Being interviewed on camera can be an intimidating experience, even for seasoned speakers. But with some preparation and coaching, there's no reason to shy away from these types of publicity opportunities. No one was born a pro!
In this week's #ConnectChat on Tuesday, Dec. 6, we featured marketing guru Rachel Weingarten (@rachelcw), who explained "How to Ace On-Camera Interviews" with advice on appearance, preparation, thinking on the fly, staying focused and more.
Weingarten is an expert on "business, style and the business of style." She is president of the marketing strategy company Interrobang LLC and is the author of two award-winning books, "Career and Corporate Cool" and "Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America '40s-'60s." She also teaches personal branding at New York University, the history of cosmetics and fragrance at the Fashion Institute of Technology and modern business manners at workshops for Fortune 100 companies.
ProfNet: Rachel, thanks for joining us!
Weingarten: Hi Grace, @ProfNet and everyone joining in -- so nice to see you all.
Weingarten: Nice to be here, especially on this gloomy day!
How can presenters prepare for an on-camera interview? What can they do ahead of time?
Weingarten: The key is prepare. Just because some people seem comfortable and like they were born on camera does not mean that they are.
Weingarten: Practice. When you're done practicing, consider practicing some more. Also, practice. Then tape yourself to hear your voice.
@ewfitzsimons: I can't overstate the importance of practice! Do a practice interview with your client/exec beforehand.
Weingarten: Research. Find out topics your host loves or hates and whether you’ll be sticking to one topic only.
Weingarten: Do short videos to see your body language and gestures. Be open to real critique from friends and colleagues.
Weingarten: Write a short script and then try to remember the most salient points.
Weingarten: What would the world be like without outtakes and bloopers? Do your research. There are so many things to take into account
Weingarten: Ask yourself: What do you hope to get out of the interview? Do you want to promote yourself, your product, your brand?
Weingarten: The main thing is that you know your stuff; know your brand strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself.
Weingarten: Keep appearance in mind. Look neat, put together and polished; people will already be more inclined to take you seriously
Weingarten: My sister @coachkiki is an executive coach and while she does a good deal of consulting on the phone, she's always dressed/ready before each call since she believes it gives her more confidence and comes across to clients.
Weingarten: I'm all dressed and made up and even wearing cute shoes for this -- and we’re on Twitter!
Does presenting on camera require a specific talent or skill set?
Weingarten: Chances are if you’re invited to be on camera, you already possess a specific and desirable skill set.
Weingarten: That doesn’t mean that you’re good at conveying your ideas and ideals.
Weingarten: Review your notes, study the competition, practice what you want to say, practice answering awkward questions.
Weingarten: Realize that even the best prepared in their industry fail miserably (James Franco and Anne Hathaway, I’m talking to you)
Weingarten: Even if your prepared, don’t be content spouting platitudes or the same tired things everyone in your industry already knows.
Weingarten: If you disagree with common wisdom, perhaps this is the time to highlight your own take on things.
@princess_scribe: Do you suggest working up a script or story for on-camera interviews?
Weingarten: I think scripts can be a great idea @princess_scribe, but one runs the risk of sounding too wooden. So you're prepared, but also elastic.
@princess_scribe: Prepping for on-camera interview myself, so perfect timing!
Weingarten: @princess_scribe So glad it was helpful! Best of luck and keep us posted so we can set our DVRs!
@LeslieWimmer: Great on-camera interview tips from @rachelcw in @ProfNet #ConnectChat right now! #PR #MediaRelations
Is media training necessary? Who should train you (e.g., PR agent)? Are workshops, classes necessary?
Weingarten: Some people are born to be on camera (Anderson Cooper comes to mind).
Weingarten: Then again, the old joke goes that some people have a face made for radio. But it’s more than that.
Weingarten: Media training helps in ways you might not imagine and can be provided by specific media trainers or by PR agencies.
Weingarten: Some people find that things like Toastmasters or public speaking workshops or even acting classes can be incredibly helpful.
Weingarten: The thing with media training though is that it can almost be like when someone is trained before testifying in court.
Weingarten: They might bully you. Or coddle you. They’ll make you go through questions/scenarios that might seem idiotic or enrage you.
Weingarten: They will try to give you the tools not only to come across as polished and knowledgeable, but also competent, prepared and in charge, despite the fact that you may be at the mercy of your interviewer and their team of editors.
What should presenters wear for an on-camera interview?
Weingarten: Wear clothing that flatters you. Nothing too sexy or provocative unless you’re a stripper. Make sure that it’s not too tight or loose.
Weingarten: And try to look up to date, but not overly trendy (unless you’re a magazine editor). Try out your outfit ahead of time.
Weingarten: Does anything bite or pinch? Opt for comfort since the last thing you want to seem to be doing is fidgeting.
@BrianneP: If you know of reasonably priced media trainers in NYC with cooking demo experience, open to good recommendations.
Weingarten: That's such a specific niche @BrianneP, I'll have to think about it and get back to you. Cookbook publicists tend to do great job.
@LeslieWimmer: Would love to hear any tips specific to live on-camera interviews. Thanks!
Weingarten: @LeslieWimmer Crucial to know if there's any lag or edits. Get as much info in advance (questions/potential landmines).
Weingarten: @LeslieWimmer If you’ve ever attended the taping of a live show, you’ll likely have received a set of instructions.
What colors work best? What about makeup, jewelry?
Weingarten: Wear BRIGHT colors! We LOVE bright colors. Don’t wear black. Don’t wear hypnotic patterns.
Weingarten: All good advice, but if you’d never be caught dead in jewel tones, the last thing you want is to wear them during your moment on camera.
Weingarten: As for makeup, if you know what works for you, then work with that, since you don’t want to feel like a mannequin.
Weingarten: You’ll need to take into account the very bright lights that are likely set up to flatter your host and not you.
Weingarten: If possible, have the set makeup artist do your makeup (yes guys, you too) since they’ll be able to cover shiny spots as well.
@coachkiki: What if you suddenly draw a blank on information you should know (see political debates)?
Weingarten: @coachkiki Pause. Don't ramble; rather, try to gently ask the host for help or the next question, or say you want to get back to it.
Should guests make eye contact with the interviewer/host or look directly into the camera?
Weingarten: The producer will probably tell you what works best for their show. Listen to them, not because they have only your best interests at heart, but because it’s their job to create a great show.
Weingarten: Don't look at your smartphone or tablet unless you’re introducing it as new technology (you'd think it's a given).
Weingarten: Pay attention to the host. It’s rude to expect someone to carry on a conversation with you while your attention is elsewhere.
What's the most common mistake guests make?
Weingarten: People tend to talk really quickly when they’re nervous. Slow down. Take a breath.
Weingarten: Make short, pithy statements, but take your time saying it. People tend to "um" a lot.
Weingarten: People dress inappropriately. This isn't a wedding, it's a TV spot. Research how the hosts dress and dress accordingly.
What should guests never do during on-camera interviews?
Weingarten: Don’t try to outshine your host.
Weingarten: I was once at an event where the comedian Andy **** told me to stop trying to out-funny him. I wasn’t trying. I stopped anyway.
Weingarten: Don’t embarrass your host. I worked with a company that created and marketed -- ahem -- bedroom enhancement products.
Weingarten: There was a way to present them, but the owners seemed to miss the cues that the hosts of certain shows -- it became awkward fast.
@NickKalm Look at their watches, roll their eyes or sigh. RT @ProfNet: What should guests never do during on-camera interviews?
Weingarten: @NickKalm Great points. Being rude, acting bored or fidgeting ensures you won't be asked back!
@AyeJGlass: Never chew gum or badmouth a media outlet. Mics can be LIVE!
@AyeJGlass: Enjoying the Q&A!
What should guests do if they get nervous or start to lose track of their thoughts?
Weingarten: I find that honesty is a great approach. Stop. It’s fine to be flustered as long as you can reign in the situation.
Weingarten: Admit that you’re so excited or passionate about your subject that you’ve lost track of your thoughts.
@NickKalm: Pause and bridge to key message. RT @ProfNet: What should guests do if they get nervous or start to lose track of their thoughts?
What happens in case of an emergency (e.g., missed flight, etc.)?
Weingarten: It’s always important to have an emergency or backup plan.
Weingarten: If you miss your flight, contact producers immediately and see if you can reschedule your appearance or at least come in later.
Weingarten: If you think you can’t make the appearance at all, then find out if they have satellite studios nearby for you to tape in.
Weingarten: Always have a headshot/product shot available, since sometimes you can phone in and have your images appear on screen.
Weingarten: Also, the studios do/should have backup plans and can call in people or even crew in an emergency.
@jasonhahn: How should u respond if the host asks a question to stump you, put you in a corner, make you look bad, etc.?
Weingarten: Research before accepting invites. Some hosts intentionally make you look bad @jasonhahn Worst comes to worst -- call them on it!
@imagewords Quick tip to properly prep client without annoying busy producers with too many pre-interview questions?
Weingarten: @imagewords I'd spend as much time watching old episodes/interviews with similar guests. Glean as much info and collect questions.
Can the host/interviewer make or break an on-camera interview?
Weingarten: Absolutely. It's the on-cam equivalent of a poison pen. They might dislike you, your product, your politics -- or sometimes the chemistry is just wrong. The best you can do is follow the host's lead when possible and keep on message when not.
How can guests maintain a sense of their personal brand during an interview?
Weingarten: People are savvier than ever and less patient with endless self-marketing. So it's a slippery slope. Don't be distracted by the host's attempt to provoke you or engage you in a discussion you just don't want to have.
Weingarten: If you believe in yourself/your brand, that can come across with confidence and without anger. Don't spew companywide rhetoric only, but include what you believe.
What if there is no live audience at your interview?
Weingarten: It can be a mixed blessing because sometimes the audience's energy/feedback allows you to be better/more interesting.
Weingarten: It can also allow you to really connect with the interviewer who is not necessarily the host you'll see on TV :)
Weingarten: It also might give you the ability to restate/retape something if you feel you've messed up and/or aren't a pro on camera.
Any general tips?
Weingarten: To paraphrase Andy Warhol, it'll only last for 15 minutes. So as great or awful as you think you were, it's only temporary.
Weingarten: Learn from the experience. And enjoy the process, and share your new found wisdom with friends/colleagues!
Weingarten: And whatever you do, don't insult your grandma on TV. Even golden girl Gwyneth Paltrow's image was tarnished with that one.
We only have a few minutes left. Before we go, can you tell us a little about InterrobangLLC?
Weingarten: We're a marketing and promotions agency formerly known as GTK Marketing Group.
Weingarten: We work with everyone from big pharma and cosmetics, to celebrities, entrepreneurs, publishing. In an age when everyone fancies themselves marketers, it's important to be better.
Weingarten: I'm excited that my first book "Hello Gorgeous!" which will be republished in 2012. I'm eagerly looking for partners in promo.
Weingarten: Also, working on my next book "Microcasting: Don't Muddle Your Message," so it will be fun to get back into book-writing mode.
Does anyone have any final questions or comments?
@ewfitzsimons: Great tips!
@LeslieWimmer: Thanks for the great #ConnectChat! Very informative.
ProfNet: That's a wrap! Thank you so much to everyone who took part in #ConnectChat. Hope you found it informative!
Weingarten: Thanks @ProfNet and everyone who joined us! I know you'll be smashing during your next on camera appearance!