This article summarizes how I recently helped a client who contacted me via my website. Client M. started by sharing some video footage of them being interviewed on a European television network and asked me to critique it for them.
Client M. wasn’t happy with how they appeared in the interview and wanted my coaching to be better prepared for the future.
Here is an edited summary of my initial recommendations – in the hope that you too will benefit:
Rabbit in the Headlights On-Screen
Being in front of the cold staring eye of the camera lens can be stressful. The camera doesn’t blink, look away, smile or express human qualities. We generally do not experience this type of intensity or scrutiny in real life, so our body’s response is to release stress hormones – triggering a freeze, flight or fight response.
Gasping for Air
When people are not used to being interviewed, I see a disruption in their natural breathing cycle. They breathe from high up in the chest, rather than deep breathing from their diaphragm. As a result, their speech sounds weak, and they gasp for air after each point is made. Relax your stomach and breathe deep.
We Think Faster Than we can Talk
Your speech will never catch up to the speed of your thoughts, and if your thought processes are fast, it is highly likely that your breathing will be fast too. Slow down, be “in the now” and focus on what you are saying.
Stop. Breathe. Think.
My scuba diving instructor taught me this rule. It can mean the difference between life and death when you are underwater. The rule is designed to stop you from panicking, and it’s a good rule for being interviewed as well. Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and then speak.
Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and then speak.
Take Your Time
Make the audience (the camera) and interviewer wait for you (providing your interview is not live i.e. it will be edited). Turn things around psychologically. You have something wonderful to share with the viewers, so take your time sharing it. When you speak – slow your speech down slightly. The production company can always edit your interview to speed it up, slow it down, cut away etc. So don’t rush – set your own pace.
Stand if you can
Although it is not always possible, ask if you are able to stand, or walk and talk while being interviewed. Doing something physical helps to burn off nervous stress energy, and standing keeps your energy levels up. You also breathe better when standing up vs. when you are seated.
Sit up Straight
If the interview will take place seated, ask for a chair with no back or one with a straight back. Sitting straight keeps your energy up and helps you breathe better. Comfy chairs will encourage poor posture, slumping, breathing problems and psychologically it can make you feel too relaxed. This encourages letting your guard down – not advisable unless it’s a flattering “puff piece” interview (Talk show hosts deploy the use of comfy chairs with their famous guests to get them to open up and share more).
Imagine you are a TV News Anchor
Perch on the front of your seat, lean slightly forward to engage with the audience (camera). Keep your chest and shoulders level. Where possible keep your hands visible or use these common cheating techniques for looking good on video.
If you smile you will come across as being more likable to the audience.
Work off Your Interviewer’s Energy
Smile at the interviewer when talking or answering their questions. Smiling helps to relax the tension in your face. Generally, when we are tense, smiling ceases and frowning is more likely to occur. If you smile you will come across as being more likable to the audience. Smiling will also trigger the interviewer’s mirror neurons (providing it’s not a hardball interview) and they will mirror your smile back to you – which can have a reassuring, calming effect on you.
Prior to the interview, warm up your vocals (humming), and warm up your face and jaw muscles (yawn or smile). Warm up your eyes. Do gentle neck rolls and shoulder shrugs to loosen up this area. You want to keep all these areas tension free (warming-up will help) because you will probably be framed in a medium to close-up shot. So any discomfort will show on-screen.
Know in Advance
- What type of questions you will be asked. Make sure that you have your key talking points memorized, and if the interviewer takes you off topic, find a way to always circle back to your talking points
- Ask beforehand what to wear i.e. colors/patterns etc – and bring several wardrobe options if your interview is filmed on location