You have been chomping at the bit for your shot to tell your story to the masses through a big media interview. And finally, the call comes in…they want you in the studio (or on the phone), tomorrow!

You got your wish. Now what? You definitely don’t want to blow it by freezing or saying the wrong thing (I believe there may already be a Wikipedia entry defining a “Steve Harvey” as an international misspeak of epic proportions.) It is easier than you think to flub on the air, and even if your interview isn’t live, you don’t want that to happen. Take the time to plan your key messages, so you can be as polished as possible for your 15 minutes of fame.

Whether you are about to be interviewed by a major outlet such as Good Morning America or the New York Times, or a radio show or community paper with a smaller reach, it is equally important to have all the right information at the tip of your tongue to present yourself as the brilliant expert you are.

While print media can edit a lengthy response, an economy of words is imperative to a successful interview on TV or radio. Audience members have short attention spans and are not typically focused exclusively on what they are hearing or watching.

Be Prepared!

Not just for boy scouts, this motto rings tried and true for both print and TV media.

  • Develop your top two or three key messages.
  • Draft short, simple talking points.
  • If possible, obtain a list of questions from the reporter in advance.
  • Practice makes perfect: schedule time to practice your talking points or your responses with another member of your team.

Lights, Camera…

  • Location, location, location: Whether the interview is being conducted at your office or on location, make sure the area is suitable. Are you at a trade show and a competitor is behind you in the camera shot? Is there a plant growing out of the top of your head? Are you doing a phone interview at a noisy train station? Where is your company logo?
  • Put your best face forward; how you look matters: choose solids over patterns, less is more.

Action!

  • Make eye contact and speak slowly.
  • Be aware of your body language.
  • Use your talking points as anchors for the interview; acknowledge the questions asked and redirect the conversation quickly if needed to make sure your key information is shared.
  • Use analogies and make sure your statistics are accurate.

Avoid the “deer in the headlights” look:

  • In the event of a question you can’t answer, a swift response of, “I will look into that” or “I see your point,” while bridging to a statement that brings the interview back to the main idea is better than saying, “I have no idea.”

And finally, just relax.

This may be easier said than done but remember: they’re not asking you who the 13th president of the United States was (just in case, it was Millard Fillmore), they’re asking you about your business, service or product. If you weren’t a pro on that, then you wouldn’t be where you are today! Good luck and may the force be with you! (Oh wait…wrong blog post.)