Media training: six common TV interview mistakes every spokesperson should avoid

In my media training sessions for charities and non-profits in Cardiff and around Wales I explain the advantages of a great TV news interview. They can be a brilliant way of reaching and influencing your audience. But it’s also important to be aware of what can go wrong, so here are some of the common mistakes I flag up to communicators and media spokespeople.

Are you ready to shine on-camera? Photo by Terje Sollie.


Try and be aware of anything odd that could take the viewer’s attention away from the words coming out of your mouth. If there are cornflakes stuck to the sides of that mouth, no-one will notice what you’re talking about!

Answering the question (too much)

You have to answer the question, don’t you?!

Yes, to a degree, but think about it like this: your ‘screen time’ is a rare chance to share your message with thousands or millions of people. So it makes sense to use that time to say what you want.

So the key to this is to prepare key messages, and make sure they get broadcast.

Giving long answers

Often, a journalist will record an interview with you, just to get a 15-20 second clip they can use that sums up your opinion.

Ideally, there’ll be a clear start and end to this clip. If you don’t provide a nice soundbite of the right length, it may well not get used. If it does, it could be cut down. Make sure you can sum up your key points succinctly.

Sounding flat

What reporters often want from interviews, more than facts, is your opinion.

It’s even better if it’s clear that this is something that matters and you care about deeply. Just giving answers that re-state facts in a dull monotone won’t inspire anyone. Share your opinion (or that of your organisation) and show you care, or the viewers may decide to check Facebook instead.

Awww…cute! Do let sleeping dogs lie, but don’t send your viewers to sleep with a dull interview. Photo by Torsten Dettlaff.

Talking shop

Don’t tell us about your strategies, visions, frameworks etc. Save it for the team meetings. The public doesn’t care. The actual question you need to answer is ‘what does it mean for me – the person on the street (or watching the telly)?’

Not preparing

Preparation is essential for doing a good TV interview. You need to be ready with what you want to say, and ready for things that could go wrong like a tricky question or your child bursting in to the room asking where teddy is.

To sum up…

Don’t let all these risks put you off. TV interviews can be a great way to reach and influence people, if you do them the right way. If you think you need more support to help you and your team shine on screen, why not check out my media training sessions? Good luck!

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