How to Prepare for a TV Interview

Well, I made it through my first-ever TV author spotlight without a hitch and I thought I’d take a moment to share a cheat sheet I put together. I’ve never been interviewed on television and wasn’t sure how to handle myself–what to wear, how expressive to be, how quickly to speak, etc. I did a little research and here is the result, as well as what I learned:

1. Use hand gestures between the range of your elbows and shoulders. Too low, and the camera will miss them. Too high and you’ll look a bit crazy. Using hand gestures makes you instantly relatable, conveys a sense of passion for what you’re discussing, and engages the audience visually on top of what you are already saying.

2. If at all possible, view sample video clips online in advance of your interview. I did this and discovered that the host basically had a run of 5 questions that she asked her guest writers, even if the question was phrased slightly differently. By watching half a dozen clips, I could pretty easily guess what she was going to ask me, and that allowed me to type up my answers ahead of time and essentially rehearse with myself. I also knew that sitting on those tall chairs would put a lot of leg in the camera view, so I wasn’t comfortable wearing a dress. My parents priority mailed me my black pants and they arrived 12 hours before air time! Totally worth it!

3. Decide what you want your agenda, focus, or twist to be. During the commercial break right before my segment went live, the news host introduced herself to me, fitted me with a mic, and asked me what I wanted her to talk to me about. She was giving me a chance to put a spin on things, and so I did–telling her that the veteran response to Flashes of War had been strong and that my big event through National Writers Series was coming up July 24th. When the cameras started rolling a fast 10 seconds later, she zeroed in on these two points and concluded the interview by repeating the event name.

4. Don’t assume the person interviewing you will have your book or any relevant props on hand. Television is the medium of the moment, come and gone. The chance that a news host has read your book (or seen your art show, or heard your album) are slim. They’ve got ten segments to keep straight in their head and your two minutes of fame is just another part of their job. Show up to a TV interview prepared with anything that will leave a smart, singular, visual impression on the audience. I brought my book, and when you watch the interview you’ll notice that about half the camera time was spent on the cover of the book alone (oh, and Holly’s fantastic nails).

5. Get your TV body going: Sit up straight at the edge of your chair, don’t look at the camera (the camera isn’t talking to you, the host is), and angle your knees toward the host. This will make you look smaller, present, and engaged. Now, if only I hadn’t been expected at the studio so early, my summer allergy eyes could have un-puffed!

Ready? ACTION! Here’s how it turned out:

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