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Conquering the Video Interview

Video is a different animal. Editing may not always be an option in a live forum and you probably won’t get final cut. The good news is that you can train yourself to ace a video interview pretty easily.

Begin by watching the PBS Newshour. Watch how long commentators are given to speak, watch how they answer questions, and watch how they bring the conversation back to the points they want to stress, regardless of the question.

Practice in front of a friend or colleague before hiring a media coach. Film yourself and review the tapes to see how you present.

Watch for any of your endearing quirks. People who know you may find them endearing, but impartial observers may find them distracting. Try to comport yourself naturally and internalize these tips:

1. Remain composed. Don’t fidget or spin in your wheelie chair. Everybody does it, but the fix is super simple. Place your feet directly on the floor; don’t cross your legs. Place your hands on your thighs or in your lap. Both help you stay focused. Practice this posture until it feels natural. Add in any mindfulness tools already in your tool belt to keep yourself calm and focused.

Everybody loves spinning chairs.

2. Avoid gesticulating. You are an independent expert, not an advocate. A dispassionate source is more sought after than a zealot with a strident doctrinal speech. Keep your hands in the aforementioned position.

3. Practice dispassionate passion. Viewers want to believe what you say, but they don’t want you to express the underlying emotion. That relegates you the fringe.

4. Look directly into the camera. In most cases, the journalist will stand next to it, so talking to them directly will accomplish this. For a remote, as with PBS, look directly into the camera and picture an audience or cameraperson there if you need that to stay grounded.

5. Keep your voice steady. Tape yourself with your iPhone and pay attention to the modulations of your voice. Does it rise at the end of a sentence, or when you become particularly engaged? Right or wrong, people trust low voices with a steady cadence. Fast or slow doesn’t particularly matter. Studies show some people believe those who speak quickly are smart, while other studies show people believe that those who speak slower are wise. Adopt a style that feels good and fits you. You can easily learn to lower your voice with practice. Listen to a few episodes of PBS Newshour, and try to match your pitch to theirs.

Finally, learn the cheat sheet of conversational interview transitions. Once you are aware of them, you will see how often they are used. Going back to PBS, look for the following. You can practice these segues with a family member or colleague:

“I agree, Gwen, that ABC is an issue. But the overriding issue is XYZ.”

“What [Other Guest] says is valid. But for the people on the street, XYZ is the overarching imperative.”

“While the case can be simplified to A+B=C, the long-term effects of the law/decision are XYZ.”

“I agree, this seems to be about A and B. But the undercurrents point to X and Z, and that is what will guide events going forward.”

If you are still unsure or unconfident, you can engage a media coach. But try these tips first, and see if your interview opportunities increase. That’s a wrap!

Susan Kostal is a legal marketing and media coach specializing in the Bay Area legal industry. Find more great content on Twitter @skostal.

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