A woman threads a microphone up through the bottom of your jacket and attaches it just below your neck. A man turns on a camera, light affixed, and holds it not more than a foot away from your face. You do your best not to stare directly into its iris, but the lens’ reflective surface allows you to check one last time for fly away hairs. You’ve prepared for this, reciting answers to questions you can only hope you’ll be asked.  But somehow, all you can think about is how sweaty your palms are.

Stop. Let’s go back.

A TV interview doesn’t have to be all that terrifying. It can, believe it or not, be really invigorating! As with anything else, confidence and preparation go a long way. So ask yourself a number of questions to prepare: How should I dress? How should I act? What should I (and shouldn’t I) say? What do I do after the interview is over?

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to answer the questions you’ve just asked yourself. We’ve done that for you. You’re welcome.

How should I dress?

Avoid wearing bright colors or clothes with patterns on them. They’re distracting and the camera has a hard time adjusting, especially when the interview is outside.

How should I act during the interview?

In a TV interview, every little detail is apparent. Watch your body language, the way you speak and how you react. It is OK to pause before you do anything, in fact, we encourage it.

Be as friendly and confident – while remaining professional – as you possibly can!

Always look at the reporter and never at the camera. Speak slowly.

Stand still. Know what to do with your hands. Gesturing is good. Wiggling is not.

Be natural and relaxed. Cameras pick up awkwardness.

What should (and shouldn’t) I say?

Nothing is ever entirely off the record. Be careful what you say.

TV sound bites never run long. If the final story does include a quote from you, it’s unlikely that it will be more than 15-20 seconds long. Keep your points short, to the point and concise. If you speak for too long, your quotes can be edited down which sometimes results in being misquoted.

Be quotable without being cliché.

Have prepared a few short, important statements you want to make sure to include.

Repeat questions in your response so it’s easier for the journalists to use you as a full sound bite.

Deliver your most important messages first, again quotably. Follow up with supporting facts and back-up information.

Don’t be afraid to rephrase and repeat yourself. In fact, they’ll appreciate it.

Knowing how to bridge topics is important. If reporter wants to switch topics – or if you want to switch topics – know how to gain control of the conversation. (Example: Before we get to that, I just want to say that … OR … The important thing here is …)

Understand who this story is targeting and speak to that audience, not just the reporter.

Avoid yes or no answers.

What should I do after the interview is over?

Let the reporter know you are available for follow up and fact checking.

You cannot approve a story or a script and because of time constraints and editing, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see the story before it goes to air.

Ask the reporter to reaffirm names and titles (and spelling) before he/she leaves.

Offer to help and get in their Rolodex! Make sure the reporter knows that you can be the go-between for other interviews when he/she needs sources.