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February 27, 2018
February 27, 2018
Samuel Sun via Unsplash

In my role as creative director of Three Custom Color Specialists, a beauty brand I co-founded, I was fortunate enough to be media trained by some of the best, including the pros at QVC and the wonderful Frances Cole Jones. After I transitioned into a spokesperson role at coupon site RetailMeNot, I was interviewed hundreds of times, doing in-studio interviews on shows like Today, Steve Harvey, and Extra, as well as dozens of satellite media tours each year. In addition to my own on-camera work, I helped to prepared several of the executives at RetailMeNot for their own TV appearances. I wanted to share a list of tried-and-true tactics to ensure a successful segment next time you’re on air.

1. Prepare

Ask the producer to send their questions in advance. If that’s not possible, anticipate the questions they might ask by writing out a mock Q&A.

Rehearse the material out loud the night before and the day of, by yourself or with a partner. Go over it at least one more time than you think you need to.

  • Saying the words out loud will not only help you become comfortable with your talking points, but it will allow you to flesh out and fine-tune your responses.
  • Speaking the words will also alert you to any words you might stumble upon so you can make adjustments accordingly. If I encounter a word that gives me trouble, I say the phrase containing that word multiple times, which usually eliminates the issue. If not, I will insert a substitute word.
  • Having a strong comfort level with your talking points will also arm you in the event that you get nervous, distracted, or overwhelmed.

2. Look the Part

Before show day, ask the producer if they have any wardrobe preferences or restrictions and always bring a backup just in case. The day you don’t could be the day you spill coffee on yourself in the green room!

In general avoid stripes or small patterns, as they can “swim” in front of the camera.

In terms of colors, jewel tones with no patterns work well, and black and white are typically frowned upon (although I do break this rule and wear black on occasion!).

Green can be tricky because of green-screen technology (hello, Sean Spicer?), so if I’m leaning toward green, I always ask if it’s ok.

Women should avoid wearing anything too revealing, avoiding short skirts (especially if you will be sitting) and low-cut tops. Also, avoid large, dangling earrings. Chunky statement necklaces are common, but the sound person will likely be annoyed because it can cause issues with the microphone.

Make sure your hands look groomed.

Most women will have had their makeup done, but gentlemen, this is for you: If there is not a makeup artist on set, make sure that 1) your brows don’t look unruly, 2) your skin isn’t shiny or red, and 3) your eyes aren’t bloodshot. The lights on set can be bright and unflattering, and these little steps can make a big difference.

  • Here are a few products you should have with you: clear brow gel, translucent powder or clear mattifying gel, concealer, and anti-redness eye drops.

3. It’s almost showtime!

Before the interview, go somewhere private and shake out your hands, stretch a little, and make a couple of big faces. This will get your blood flowing and keep you loose so you don’t look stiff during the interview. It will feel ridiculous, but it works!

Nervous? Breath deeply in and out of your nose for several minutes, dismissing any distracting thoughts as they arise. This is an easy and effective relaxation technique.

Use the restroom. If you are already mic’d, make sure the mic is off!

Put your phone on silent.

If they offer you water, take it. Your mouth might get dry right before the interview.

If you are doing a remote interview where you are in a room talking to a camera, they will likely give you an earpiece. Make sure they show you where the volume knob is so you can adjust it to your liking.

4. Be the one to watch

If you are being interviewed in person, the reporter will likely engage you in light banter right before the interview to establish a level of comfort and comradery. If they do not do this, take charge and do it yourself before the interview starts, otherwise the interview might appear awkward.

If you are doing a remote interview and are just in the room with a camera, make the camera your friend. Imagine you are talking to someone you love (or at least like a lot). You want the warmth with which you talk to that person to come across in the interview. This helps to make you look more approachable for the viewer.

SMILE. Some believe that you have to grin like the Cheshire cat, which I don’t agree with especially if you are addressing a dry-ish topic. That said, you don’t need to grin madly, but at least smile a little bit so you look like you are happy to be there.

Throughout the conversation, remember that you might be on camera at any time. Maintain a pleasant look on your face throughout, and keep it up until you are sure you are off the air.

5. The best guest

Overall, be a great guest on camera and off. You want to be invited back, don’t you?

Arrive practiced and prepared with all necessary props (I also bring glue dots and scissors just in case).

Be patient. Sometimes delays occur and your segment gets pushed back an hour or more. Bring work with you and make yourself comfortable. Better yet, network with folks in the green room.

When your segment is over, be gracious and say thank you to the people around you, from the sound person to the producer.


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