They say there are just two occasions in life when you’re completely alone – just before you die and immediately before you make a speech. Of course that theory was spawned back in the day before video cameras became all pervasive, now it they have there’s a third forsaken moment to add to the list – the on-camera interview.
Even though video is now such a huge part of our daily life that we take it for granted, it doesn’t make it any easier when the focus falls on you to do an on-camera interview. And the fact is, if you’re in business it’s now a question of when, rather than if, you’ll be called to face the red light of doom.
Variations of the on-camera interview can range from the stomach-churning moment when the floor manger starts to count back from five in an eerily silent broadcast studio, to when the guy from IT levels his camcorder at you to deliver a brief message for the company video. In either case once that red light comes on you’re on your own in a video no mans land where absolutely no one’s coming to your rescue. So here are a few insider tips to ensure you have enough knowledge to hold your own.
- Knowledge is power
The on-camera interview can be a dauting prospect but he good news is that if you know your subject you’re almost home and dry before you start. Armed with that knowledge (remember your expertise or position has earned you your space in front of the camera) so, cock your leg, mark your territory and take charge of it. Remember also that however well-briefed the interviewer, he or she won’t have your knowledge of the subject. So before you begin, suggest questions that they may like to ask; the chances are they’ll be surprisingly grateful. Bear in mind that although they’ll give you a good idea of what to expect, they’ll always hold back one or two questions until the end in the hope of getting you to say something more spontaneous to finish with.
- Look the part
There are a few other things you can do to improve the way you look and sound. If you’re seated always lean forward slightly, never back, leaning forward gives you an air of authority and honesty.
Don’t fidget or move your head around too much. The camera emphasises movement and the microphone will almost certainly pick up any rustling of clothes.
Don’t let nerves tempt you to rush. Speak slowly and decisively, this gives you an air of authority and buys you time to think. The occasional smile underlines confidence but don’t try it if there’s a chance you’ll end up looking like a finalist in the world gurning championships.
- Think line of sight
There are basically two ways you may be required to speak on-camera. The TV interview, in which case you should look directly at the person conducting the interview, or the ‘John Simpson style piece to camera’ (also kown as a PTC ) where you look directly into the lens. The good news is you won’t need the flack-jacket but follow the example of the ultimate pro and don’t try referring to notes. Looking down not only confuses the viewer, it also makes you look very shifty and unsure.
- Planning, planning, planning
Always plan beforehand what you will say and key points you want to get across. Concentrate on your opening when people will be making judgements about you and deciding if you’re worth listening to. And save your main point for last – in most cases it’s the only part viewers will remember.
If part-way though a recorded interview or piece to camera you feel you’ve wandered off topic or lost the thread, then stop and say so. But say it very obviously so the production team have no option other than to bin the take and start again. And don’t worry, the pro’s do it all the time.
If you don’t like the question or the way it’s being asked, do what the politicians do, vagely acknowledge the question and then move on to talk about what you want to. After all there’s no better way of claiming your space than that is there?
- Don’t get caught out by tricks of the trade
If your interview involves anything controversial or you suddenly find yourself on the back foot, just be aware of a very nasty little tactic the video production people have up their sleeve. The interviewer may ask you a question, listen to your answer and then say nothing. Shortly afterwards and feeling obliged to fill the silence, you babble on and say tons of stuff you never meant to. Have your say, stop, smile and stare him or her out. The interviewer is guaranteed to blink first and the video editor will love you for it – it’s what they call the perfect ‘out point’. He’ll probably enjoy a quiet chuckle at the interviewers expense too.
So, there you have it. Just a few of my top tips to help you ensure you’re on the front foot next time you’re called upon for that corporate video. Let me know how you get on!
Paul Harvey – Icarus Media