TV Interviews: How to Shine Instead of Shake

January 23, 2013 | Sue Breding

The Fire-Artist’s Biggest Fear

He starts by taking a wide stance to keep his balance. Martin Taylor tilts his head back and dramatically raises a flaming torch above his face. Then, he slowly and carefully places the fireball inside his mouth.
The audience gasps! The sight of Mr. Taylor’s impressive Circus act frightens them, but he’s cool-as-a-cucumber knowing he honed this trick-of-his-trade with years and years of practice and precision.

So, perhaps you can understand why I smiled warmly at him when he said “this terrifies me” as he pointed to a TV cameraman. A popular feature reporter from the FOX 10 Phoenix morning show came to do multiple live segments about his circus family andthe show he created called Circus Americana.

I smiled because here he was getting the exact media attention that everyone who ever invented or created anything desires and he was afraid. I could see it in his face and, because I know him well, I could feel it in his spirit.
The Taylor Family had already been fearless. It took a giant leap of faith for them to “go for” their dream and put their own money down to buy two weeks of time at a beautiful theater in downtown Phoenix so they could present their show- their labor of love.

Like many smart people who are about to be interviewed by the media the fear wasn’t because Mr. Taylor isn’t a wiz with words! He has numerous degrees including MFA, M.E, M.Ed., B.A.
The fear wasn’t that he didn’t understand the value of media attention.

The fear wasn’t stage fright, for heaven’s sakes! In addition to fire-eating, Mr. Taylor juggles multiple balls without dread, he spins plates on a thin stick, he helped his daughter, Elia, as she learned to balance her body on a tightrope while wearing ballet point shoes.

It made no sense but it was true. Mr. Fearless Fire-Eater was frightened of a live TV interview.

How to Shine Instead of Shake.

Simply Talk to The Interviewer. I always say, forget the camera person is there. Make and hold eye contact. Focus on the person asking the questions and not on the camera. Keep the tone conversational. Talk to the interviewer as if you are carrying on a conversation with a friend. A powerful, steady gaze speaks volumes about your trustworthiness.

Remember They Want Your Expertise. Try to think about the reason you have been singled out for an interview. You know more than anyone about what you are talking about.
Preparation and Practice: Remember why Mr. Taylor is cool-as-a-cucumber eating fire? What he does on stage- he has done a gazillion times in practice. If you are nervous because you didn’t prepare for your interview- you’ll not get much sympathy from me. If you are a naturally nervous speaker, prep time is your best friend. Make a list of three important points you want to get across. Stick to them. As you practice you will start to feel more at ease and when you’re finally delivering your answers on-camera, your nerves will likely settle down.

The Power of the Pause: This is something Mr. Taylor excels at during interviews. The thoughtful moment just before his answer. If you tend to get overly-excited in these situations, consciously attempt to slow yourself down. If you start stumbling over words, it helps to stop for a second, take a quick breath, and continue with your point.

Work with a Coach: Your Orca Publicist can be a great resource for you. We also have plenty of former TV news reporters on our staff who would love to help you.

Pick a Different Spokesperson. You may own the company but you may not be the best spokesperson. In a strategic meeting I had with the Taylor family over lunch one afternoon before all the PR hoopla began for them, we decided that the designated spokesperson for Circus Americana would not be the obvious choices of Mr. or Mrs. Taylor. Their 15-year-old son, Aubrey, made the case to me that he should be the designated spokesperson for all TV interviews. I heard him out and fully agreed! Wow! Did their articulate teenager ever sparkle and shine in every interview he did!