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.
It sounds simple enough, but speakerphone interviews often lead to awkward results. Building on the five tips we shared in Part I of this series, here are five more tips specifically for speakerphone TV interviews:
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.