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First Time in an On-Camera Interview?

The best cheat sheet for how to conduct yourself on camera. Everything from what you should wear, to how you should talk, to what you should expect the interviewer to say.

Hint: EVERYONE thinks they aren't good on camera...and it is always a lie.

1. DO NOT be nervous, we just want to help

I know the all-caps might have scared you initially, so I apologize for that, but I want you to know this that badly. I need you to read this carefully...Unless you are a prominent political figure who is under investigation by a news organization for some sort of misdeeds, no one is there to "catch you." No one is there to "scare you". Everyone behind the camera only wants you to succeed and we will help you with whatever it takes to get you there.

Every single person who has stepped in front of my camera has told me "I am just not good in front of the camera," and never once has it been true. They always do a great job AND live to tell the tale. If you are still nervous, just make sure you breathe, think through what you want to say, and have a glass of water near you.

2. What to wear (answer: not tiny patterns)

There isn't much you can do to mess up this part of the interview, though a lot of people get hung up on it. Basically, the only rule is that you should not wear tiny patterns, especially stripes. There is and effect called moire that happens in camera with small patterns (seen below) and we should just try to avoid that.

Another piece of advice just for your own sake is to avoid obvious fashion trends. We want your video to last as long as possible so we want to avoid dating the content too much.

Overall though, wear whatever you want, but make sure it matches the message you want to send. If you are wanting to be seen as professional, wear a neutral business outfit or uniform.

If you are a quirky art teacher, wear your crazy painted-covered shirt.

Do not sacrifice the special parts of you for a moment on camera. We generally want to know you.

3. What the heck do I do with my hands?

In general, you are free to use your hands to gesture and explain whatever points you may be talking about. For some people, using your hands might be a welcome distraction from your nerves and that can help you feel more comfortable on camera. Either way, it is best to tell your interviewer if you tend to use your hands a lot so they can tell you the best course of action for this particular piece.

If you do use your hands a lot when speaking:

  • Do not touch your shirt or chest if you have a microphone attached to you

  • Try not to cast a shadow on your face from any studio lights

  • Avoid covering your mouth. This could affect the audio and obscure your face.

4. Try to speak in sound bites

If you will be a interviewed for a TV news program, a corporate video, or social media ad where time is of the essence, this bullet point is for you. Sound bites are a grouping of simple sentences said by the subject that really sum up a whole story quickly and smoothly. Sound bites are simple, impactful, informative, with brevity as the ultimate objective. They are often the most memorable parts of a video, and leave your viewer something to ponder on. For instance:

Interviewer: What would you say is the secret to your success?

Subject: My mother taught me that the best way to succeed was to fail hard and fail fast, and I intend to keep doing that.

Even though not many words were said here, we can tell a lot about the work ethic of this individual and it is an easily quoted line that will stand out in the memories of the viewers watching this piece. If you will be participating in a longer form interview where you are allowed more time, feel free to use some sound bites to spice up your conversation and make sure you have some quotable lines that really make an impression on people.

Sound bites are an art form and can take a long time to practice and master. If you want some more information on this, I have made another post just on this topic here.

More examples:

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"

"Cleaning the house with a toddler is a bit like brushing your teeth while eating oreos"

"Do or do not; there is no try."

5. Try to speak in complete sentences

Sometimes for editing purposes, the interviewer's question is taken out entirely. This leaves only the answer left for the viewer to gain context and information from. So one word answers like "yes" and "no" are a no-go. Here is an example of a bad and ultimately unusable answer...

Interviewer: What would you say is the secret to your success?

Subject: Hard work.

Just the phrase "hard work" out of context makes no sense. Instead, try rephrasing the question in the form of a sentence like...

Interviewer: What would you say is the secret to your success?

Subject: I would say my secret to success is hard work and the ability to persevere through challenges.

This kind of exact repetition is not required for every answer (as that can sound a bit scripted), but it is a good fail safe to make sure you give a good complete answer. Make it your own! Practice giving full complete sentence answers and you can be sure you never waste a moment to get your point across.

6. Be yourself!

The best interviews are the ones that stand out from the pack when people are not afraid to be themselves and give genuine answers. Whatever you are doing, just remember that the viewer actually wants to know who you are so don't be afraid to show them.

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