I’ve worked out what all the people who end up nailing their interviews have in common. I’m not talking about the executives or experts who spend time in media training to craft their message, or escape a crisis. I’m talking about everyday people who have experienced an extraordinary event that has led to me and a camera crew sitting with them in their lounge room.
They are: calm, present and appropriate.
Calm: Sounds simple, but there’s a camera crew in front of you, lights around you, and you’re probably emotional about whatever it is we’re here for in the first place! My trick? In the seconds before the camera rolls, take a deep breathe. I almost always do it myself. Today, before the camera rolled, I asked the woman sitting in the chair infront of me to do it 3 times. I breathed with her, so she knew it was ok. I didn’t start the interview until I knew she was ready. The moments of mindfulness meant she cleared her head and tossed the nervous giggle aside. She came out firing when I started asking questions. I use this technique whether it’s a positive or a combative type interview – it helps my story if their performance is on point, even if I don’t agree with what they’re saying.
Present: It sounds obvious to be ‘present’ but you’re not an exec with a PA who has put a hold on all your calls. You’re in your home. The dog barks, the baby cries, I had the supermarket delivery guy turn up mid interview a few weeks ago. All excusable interruptions obviously, but they’re enough to completely disrupt your train of thought (and if I’m honest, they put me off my game as well).
So, when I say be present I suppose it takes some preparation to put your phone in another room, put the dog outside, and here’s the one that isn’t always popular – your well-meaning friend needs to stay in the next room. Yes, you want the support. But it’s human nature for your eyes to dart to her for her help during the interview – and to the viewer that just looks dodgy. Your friend can still hear if they’re close by – but they absolutely must be out of your eyeline if you are to remain present.
Tone: Dress appropriately, speak appropriately. When you’re not a media trained executive, the audience cuts you a lot of slack. You don’t need to be perfect; you just need to be true. But they’ll pick you to pieces if your reaction to whatever the situation is in inappropriate, or disproportionate. Laugh it’s funny, but don’t laugh if it’s not. Cry if it’s sad, but don’t cry if it’s not.
Of course, execs could benefit from this advice as well. But the expectation for your performance is so much higher than the unlikely person thrown into the spotlight after a life changing moment.
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