5 tips to rock your media appearance

I’ve spent most of my career behind the camera, coaching physicians and execs on successful media appearances. Interestingly, the camera has turned in my direction the last couple of years and I’ve had to literally practice what I preach. 

Whether the media tracks you down for your take on a current story or bites at one of your pitches, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help you prepare:

1. Know your content – This is not the time to “wing it.” Prepare for your interview by jotting down the top three messages you hope to cover. Then rehearse them, out loud, before the interview. The more you practice saying them, the more easily they will roll off your tongue in the interview.

If you’ll be demonstrating products on TV, rehearse with them repeatedly until you feel very comfortable. If you need to recall multiple names or product specs, write notes on individual index cards you can hide behind the items on the set.

2. Look your best - For TV, dress to your topic. When I’m presenting on parenting or lifestyle topics, I change out of my corporate business attire and put on (dressy) jeans and a nice top. If you typically work out of your home and are asked to speak to your industry, dress as if you are meeting a potential client (because you are in fact meeting thousands of them at once).

Have a few days to prepare? Get a haircut and a manicure, especially if you’ll be demonstrating something with your hands. Don’t be afraid to wear bright colors, but avoid patterns – men, that includes your tie (patterns do funky things on camera). Opt for bold, chunky jewelry or a dramatic scarf.

Also, ladies, studio lights can really wash you out, so wear your make up a bit heavier than usual. You’ll want powder or foundation for a base, blush, eye make-up & definitely wear lipstick with some color! Bring your make-up with you and touch up right before your interview.

3. Smile, smile, smile - It’s common for people to freeze up on camera. Unless you are being interviewed by investigative reporters, I promise the reporters and producers want you to succeed – no one is trying to stump you! The best way to look (and sound) comfortable, engaging and friendly in your interview is to smile – this works for both TV and radio. It may sound simple, but most people don’t think to smile when they are nervous. So smile while you talk and while you listen.

4. Make sure they know who you are - Before your interview, write clearly on a blank piece of paper:

  1. your name
  2. your web site (it’s ok to leave off the www)

Don’t just hand them your business card or spell your name for them when they ask. Hand them the piece of paper and say “Here you go, I wrote it down for you” or “Here is how I’d like you to write my name.”

Remember, there are only 2 lines for text and they want it to look clean. If you don’t tell them how to write about you, they’ll come up with something for you (I have stories) and then you’ll be bummed you didn’t get your web site in the spot.

5. Offer bonus content  - Your goal is to provide useful information for the interview, but you’ll be a rock star if you offer additional tips or resources on your blog. Tell the journalist in advance, but don’t be afraid to bring it up if they don’t. This will give people a reason to visit your site. It will also give the news crew a reason to link to you from their web site. Believe me, you’ll see it in your traffic. Then, make sure you have that content ready and at the top of your site before your appearance.

Of course, have fun and don’t be shy about asking for a picture on the set or with the interviewer. They are used to it and usually happy to oblige.

Have you been on TV? What are your favorite tips? What did I miss?

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  1. These are great tips! When I had the opportunity to appear on the local news last month, I was really glad I had written down my name and website url.

    I was a bit nervous on camera and forgot to mention it, but thanks to this tip, it was flashed across the screen at both the beginning and the end of the segment.

    • Missy Berggren

      Hey Jen – thanks for the comment! The coaching session you and I had by phone was what inspired this post! You did a great job and I’m glad that tip was especially helpful.

  2. Susan Peterson

    Great tips! #3 I would probably disagree with though, in every circumstance. There are many topics where smiling is not appropriate. For serious issues, or people who are researchers or reporting on serious topics, smiling will cause a loss of credibility. Doctors should smile, I’m sure but be careful to smile only when it’s appropriate.

    • Missy Berggren

      Susan, great point! Smiling is not appropriate in every situation, especially in a crisis. That said, when appropriate, not smiling can really work against you…. and a little bit can go a long way in creating energy. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  3. Great tips! I made an appearance on a local cable access show to talk about children’s books (my profession) for a local organization a couple of months ago, and I think it went okay. I have yet to see the footage though, and I’m nervous about watching myself. :???:

    • Missy Berggren

      Thanks Mindy – watching ourselves on TV can be tough, but usually there’s something we can learn for the next time.

  4. Melissa:
    Nice job on TV Tips!

    I would agree about smiling, though. Certainly smile when you are being introduced and at the sign off. (And thank them at the sign off too). Being accustomed to talking about serious things with dire consequences,I’ve learned it’s best not to smile then.

    Here are a few more quick tips fro consideration:

    1. Look where they tell you to look. Without training, many people tend to look upward when they are formulating thoughts. To do this while on camera, though looks silly. So simply train yourself to look exactly where they tell you, and keep looking there even if there are sounds and movements going on around you. Don’t let anything disract your vision.

    2. Keep your hands away from your face – as in don’t futz with your hair or glasses. Also get all your clothing adjusted before the camera starts, never during.

    3. Remember that a slight pause before you answer is always okay, even on live TV.

    4. Posture should be like a queen. Legs crossed at ankles, knees together, sitting upright with hands on lap. A little bit of casual can inadvertently come off as way too casual or way too relaxed.

    5. Don’t be reluctant to state your key messages more than once. If the questions allow it, you can restate your key messages more than once and in different ways.

    Hope these help.

    • Missy Berggren

      Carol – love these tips! You are definitely a pro – I’ll never forget your secret tip for how to have great looking nails for your TV appearances & speaking events.

  5. Great tips! One more to add is for people to get to know their good side. If you look best when the camera is capturing you from your left or right side, ask to be seated in the optimal position before the interview. It’s television, it’s in real time, they will not argue with a guest who will be LIVE in five, four, three…

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