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Preparing for an interview

From: On Camera: Develop Your Video Presence

Video: Preparing for an interview

It was Andy Warhol who famously coined the phrase about everyone getting their fifteen minutes of fame. Of course, he was talking about television in the 1970s. Now decades later, there are infinite outlets for appearing on camera somewhere. It seems as if everyone on the planet will be interviewed at some point. Your moment may end up being only fifteen seconds, but you'll want to be ready, right? There are two basic types of on-camera interviews for you to consider. One will be for the news media.

Preparing for an interview

It was Andy Warhol who famously coined the phrase about everyone getting their fifteen minutes of fame. Of course, he was talking about television in the 1970s. Now decades later, there are infinite outlets for appearing on camera somewhere. It seems as if everyone on the planet will be interviewed at some point. Your moment may end up being only fifteen seconds, but you'll want to be ready, right? There are two basic types of on-camera interviews for you to consider. One will be for the news media.

The other will be for an informational video of some kind. While there are some fundamental differences, there are many similarities in how you do your part. One of the similarities is that you'll probably be talking directly to another person, whether it's a news reporter or video producer of some kind. When you're talking to the interviewer, you want to look mainly at him or her. Try to avoid the distractions that come from having a camera crew around, and don't look into the camera. You also want to let the interviewer finish the question.

Just because you are anxious to answer, it doesn't mean that you should jump in. The editor needs a moment between the end of the question and the beginning of the answer. It's quite possible that in the final version of the video, the question will not be heard. A couple of other things to avoid: addressing the interviewer by name, and using phrases like, as I said before or as I mentioned earlier. The audience probably won't hear what you said before and it makes them wonder what they've missed. A news interview anymore doesn't have to be done with the reporter and camera crew present.

Many news interviews are done via satellite or over the web. If your interview will originate from your home or office, I recommend you watch the lynda.com companion course in this On Camera series called Video Lighting for the Web. It has some great information on things like where to look and how to prepare your space. The news interview portion of this movie is more involved. So I'll cover the informational video interview first. For the most part, anytime you're being interviewed for an informational video, you can generally assume that you are among friends.

These interviews may be for a company video for your employer, or you may be the subject matter expert, explaining something to a producer who is doing research. In these instances, you should feel absolutely no pressure about getting it right the first time. (video playing) You can also assume that any mistakes will be edited out of the video. These types of interviews are rather benign. When I interview folks for this kind of project, I will often repeat a question, just to get a differently-worded answer.

I often also ask the interviewee to give me the condensed version of their answer. An answer that rambles on for a several minutes may have some useable phrases in it, but it's easier for me to just ask them to give me a shorter answer. Many interviewees want a list of the questions prior to the interview. You can ask, but don't feel offended when you don't get them. I avoid giving out the questions for two main reasons. I don't want the canned answers that have been carefully scripted by someone. I want a fresh spontaneous answer.

And I don't want to be limited to asking just the questions on the list. I want to be able to follow up on something in the conversation that I hadn't planned on. And that's an aspect of this type of interview I want you to understand. This is really just a conversation. The goal here is to get real answers and comments that ring true with the appropriate emotion. Now let's talk about that other type of interview, the news media. Please don't think that a news interview is something to fear, unless you have something to hide.

But do keep in mind that the news media has a different set of pressures and goals than the friendly informational video interview. Reporters are under a constant deadline, and they generally need short, to-the-point types of answers. In the course of conducting many media training workshops, I've developed some tips that I call Media Survival 101. The first thing is, always be truthful, don't lie to the media. They will double-check everything you say. Don't make the story about you and your lie.

Establish a line of communication, especially if the reason for your interview involves a crisis. (video playing) Identify yourself as the point of contact for all media interviews. If you aren't that person, then direct the reporter to the appropriate contact. Whatever the reason for the interview, maintain control. You do this by preparing an entrance and an exit strategy.

Let the reporter know how much time you have for the interview. Then when you want to end the interview, you can announce that you have time for one or two more questions. This will help you save face in case the interview starts going somewhere you don't want it to go. You don't want to look like you were evading the tough questions. Don't expect the reporter to give you her questions in advance, but you can ask for and check her press ID. Any member of the working media will have one. Yes it might be easy for someone to forge one, but this signals to the reporter that you are not to be messed with.

Asking about the reporter's deadline is a great way to establish a spirit of corporation. That doesn't mean that you have to care. It just shows that you have an understanding of her pressures. Ask about the purpose of the interview. If you know the purpose then, you can anticipate the key questions and prepare talking points. Remember to be brief with your answers. Go ahead and make notes in bullet-point form for you to refer to during the interview. Then don't volunteer anything beyond what was asked. That will probably result in a follow-up question that may take you where you don't want to go.

Never speculate, never say no comment, and never go off the record. When you speculate something to a reporter it becomes a fact. When you say no comment, you are admitting that you're either hiding something, or you're guilty of something, or both. And you cannot initiate off the record. You can't be in the middle of an interview and call a timeout. And if a reporter asks you to say something off the record and you believe he will go to jail to protect your identity, then talk all you want.

There is a game that reporters play called the silent game. Here is how it works. The reporter asks you a question and you answer it, but the reporter just looks at you, leaving the suppressive silence, hanging in the air. If you're like most earthlings, you probably have a desire to please and you'll want to give more of an answer. Well, the first person to speak loses the game. Unless you say something like, I see you have more questions! Avoid acronyms, jargon, and technical terms.

Every industry has these, but the public doesn't have a clue what they mean, and that's whom you're really talking to. Explain things as if you're talking to a fifth grader. Don't talk down to the reporter, but do keep it simple. It's not easy understanding something new and possibly complex and then telling others about it. If things start to get heated, take a moment and take a breathe. Repeat whatever facts you've already stated and don't get defensive. Reporters will sometimes try to push your buttons the same way kids do to their parents.

Just smile and take a breath. They won't show you breathing on National TV, but they will show you slapping the reporter. Always assume the camera is on. Don't rely on seeing the little red light on the front of the camera. I leave mine turned off and so does every news photographer I know, because I'll get a more honest reaction from you if you think I'm not recording. The mere presence of a camera changes people, we can't help it. Also, remember that microphones can be everywhere.

Not just clipped to your shirt. The same types of long shotgun microphones and parabolic dish microphones used by the sportspeople are also used by the news media. But in the end, I really don't want you to be afraid of the news media. Every reporter and photographer I know feels a calling to document the first draft of history. They're just doing their job. And as I said earlier, it's not an easy job. Unless you have something to hide, they're really not out to get you.

They probably just need a few comments from you.

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On Camera: Develop Your Video Presence

9 video lessons · 8789 viewers

Rick Allen Lippert
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