Who doesn't want to be on TV? It is a chance to be famous, even if only for your 15 minutes, and it's a great chance to market your skills and that of your firm. But, if you're going to be interviewed for a TV news story (especially on national TV), there's a chance the interview will be conducted via speakerphone. So how do speakerphone interviews work, and how can lawyers prepare for them?
For a speakerphone interview, a cameraperson (and sometimes an audio technician) will record your on-camera responses, but the reporter won't be there in person. Instead, the reporter (or a producer) will ask you questions via speakerphone, so he or she doesn't even have to leave the office.
- Don't yell into the air. Yes the reporter is on speakerphone, but you will probably have a microphone clipped to your shirt. So there's no need to raise your voice or over-enunciate, as you probably do when you're participating in a conference call via speakerphone. Speak in a natural, conversational voice.
- Don't look straight into the camera. Chances are, the cameraperson will have you sit at an angle to the camera, to mimic the look of a classic "sit-down" interview. Avoid the temptation to look into the camera when answering questions, and try to pretend you're talking to a reporter sitting in front of you.
- Don't let your eyes wander. This is a tell-tale sign of a bad speakerphone interview: The interview subject's eyes will wander all over the place, because there's no one sitting in front of him to focus on. Try to pick a focal point and stick with it, or check out Tip No. 4 below.
- Have a friend "sit-in" as the reporter. This friend won't show up on TV, as the camera will be focused on you. But having someone "sit-in" or "act" as the reporter can lead to a more natural-looking interview, as you'll be able to focus on your friend's eyes. You can even have your friend repeat the reporter's question before you respond, for a more natural-sounding interaction.
- Be in control of your B-roll. After the interview is complete, the camera crew will probably want some "B-roll" -- additional footage of you doing something "natural," which may be used to introduce your soundbite. Try to keep things businesslike: Footage of you typing on your computer, reviewing legal files, or even walking down the hall are safe choices -- and you may even be able to "sneak" your law firm's name or logo into one of those shots.
These tips come from personal experience: As a former TV news producer, I once interviewed a prominent law professor/legal analyst via speakerphone -- but my heart sank when I reviewed the footage. Wandering eyes, a strange sitting position, and inappropriate B-roll (of the lawyer playing with his kids -- something that did not fit in with the serious subject matter of the story) meant the footage was unusable. I had to call the professor to apologize and explain why he wouldn't be on TV after all.
Don't let that happen to you. While you can't control everything in a speakerphone TV interview, a bit of preparation can really pay off.
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