Working With the Media:

What to Wear
How to Look and Act
The Microphone
The Interview
Taped Interview
Panel Discussion
Radio Call-in

The TV and Radio Interview

What to wear

Wear solid colors. Pastel shades or off-white for shirts and blouses. No tight pin stripes or very dark suits.

Don't wear red or white socks. Be sure your socks are long enough to cover the calf when your legs are crossed.

Don't wear shiny, loud or distracting jewelry or overwhelming scarves. No Rolexes, wrist jewelry, etc. Dull finishes, like pearls, are best.

No sunglasses or photosensitive glasses.

Makeup for men: Wear makeup if you have a dark beard, a tendency toward 5 o'clock shadow, a high forehead or a receding hairline. Brush face with cornsilk or translucent pressed powder to help reduce shine and perspiration. Paper (not tissue) also helps absorb oil.

Makeup for women: Routine street makeup is adequate. Avoid too much lipstick and keep it the same color as your tongue to look natural. Avoid natural color eyeshadow. Keep it light, and avoid the kind that shimmers.

Television is a visual medium. Rather than sitting behind your desk during the interview, schedule a location that not only is visual but compliments your point of view. Consider and arrange the background. Ask students or others to wear Caltech shirts, if appropriate. Look for props or visual examples. Avoid backgrounds that look shabby, cluttered or outdated.

When background video or slides are available, notify Caltech Media Relations so the producer can be notified and technical details addressed before the day of the interview, if possible.

How to look and act

Smile. TV accentuates good and bad facial features. One technique that models use: Press your tongue against your top teeth when you smile (assuming you aren't talking!).

To loosen up your face, concentrate on your forehead. If you have a mustache, you need to invest extra effort in facial gestures.

Sit up straight and on the edge of your seat to emphasize not only enthusiasm but also the best posture. When you sit back comfortably, you will look like you are slouching.

Cross your legs away from the camera.

Look at the interviewer, not the camera, unless doing a remote broadcast such as "Nightline."

Don't shift your eyes, even during questioning.

If standing, avoid movement. One technique is to point one foot forward and put your weight on that foot, leaning toward the mike. You will look like you are interested in the discussion and will avoid bobbing, weaving or other movement.

Practice hand control. Stick to a few, practiced gestures. Otherwise, keep your hands at your side. Curb habits such as checking your watch, rubbing your hands together, etc.

The microphone

Maintain a distance of six to eight inches from the microphone, with both elbows on the table. Talk normally. The microphone is very sensitive.

Talk over your lavalier microphone. (If the interviewer is on the right, have the mike pinned on the right-hand side of your shirt or blouse.)

Before the interview, a technician will ask you to speak into the microphone so he can set audio levels. On this audio check, make sure you are speaking at your usual voice level.

The interview

Make responses colorful and short. Ten to 25 seconds may well be all of the interview that airs. Practice beforehand and time your answers. You will be surprised how much you can say in such a short time if you are prepared.

Technical, complex answers don't communicate well to the audience and end up on the cutting room floor. Be prepared with several colorful and dramatic responses. Use the art of analogy and example.

Avoid jargon or unfamiliar words. Speak in complete sentences.

Slow down.

Use the reporter's first name.

When you have completed your answer, stop talking. Don't be fooled by silence. Sometimes reporters remain silent at the end of your remarks, hoping you will continue, possibly stumbling into information you'd just as soon not share.

If the question is not negative, repeat or rephrase it. This gives you a chance to think while you frame a succinct answer and to rephrase it so you can answer it more effectively. It also helps the audience in case they missed the question.

If the interviewer asks a negative question, rephrase it positively rather than repeat it.

If the question contains incorrect information, correct it. Don't let the reporter move on until you are confident the point has been cleared.

A TV reporter is doing an interview whether the camera is on or not. Any statement made in the presence of the reporter or photographer is fair game. You are never off the record simply because the camera is off.

Plan to say Caltech a few times during a broadcast interview. "Here at Caltech...." works well. The producer and reporter might forget to mention your affiliation.

The taped, edited interview

In an interview that will be edited, you should make your point first--clearly and concisely. Then you can go on to enlarge the point with background. This will lessen the chances of having your remarks edited out of context.

Take your time and start again if your answer gets jumbled or confused. Don't hestitate to simply say "I'd like to try that again."

Keep your answers to three sentences. Each reply should be a self-contained message, independent of any prior statement or any comment that may follow.

The panel discussion

Know the positions and attitudes of your co-panelists. Anticipate the key points they will make, and, if they conflict with yours, be prepared to express and support your views.

Anticipate the questions that will be directed to you and have answers ready.

Prepare well-organized, concise and powerful opening remarks that focus on your objectives.

Avoid being antagonistic in your responses.

If questions come from the audience, make a mental note of the person's name and affiliation; address them by name when answering the questions, but don't overdo it.

Restate your view, never that of your opponent. Your answer might begin, "That may be your position, but mine is that...."

Radio call-in show

You must rely totally on the sound of your voice to emphasize key points.

Given a caller's anonymity, he may become overly aggressive and rude. Maintain composure. Remember, you're talking to the listening audience, not the caller, so respond to their need to know, not the caller. Keep in mind that the audience also can spot a rude or don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts caller and will weigh credibility appropriately.

If your composure starts to slip, suggest that the moderator move on to the next call.

Also available: "Working With the Media: Print Media Interviews"


Last updated: 3:29:59 PM PST, Wednesday, January 10, 2001