Advice from corporate communications expert Tom Johnson on hitting it big on the small screen.
Tips on acing a television interview from Tom Johnson, president of corporate communications firm Abernathy MacGregor Group.
1. Plan What You Won’t Say. In addition to preparing your main talking points, decide what is off limits ahead of time. “Don’t feel trapped into giving an answer to a question you didn’t anticipate,” Johnson says.
If you get a question you’re not expecting, find a way to transition back to topics you want to discuss. Use phrases such as “Let’s take a step back for a minute” or “First, let me offer some context” to switch the focus without seeming evasive or rude.
2. Be Concise. Most TV interviews last only two or three minutes, so brevity is key. Boil your messages into compact and memorable sound bites and rehearse them beforehand. It’s a bonus if they are witty, but, above all, they should be clear. “Answers should last the duration of an elevator ride,” Johnson says, “and be memorable enough that people can repeat your key messages once the doors open.”
3. Smile. Chances are you’ll be nervous. “A lot of times, people get frozen because they’re staring into the camera, picturing the thousands of people watching them,” Johnson says. A simple smile can help relax your posture, lower your stress level, and help you engage with the interviewer.
BURT HELM is a senior writer for Inc. magazine. In 2013, his Inc. feature “After the Squeeze” was awarded the Stephen Barr Award for Feature writing, and his stories “After the Squeeze,” and “Turntable.fm: Where Did the Love Go?” received awards from Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Prior to Inc. he worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News and a department editor for Businessweek. He is a graduate of Yale University with a double major in Physics and English. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. @burthelm