You crafted a compelling pitch and landed a TV interview — maybe even your first one. Here are six things to know to help quell your nerves and enable you to make the most of this opportunity.

  1. Get the details: Is the interview on location/at your site or in the TV studio? Is it live or recorded? Are there specific topics the journalist plans to address?  And if you know who will be interviewing you, check out some of their past coverage to get a feel for their interview style.
  2. Practice and plan: Review your data and background thoroughly so you’re not fumbling for something to say during the interview. Write out several key messages that you hope to convey, and practice them — out loud, in front of a mirror or with a colleague. Time yourself, and tighten things up. TV interviews are notoriously short, so cut out the fat.
  3. Dress the part: That stack of bracelets or those statement earrings might look great, but do they clack and jangle when you’re talking? The camera will pick up every noise. Leave the distracting prints and patterns at home and opt for solid-color, professional clothing. A jacket with a lapel provides a great spot for a microphone to attach. And avoid wearing white, which doesn’t read well on air.
  4. Make eye contact: Look at the person interviewing you, not at the camera. This is true for an on-site/remote interview or an in-studio one. It’s unsettling for viewers when the interview subject is staring into the camera. Even if the anchor is looking at a teleprompter or his notes instead of at you, or the location reporter is surveying the scene while interviewing you, continue to look at them.
  5. Think calm and collected: Simple deep-breathing exercises can calm your nerves before you go on camera. During the interview, talk clearly, enunciate and aim for a conversational — not nervous or rushed — pace. And even if the questions get tricky or you feel defensive, always remain professional and composed. Even a hint of a snarky tone is a bad look.
  6. You’re always on: Assume that the camera is always rolling. You don’t want to get caught checking your teeth or making an unprofessional aside. And never count on something you’ve said, even off-camera or during a taped interview, to be “off the record.” Any arrangement to be off the record or interviewed on background only will have been agreed to before the interview, and those arrangements are fairly rare. Assume you’re “on” — on the record, on air, on your game.

TV interviews, especially live ones, are probably the most-feared type of media engagement. But, with these tips, they don’t have to be.