Category Archives: Broadcasting

What should I ask before a broadcast interview?

Broadcast interviews on television can be nerve racking. In the TV studio people will be able to see you as well as hear you, so how do you prepare? There are a couple of techniques I teach in my media training masterclass which ought to help. Here’s how I learned a couple of them over ten years ago.

Before a broadcast interview

Years ago I did my first broadcast interview on a pre-recorded BBC show called Digital Planet. It was for the BBC World Service and my role was to comment on modern technological advances.

The first story was an interview with someone who was doing something in Zimbabwe. I was a little concerned as I had nothing to say on international affairs beyond what someone might have read in the papers. The presenter assured me there wouldn’t be any difficult questions.

So he did the interview with the woman in question and asked me: “So, what implications does this have for the Zimbabwean position?”

Luckily it was pre-recorded so my first answer, a very long “Ummm……”, was never broadcast. I learned two things on the spot and have stuck to them ever since.

First, the presenter might want to help but if he can’t think of another question he or she might well ask something that will trip you up.

So, second, always ask what the first question is going to be. Most reasonable broadcasters will tell you so you can think about it in advance. As long as you’ve done your general preparation, you should get a reasonably strong start out of that.

Basic preparation for a TV interview

…is basically the same as prep for any other media interview. We’ll take it as read that you know your stuff. Go in with three points you’d really like to make about the subject or about your business, get them out quickly and after that listen to the questions and answer them as far as possible. If you get a chance to talk to the presenter about what they need and the context of your interview, that’s even better.

My most recent BBC interview, for the BBC London news bulletin, was better – so much so that they used my comment to trail the news item in the headlines at the top of the show rather than a comment from the company I was talking about.

Do you need help to make your broadcast interviews work for your business – and would you like me to coach you in the London studio in the picture on this story? Fill in the form below or email me by clicking here and we’ll talk.


Where do you look during a television interview?

Let’s say you or your client have landed some television coverage. You’re in the studio for the first time. I’ve been into the BBC news studios probably a hundred times. One of the first and most basic points I picked up was the answer to the question: where do I look?

There are in fact two answers to this. One is to look straight at the interviewer. Don’t worry about the odd glance around, you don’t want to go all rabbit-in-the-headlights, and if you’re going to glance anywhere try not to make it at your watch, but mostly look at the person to whom you are talking rather than someone playing at being on television.

I can cite many reasons for this approach. First, you’ll find it easier if you’re talking to one person rather than imagining yourself talking to a few million. That’s intimidating. Second, the interviewer will give you a focal point when all this other interesting stuff is happening around you. When I first did the BBC’s newspaper review a few years ago I was fascinated that the television cameras moved around without an operator attached and had to focus very hard on not looking at them (I was also thrown by the fact that the studio was actually in the news room, although why I should have expected otherwise I don’t know).

Third, you’ll look more sincere. Remember all those years ago when Bob Geldof launched Band Aid? That’s a reference for the teenagers, obviously. He kept looking at the camera and actually looked shifty and uncomfortable when he was delivering the most sincere and best motivated interview of his life. Look past the camera and at the person if at all possible.

Down the line

I said there were two possible answers. The other one is the “down the line” interview, when you’re not in the same room as the interviewer. You’ll have seen this on the news; Huw Edwards or whoever looks at a screen and a journalist or other expert/commentator appears to look straight at him. Of course they’re not, they’re looking at the camera.

That works and is a different sort of television interview – try never to get them mixed up and you should have a good start.

The picture above is of the TV studio in Bayswater from which I offer broadcast media training in my masterclass. If you’d like to know more, drop me a note by clicking here or filling in the form below and we’ll talk.

Radio interviews: headphones or not?

A few years ago I made regular appearances on BBC Radio London. The best thing I did was to take in croissants for the breakfast show on my first appearance (if you do this and want a croissant, make sure you get one before the producers – eight of them vanished in the 20 minutes during which I was on, not that I’m the type to bear a grudge). The worst thing was to put the headphones on immediately.

If you’re ever in a radio studio I’d advise against this. There are a few reasons.

  • Do you ever walk along the street wearing headphones? OK, let’s suppose you do. You know how that tends to shut everything else out of your consciousness and things seem a little different? More particularly, do you recall how disconcerting it was first time around? That’s what you want to avoid here. You’ll be feeling pressurised; disconcerted as well is not desirable.
  • Have you ever heard the sound of your own voice? If you’re not used to it, having it delivered straight to your headphones as you speak can be really offputting. You put the “cans” on to look professional and now you’re uncomfortable and when the presenter speaks to his/her producer you don’t know what’s going on.

You’ll be a lot better off if you just try to talk to the presenter. Get your points in by all means, without being too forceful or impolite – but try to make it sound conversational and don’t let the technology get in the way of a good interview.

Do you want to practice interviews in a fully equipped radio and TV studio with tech support and an experienced journalist? The picture above is the one in which I train people. Call me on 07973 278780 or fill in the form below if you’d like a chat about it. You will not have to bring croissants.