
whether you will be alone on the set with the host. Will other guests be
sitting on the couch before you, or will they be interviewed while you are
sitting there? Learn what you can about the other guests as well as about the host
or guest host. The last thing you want is to look ignorant on television or to
see your startled face on the front page of the newspaper, or on the Internet.
will not have an opportunity to see the set before your interview, be sure to
alert the producer about your height in reference to the host’s. If you are
significantly taller or shorter than the host is, chairs will have to be
about cameras. If the interview will be treated as a cozy one-on-one between
you and the host, don’t look into the camera at all; keep your attention on the
host. Otherwise, when you are interviewed in a studio, ask which camera to look
into if you are expected to make direct eye contact with your television
audience. And if you are doing a show that takes calls from viewers, find out
which camera you should look at when you are addressing the caller.
If there are several cameras,
don’t be afraid to ask before the interview who will prompt you to look at
camera one instead of camera two, and so forth. If the cameras are
stable—i.e., if nobody in the studio is operating the camera—ask
what the angle will be (head and shoulders? two-shot with you and the host?
wide shot almost full body? or full studio shot?). You do not want to be caught
on camera fidgeting with your hands when you thought the camera was showing
only your head and shoulders.
about the angle of your shots, and if you feel you have a best side, tell the
floor director in the studio, who may be able to accommodate a request to
are at a remote location—in another studio or being interviewed via
satellite—the camera is your audience or your host. Ask the camera
operator how the audience will see you. The operator’s job depends on getting a
good shot. Will you appear to be on the same level as the audience, or looking
down, or up or to the right or left? Looking straight into the camera is best.
are not the only guest, will the others be in the studio with you, or will
others be interviewed by satellite? If they are offsite, will you be able to
see them and appear to be looking directly at them by way of an in-studio
monitor, or will you look into the camera as if you are also being interviewed
via satellite? Be sure that the audio in your earpiece allows you to hear the
other guests and that the audio has been patched in from the remote location.
You will have a control knob to adjust the audio.
ask how you will be identified, and look at the text known as the chyron before
going on the air. You have probably watched interviews in which the ID
underneath a person’s face changed during the show, sometimes because a guest’s
name was misspelled (several networks repeatedly make this error). If your name
is something like J. Allen Smith, is that the way you want to be identified, or
do you prefer J.A. Smith, or perhaps Allen Smith? Although the name on your
business card is Katherine Wilson, do you prefer Kate Wilson? Be clear not only
about how you want the host to address you but also about how you want to be
identified. Author of [book title]? Vice president (VP) of marketing? Professor
(Prof.) of business management (Mgmt.)? And so on.
the way you will be introduced. If you are a former beauty queen and now you
are vice president of a company, does the audience need to know you were once a
beauty queen? If you are vice president of the Miss America Pageant, then it is
significant. Otherwise it may not need to be included in your introduction.
about the total length of the interview and the number of segments. Your actual
interview may be only 7 minutes long, but it could take 20 minutes with
commercial breaks or news cut-ins. Keep the overall interview length in mind
throughout the interview. Like a newspaper story, it should have a snappy
headline (an introduction); a balanced body (the main reason you are
there—the information you are trying to get across to the audience); and
a closer (a summary of everything you have said in a nice, neat little
package). Rehearse prior to the interview. You don’t want to have any dead air.
Make the most of every second you get.
Ellen Ratner is the bureau
chief of Talk Radio News Service, the political editor and Washington bureau
chief of Talkers
magazine (the trade magazine for the talk media industry), and an analyst on
Fox News. Kathie Scarrah is an independent television news producer. This
article is derived from their Chelsea Green book, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Ready, Set, Talk! A Guide to Getting Your Message
Heard by Millions on Talk Radio, Talk Television, and Talk Internet.
To learn more or order Ready,
Set, Talk! visit www.chelseagreen.com.