Andy Warhol once said that everyone will eventually get 15 minutes of fame. So when your time comes, you don’t want to mess it up.
If you follow these 10 tips for broadcast success, whether you’re talking to Diane and Charlie via satellite uplink, your employees via a Webcast, the local chapter of the Rotary or your child’s kindergarten class, you’ll feel in control.
1. Eye contact is king: If you’re on a TV set, focus on your interviewer and NEVER, EVER look at the camera. However, if you’re on a satellite hookup, maintain eye contact with the camera lens at all times. When pausing to think, look down – not up – so viewers don’t think you’re rolling your eyes. It’s distracting.
2. Dress for success: Dress conservatively, wear solid colors – blues, browns, no white shirts, no plaid, no checkered patterns. It’s a good idea to have a backup outfit on hand in case of coffee spills or rising levels of perspiration (TV lights can be extremely hot). Don’t wear a hat or anything that would cast a shadow on your face. Men: hair combed neatly, clean-shaven. Women: hair pulled back off face (if it’s long), light makeup. If possible, wear contacts not glasses (TV lights can reflect off the glass).
3. Strike a pose: Posture matters. If you’re on a set, you’ll want to lean forward about 20 degrees when you talk. This will open up your diaphragm, which increases your air supply. It also prevents you from slumping, plus you’ll look engaged in the discussion. A good rule of thumb is to not let your back touch the back of your chair. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, shoulders square and your butt firmly in the back of the chair. Look happy and excited to be interviewed. Audiences can tell if you look bored. If you’re asked a tough or surprising question, be careful not to show your emotions.
4. House of pancake: No one wants to look like Nixon in the 1960 debates — a layer of pancake makeup will prevent the glistening that hot TV lights can produce. Guys usually cringe at the thought of makeup but, hey, if it’s good enough for the leader of the FREE WORLD, it’s good enough for you.
5. Acknowledge and bridge: You have “must air” points or key messages prepared — use them. Attention spans are short. Your on-air time is also short. Acknowledge and answer any questions you’re asked but always try to bridge back to those key messages you care about during your interview. Also, reiterate those messages if you’re asked to provide a sound check or give a summation/closing thought.
6. Practice “um” makes perfect: Being on TV under lights, wearing makeup and looking into a camera is an artificial environment at best and can be extremely stressful. You literally have seconds to sell your story. Practice in your bathroom mirror with a stopwatch. If you can stand it, use a video camera and have someone critique your delivery. This sort of preparation will enable you to exude calm, cool confidence during the actual interview. It also prevents a case of the “ums” — a disease that causes a lack of future TV appearances.
7. Remove distractions: Turn cell phones and pagers off, lose the gum, remove coins from pockets, don’t hold a pen unless you’re Bob Dole or disciplined enough not to play with it on camera. If you’re on a satellite hookup ask the technician to turn off the TV set by the camera so you’re not tempted to look down and see how you look during the interview. Request that you be outfitted with an earpiece and a lavaliere microphone before going on-air to make sure it fits/works and is comfortable. Also, avoid chairs that swivel and rock — they’re simply too tempting, especially when you get nervous.
8. Energy matters: Everything counts on TV — posture, energy and facial expression. For proof, just watch the delivery of TV news anchors. Smile, you’re not under deposition! This can be fun. If possible, exercise before going on camera so your blood is flowing and you’re fully awake (a little caffeine also helps). This will help avoid what one CEO called “dead man talking” syndrome.
9. Tell stories: Media outlets tell stories for a living — help them do their job, and it will benefit you and your company. Examples, anecdotes and graphics all help communicate your message — use them. Telling stories also helps break your conversation into sound bites — the lingua franca of TV.
10. Expect the unexpected: TV news is dynamic — an in-studio interview can quickly change to a satellite hookup; what was to be taped can suddenly be carried live; reporters will sometimes try to ambush you. Remain calm, be prepared and try to accommodate any unexpected changes.
Someone once asked Dan Rather what he’d learned in 30-plus years of broadcasting. He replied, “Don’t eat spinach before you go on the air.” Good advice. During those 15 minutes of fame no one wants to be remembered as the person with a green glob on his or her teeth. That goes for poppy seed bagels too! And, above all, enjoy the opportunity.
Nancy Pieretti is a public relations and marketing communications professional who lives in southern New Hampshire.