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How to Give an Awesome On Camera Interview

Posted by on Apr 1, 2011 in BLOG | No Comments

This is a topic near and dear to me… not just because I have the great opportunity to interview uber interesting/talented people on a weekly basis for Adobo Nation, but also because I take the art of interviewing very seriously. There are few things in life as brutal as watching a bad interview – where the host interrupts, shouts, is disengaged, or tries to keep the focus on themselves instead of the subject. Equally terrible are subjects that visibly wilt under the cameras, don’t sit still, look badly groomed or unprofessional, and can’t for the life of them remember what they are supposed to say.

As an interviewer, my job is to ask you the right questions and create a compelling and informative exchange of ideas. As an interviewee, YOUR job is to make sure you’ve said what you need to say, and come across as a credible and likable source of info. You have a rare chance to be heard, and to make your message stand out – either your own, or that of the company/group you represent. Don’t screw it up (no pressure).

Fear not, however: thecommich has heard the plea of many soon-to-be guests and wants to share some tips. Take note – these are for soft, talk-show style interviews… not hard news or editorial interviews for 60 Minutes and the like. That’s for another post!

Yay! Good to wear.

WHAT TO WEARThis is a question asked by an astonishing number of men. Women seem to understand intuitively what to bring to an on-cam interview: a bright colored, fitted dress or pant combo that doesn’t wrinkle, nice chunky jewelry or a scarf, and natural makeup. That said, women sometimes make the mistake of wearing all black, which makes them look totally washed out (and a bit sinister – see Victoria Beckham). It’s not a wake, ladies. And yes, the camera adds 15 pounds on you whatever color you wear. Just accept it and bring on the brights.

Anderson’s Awesome Suit

As for the men… well, suffice to say that you will either love or hate the quality of your suits after you’ve seen how you look on camera. Well cut suits, properly altered to fit, are by far the best thing I’ve seen on a man in an interview (see Anderson Cooper). Bad off-the-rack suits in cheap fabric is easily the worst. Not only does the shine and wrinkle show up on HD, but the lack of breathability makes for nervous and sweaty subjects. You don’t want to wear a whole bunch of powder to hide your damp, red  face, do you?

If you can get away with not wearing a suit, awesome. Pick a nice, non-wrinkly shirt (not white, which will make you pasty – nor black, for reasons stated above), well fitting jeans – no plumber cracks! No overhanging tummy pudge! – and for the love of God, no white socks. Especially if you don’t know whether or not you’ll be seated for the interview.

For both men and women: No pinstripes or small checkered tops. Unless you want everyone staring at the astonishing way your clothes are acting on camera, and not listening to a word you are saying.


Poise and posture – yes

People like to say “be yourself.” Easier said than done, especially if you’ve never been in a studio before (which is essentially a fishbowl with cameras and an audience instead of glass walls). I like to tell my more nervous guests not to look around, not to think about how they are coming across, just to concentrate on what I’m saying so we can have a chat. REAL conversation is the key here… listening and reacting, being present instead of racking your brain for the next talking point. If the host knows what she’s doing, she will guide you through the conversation and all you have to do is plug into her.

WTF…. No!

That said – if you have any nervous tics, now is the time to lose them (unless you are talking about Tourette’s syndrome). Indulging in leg shaking, pen twiddling, hair tossing or other distracting gestures is no bueno. Ditto for sloppy dressing or TMI displays for the sake of looking “natural” (see Halle Berry). A little practice in front of a mirror or a home video camera can go a long way to helping you get comfortable.

And I hate to be your mother, but this bears repeating: Sit up straight. Look people in the eye when they are talking. Smile. Don’t be afraid to laugh. And…relax. It’s just TV.


You have the whole interview mapped out in your head. You’ve made the talking points. You’ve done your research. You know the rebuttals to the arguments. Then the host asks a question you hadn’t rehearsed. Oh crap, oh crap, oh craaaaaaap what do you do now?

Imagine the questions he had to face.
The first thing to do is NOT do what I just illustrated above, which is pile all your knowledge into a bunch of talking points then panic when the interview isn’t going the way you planned. 

A good host will actually find a way to go a bit off script – it helps keep things natural and lively. Use the opportunity for you to show your real, human side – audiences have an inborn bull**t meter and they don’t like the thought of a corporate mouthpiece (do YOU trust people who only talk in corporate speak?). Of course, now is not the time to admit your sordid past as a drug dealer or sex addict – unless of course you’re there to talk about said transgressions (see Tiger Woods).  But a few off the cuff remarks and jokes proves that you’re down with the homies, and not intimidated by your surroundings.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to find subtle ways to keep things on topic, e.g. “Yes, I love going skiing in Tahoe. Which is why I love working with this energy drink company… I use it all the time when I’m up on the slopes.” Boom goes the dynamite.

And, please – if time is up and the interviewer is wrapping up your segment, let her do it. That means, if you haven’t hit on every talking point you wanted to bring up, tough. Like a good yoga session, you have to let close gracefully.  DO NOT jump in and try to cram a few moment’s worth of information at the very end. It’s rude, it’s crude, and if the show is taping live, it means the end of your sentence could be cut off. Not to mention the production team will not look to kindly on you for it, thus jeopardizing a chance at future appearances.  
Any more questions? Comment on this and I’ll answer! 
NEXT POST: How to Interview on Camera and Look Good Doing It

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