Master the Live TV Interview

By: Kristin Clarke

Tips for making the most of your moment in front of the cameras.

You watch it on TV news every night. An anchor goes back and forth between two experts with opposing opinions, and one interviewee makes a more positive—or at least memorable—impression than the other.

The key to that mastery is preparation, according to Michelle Bernard, an MSNBC political analyst and a frequent talk show guest. "It's critical to understand the style of the interviewer and how they conduct interviews so that you'll be prepared for how they approach you," says Bernard. "Also, it's imperative to understand how other interviewees conduct themselves, so you'll know (a) whether you'll be interviewed with someone who interrupts or allows fellow guests to make their point, [and] (b) whether the other person is polite or not."

She emphasizes the importance of "knowing what points you want to make before the interview is over and coming up with a strategy as to how to make those points." Association leaders preparing for TV interviews should discuss vital points with an interviewer or producer in advance, so that the interviewer can provide a chance to make such comments.

"Finally, study the philosophy of other guests ahead of time, so you can be prepared to rebut any arguments they make that you don't agree with," says Bernard. "The most common mistake I see … is interviewees being unprepared to explain their points—as well as to explain why someone with a differing viewpoint is wrong—in clear, concise, and compelling language. It's not enough to say someone is wrong or that you disagree."

Women leaders, in particular, face additional challenges on TV news. Women have to "be aggressive when participating in interviews where there is more than one guest and where they find themselves to be the sole female interviewee," she says. "Women's opinions are often dismissed. Also, sometimes women are not called on as much."

Many women seem uncomfortable interrupting someone to make a point or counter a statement. "As a result, it is even more imperative that women speak up, get over the desire to be polite, and just go for it," she says.

Kristin Clarke is a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Bernard will moderate the Opening General Session with James Carville and Karl Rove at ASAE's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo, August 11-14.

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.