How To ACE an On-Camera Interview

When I was reporting it seemed like every week I had a conversation with someone who asks, “Do you want to interview me on the phone?” My answer, “No, I would like to interview you in person, on camera.” Their groan isn’t always audible, but you can feel their trepidation to utter disdain through the phone. 

I understand that doing an on camera interview can be unnerving. For so many people, even first responders whose job it is to put their lives on the line, shudder at the thought of being in front of the camera.  I get it. It’s something even I had to get used to.

Want to ACE and on camera interview? Consider these tips!

 

Breathe, seriously, you must breathe! If not, your voice does all kinds of crazy things. You won’t come across as credible and the message will be lost.

I had to learn this the hard way. During my first job I was terrified. I mean shaking in my boots with my heart beating so loud I could hear the thumping in my ears. I know, how does that work for a reporter? Well it didn’t and I was a horrible mess! Thank the LORD this was pre-YouTube and real social media. Breathe, stay in your body, and slow down. If you stumble, just stop and pick up where you left off. 

 

Get out of your head! Repeat after me…GET.OUT.OF.YOUR.HEAD!!! Yes, you are going to be on a bigger platform than you may be used to. Yes, you want to put your best foot forward. Now is NOT the time to morph into someone unrecognizable. People sometimes think the best version of themselves is not to be themselves at all. They start using big words in the wrong context. They try to speak differently. Nervous laughter may emerge in serious situations. In the worst cases people become caricatures for fear of who they will be perceived to be by those watching. You hear it all the time. They say, “when my (insert someone whose opinion they care about) sees this they’re going to think (every negative thing under the sun.)” No one wants to be embarrassed. I know that’s a horrible feeling. Pretending is not the cure. Remember no one is perfect!

 

Think of the interview as a conversation. What would your mother, friend, spouse want to know about this topic? Keep it really, really simple. We’re told to write on a middle school level. Each answer should have one thought at a time. Don’t interrupt yourself mid sentence and go on a tangent. You know what I’m talking about? Everyone has that person who you have to carve out extra time to talk to because it takes them FOREVER to get to the point of their stories. It takes them so long that by the time they’re done you’ve forgotten what they were talking about in the first place! Yeah don’t be that person.

How would you respond if I (or the reporter) asked you the question at a dinner party? You can smile if it’s a happy topic. You want to be very clear and decisive if the issue is controversial. Your personality should mirror the intensity of the story but not overwhelm it.

 

Think about the big picture and create a strategy. Clearly define what information you want to convey before the journalist arrives. I always ask at the end of the interview, “is there something you would like to add that I didn’t know to ask?” Sometimes, I would get my best answers from that question. Think about what you want your participation in the story to get across. It can help give you confidence and address all of the prior issues highlighted above.  

 

Lastly when you’re in front of the camera assume it’s on. Assume it is on until it is physically out of your presence. When you are answering questions, it’s all fair game unless you or the reporter indicate the information is off the record, which is a mutual understanding that the information will not be used or attributed to you directly. 

As with everything, practice makes perfect! The more interviews you do, the easier they will become. Remember, authenticity over perfection. People want to learn from other people and not robots. 

Talk to me! Ask me your questions! 

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