The Harbinger Group

Mastering On-Camera Interviews: Eight Tips from a Former News Anchor

Are you feeling underprepared or nervous about being on camera for an interview? You’re not alone. 75% of the population experiences anxiety related to public speaking, while 45% believe it limits their career growth. 

Our team has the expertise you need to feel confident for your next interview. Our digital and social media manager, Emily Evans, brings a unique perspective as she has 6 years of experience as a former news anchor and reporter in  South Bend, Indiana. 

Discover the expert advice Emily brings to our team, drawing from her unique background, and take your on-camera skills to the next level: 
1. The importance of thorough preparation

Preparation is the most important part of being in an on-camera interview. Where should you start?

  • Determine your core messaging: This is the main idea you want to convey to your audience while you’re being interviewed.
    • For example: PureSense Cleaning Products provide families with environmentally friendly and effective cleaning solutions.
  • Write 3-5 supporting points: Your supporting points are additional facts, statements, and stories that support your main messaging.
    • For example: 
      • PureSense Cleaning Products are 100% reusable, when you finish your product we can ship you re-fills. This limits the amount of packaging waste that goes into our landfills.
      • Our products are free of harsh chemicals such as ammonia, phosphates, and Triclosan. Instead, we use Plant-Based Surfactants and vinegar, which are safe for the environment and human health while remaining effective for cleaning
      • When Sarah, a mother of two, switched to PureSense cleaning products, she noticed a significant improvement in her family’s allergies and respiratory issues. She felt good knowing that she was creating a healthier home environment while also doing her part to protect the planet.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: Memorize your supporting points as best as you can. Whether you repeat them in the mirror or practice in front of family, having a general understanding of what you want to say will help keep your nerves under control. Also, don’t be afraid to bring a note card on the interview day. If you do happen to freeze up, you will have it just in case. Knowing you have a backup plan can help you ensure the success of your interview.
2. Developing a compelling on-camera presence

When it comes to presenting yourself on camera, it’s always best to be authentic and true to yourself. By being yourself, you’ll come across as more natural and relaxed, which is essential for a successful interview. However, it’s important to remember that appearance does matter when you’re on camera. As humans, we tend to be judgmental by nature, so it’s crucial to look clean and presentable during your on-camera interview.

To achieve a polished look, ensure that your hair is neatly styled and away from your face. For men, it’s best to appear clean-shaven if possible. Makeup can be a great touch for both men and women, as concealer can help hide dark, puffy eyes when needed. When choosing your outfit, opt for professional attire. Men can wear a shirt, tie, and suit jacket, or a sports polo if the occasion calls for it. Women can choose a nice, clean professional dress or a blouse with a suit jacket.

One important thing to keep in mind when selecting your outfit is to avoid wearing busy patterns. Busy patterns can appear distorted and distracting on camera, so it’s best to stick with solid colors. Choose colors that complement your complexion and skin tone. Some people may feel more comfortable in jewel tones like red, purple, or green, while others may prefer classic colors like navy or black. Brighter colors, if they suit you, can help you stand out and create an engaging presence on camera.

3. Handling difficult or unexpected questions

When faced with tough questions during an on-camera interview, it’s essential to handle them with grace and professionalism. One effective technique is to subtly bridge back to your key messaging. As a journalist, I’ve observed that the most successful interviewees do this in a way that doesn’t seem transparent or forced.

Instead of using obvious phrases like “That’s a really great question, but what I’m here to talk about today is…,” which can come across as a blatant redirection of the conversation, skilled interviewees employ a more subtle approach. They might say something like, “That’s a really important point you just brought up, and it leads us to discuss XYZ,” or “That’s a crucial point, and that’s precisely why I’m doing this and this to help solve that problem.” By connecting the question to their core messaging, they maintain control of the conversation while still addressing the issue at hand.

It’s important to remember that it’s always okay to pause and take a breath before responding to a challenging question. Being human and thinking before you speak is key when you’re on camera. If you need a moment to collect your thoughts, you can even be honest and say, “Let me think about that for a second.” This shows that you’re taking the question seriously and ensures that you provide a well-thought-out response.

In summary, when faced with tough questions during an on-camera interview, stay calm, take a breath, and use the bridging technique to subtly redirect the conversation back to your key messaging. By doing so, you’ll maintain control of the interview while still addressing the important points raised by the interviewer.

4. Conveying complex information to a broad audience

It’s important to remember that not everyone in your audience is an expert on what you’re talking about. To effectively communicate complex topics, it’s crucial to identify the most important key points and focus on those.

 “One of the best pieces of advice I received when dealing with complex, chaotic breaking news situations was to break down the information into just three main bullet points,” said Evans. “By concentrating on these top points, you can deliver a clear and concise message that is easy for your audience to understand.”

When presenting live or speaking on camera, sticking to these three to five main bullet points will make your delivery feel more conversational and natural, as opposed to reciting a complicated, pre-written script. 

Additionally, focusing on these key points will help keep your mind focused and organized, even when you’re dealing with a multitude of complex details and explanations. By simplifying the information and highlighting the most important aspects, you’ll be able to effectively communicate even the most intricate topics to your audience.

5. The role of nonverbal communication

When it comes to appearing natural and engaging on camera, your demeanor plays a significant role. Even if you’re not feeling your best, it’s essential to “fake it till you make it.” Try to come across as pleasant and upbeat, as this will help you connect with your audience. However, be mindful of your body language, particularly your hand gestures. While you don’t want to appear stiff or awkward by holding your hands unnaturally, excessive hand movements can also be distracting.

To achieve a natural and relaxed presence on camera, imagine you’re speaking to a good friend about your day. Smile when it’s appropriate, show sympathy or concern when necessary, and let your emotions come through genuinely. One effective way to practice and optimize your on-camera performance is to record yourself and watch the footage afterward. Although it may be uncomfortable to watch yourself on camera, it’s one of the best ways to identify areas for improvement.

By reviewing your on-camera interviews, you can assess whether you appeared too cold or serious during happy moments, or if you seemed overly enthusiastic during more somber topics. This self-evaluation will help you fine-tune your performance and appear more natural in future interviews. Remember to breathe, as this will help you stay relaxed and maintain a natural demeanor.

It’s important to note that everyone cringes when watching themselves on camera, but it’s a crucial step in improving your performance. Each time you review your footage, you’ll identify areas for improvement and gradually become more comfortable and confident in front of the camera. With practice and self-evaluation, you’ll be able to deliver engaging and natural on-camera interviews that effectively connect with your audience.

6. Tailoring your message to different audiences and platforms

When preparing for an on-camera interview or appearance, it’s very beneficial to understand your target audience. If you have access to a communications or PR person, they can help you identify the demographics and interests of the news outlet’s viewers or readers. This information will allow you to tailor your message and presentation style to effectively connect with your audience.

It’s important to note that your approach may vary depending on the platform and format of the interview. For example, a formal broadcast live interview on a television show will require a different tone and demeanor compared to a more casual Facebook Live event or a virtual panel webinar. In a formal setting, you’ll want to dress more professionally, and your tone will be more polished and structured. The anchors or reporters interviewing you will likely follow a more scripted format, and the overall atmosphere will be less freewheeling.

On the other hand, when participating in a social media live event, such as Facebook Live or Instagram Live, you can adopt a more relaxed and conversational tone. The dress code for these events may also be more casual, especially since the camera typically only captures you from the waist up. Similarly, during a live webinar, you can maintain a more informal and engaging style to connect with your audience.

Whenever possible, try to gather information about your audience before delivering your message. Understanding their interests, concerns, and demographics will help you craft your content and presentation in a way that resonates with them. By tailoring your approach to the specific platform, format, and audience, you’ll be able to effectively communicate your message and establish a stronger connection with your viewers or listeners.

7. Common mistakes to avoid
  • Lack of preparation is a common mistake that can lead to a mismatch between your tone and the story you’re conveying. Not thoroughly familiarizing yourself with your messaging and the story you’re there to convey can result in a jarring experience for the audience.
    • For example, if you’re a news anchor and you haven’t properly prepared by reading the script, you might still be using a serious tone from a previous story about a train derailment when you’re actually reading a lighthearted piece about kittens being born. This discrepancy will be noticeable and will reflect poorly on your preparation. To avoid this, always thoroughly prepare by knowing your content inside and out.
  • Speaking too quickly or rambling often stems from a lack of preparation and nervousness. When you’re not well-prepared, you might tend to speak too fast or go off-topic due to nervousness. To prevent this, stick to three to five key bullet points that you can refer to and feel confident discussing. This will help you speak clearly and concisely, without rambling.
  • Body language is important in creating an engaging on-camera presence. Coming across as stiff or unnatural can be a significant mistake, as it fails to create an engaging presence. To avoid this, take a deep breath and try to relax before going on camera. Be yourself, stay calm, and try to forget about the camera and the people watching. Instead, focus on connecting with the person interviewing you by making eye contact and being present in the moment. This will help you come across as more natural and authentic.
  • Avoiding difficult questions is an awkward and noticeable mistake. If you’re prepared and well-versed in the topic you’re discussing, you’ll feel more confident in handling tough questions. Practice addressing potential difficult questions ahead of time with your staff members, if possible. Remember that honesty and transparency can go a long way with an audience. If you don’t have the answer to a question, it’s better to admit it and explain what steps you’re taking to find the answer, rather than avoiding the question altogether.
  • Appearance and clothing choices can be distracting if not handled properly. Ensure that your hair is neatly styled out of your face and your clothing is simple and professional. Avoid busy patterns, excessive jewelry, or heavy makeup that can draw attention away from your message. The goal is to appear polished and put-together.
8. Continuously improving your on-camera skills

Continuously improve your on-camera performance by reviewing your appearances afterward, even though it may be uncomfortable. Start by listening to the audio without watching the video, so you can focus on the words you used and how you responded to questions. Then, watch the video to analyze your body language, noting if you appeared stiff or defensive at any point. Use these observations to identify areas for improvement and work on them for your next on-camera appearance.

By following these eight tips, you can significantly improve your interviewing skills and deliver engaging, impactful on-camera appearances. If you’re interested in more personalized guidance and support, contact our experienced earned media team today. For additional insights and resources, download our “Mastering On-Camera Interviews” fact sheet.