Ruth E. Walker
I used to imagine what it would be like to be interviewed for TV. I knew I’d be nervous. And I still am…each time. But being prepared in advance was my key to surviving and appearing calm.
There are differences between a live and taped production, (in a taped show, you can make horrible mistakes and they can edit them out…usually) but the basics for both scenarios are the same.
You are pretty much on your own for hair, makeup and wardrobe. So choose your “look” well in advance.
Dress to keep the attention on the conversation. Avoid plaids or busy stripes/polka dots. Lots of fringes. Clunky, dangling jewellery. Super shiny fabrics. Clothing gaps (think too tight, too short, too low cut) or baggy outfits. (and fellas, if you think I’m just talking to women here, think again…)
Shine your shoes. Maybe the camera won’t pick them up but good heavens, everyone in the studio, including the host, will see those mud-spattered runners.
You will likely be wired for sound. Commonly, a lavalier microphone clips onto your clothes somewhere around your upper chest. The wire hides inside your clothes and the transmitter (a small box unit) is clipped somewhere on your back, out of view. Easy peasy if you wear a suit jacket or sweater. Remember, production staff need to snake the wire through your clothes.
Take a minute in the washroom when you first arrive at the studio to make sure that cowlick is behaving and any loose hair/dandruff is brushed off your shoulders. Washroom quiet can also help calm your nerves.
We all have certain physical tics—I clench my jaw. These tics intensify when you’re nervous. Practise being relaxed in front of a mirror, hands in your lap or gently active when emphasizing a point. Maintain slow and easy breathing. Bring that attitude into the studio.
Keep your focus on your interviewer; don’t look around the studio or directly into the camera—even a quick glance away can be distracting. If you need a break, look down at your book on the table or at your hands in your lap.
Yes, I said your book on the table. Remember always to bring it along. And if you have any attractive promotional material, such as an upright banner or portable book display unit, ask in advance if you should bring it to the studio. On Jules Carlysle’s Telling Stories (Rogers TV), a children’s author brought along a colourful display that showcased her series of books for young readers. Effective!
Be on time. Better yet, be early.
Television production is costly and a late guest is never appreciated—especially for live TV. But if something happens to delay you, make sure you have the production team’s number to call or text.
Email in advance any important information you want the host(s) and the production team to know and/or promote:
- your full name and contact info: website address, social media, telephone, etc.
- date, time and place of next book launch/appearance, etc.
- bookstores that carry your book
- the name of your book and publisher
Remember to bring a hard copy of all these details with you, in case
Say thank you. You are an invited guest to the program, given an opportunity to speak publicly and provided with an audience. Of course you say thank you. If you have book published, give a copy to the host(s).
I still get people recalling various times I’ve been interviewed on TV so be assured the power of on-screen promotion has long legs. All the more reason to appreciate each opportunity.
Know why you are there
You are there to showcase or sell something. So be prepared. Think in terms of images and metaphors—sound bites create quickly recognizable images/ideas in the viewer’s mind.
“My book is a quest story with a modern twist.”
“Writing is easy; it’s the editing that slows me down.”
“When I sold my first story, the kids had to peel me off the ceiling.”
Most televised shows have a specific focus. Daytime shows are generally informational with an upbeat tone; if there is more than one host, there’s friendly banter and lots of smiles. Feature interviews (single host; often longer interview times) are also themed. An arts-themed show will have an arts-focused audience. A TV program that features historical writers…well, you get the point. Know before you go: what are they looking for? Do your best to provide it.
“Yes, it was a challenge writing the book. That’s why I’m gratified that so many bookstores have “My Book” on their bookshelves.”
See? Sell yourself. Easy peasy.
Did You Know:
Ruth’s interview with Jules Carlysle will be broadcast on Rogers TV in Durham Region:
Tuesday, November 15 – 1:00pm, 4:00pm
Wednesday, November 16 – 10:30am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm
Thursday, November 17 – 11:30am
If you watch it, see if she managed to look calm or if her nerves betrayed her. Jules is a charming and excellent host and Ruth enjoyed the opportunity very much.