General Information

Advice for radio and television interviews

The way radio and broadcast interviews take place varies. You might be interviewed on your home or office telephone; on the University’s dedicated ISDN phone line (which provides clean sound); at a remote BBC studio where you speak ‘down the line’ on an ISDN line; at a radio or television studio where you are face to face with the journalist; or face to face with a journalist in your office. Broadcasters always prefer ‘clean’ sound using an ISDN line because the lack of normal phone ‘noise’ makes the interview much more pleasant for listeners and viewers to listen to.

  •  Ask if the interview will be live or pre- recorded and how long it will take.
  • Find out if anyone else is being interviewed for the same story and what their likely contribution will be (you want to avoid being thrust unawares into a debate live on air).
  • For television interviews, check your appearance in a mirror. Men and women should ask for light studio make-up to avoid shining under studio lights (not necessary for outdoors interviews). Conservative, professional clothing allows viewers to hear what you are saying rather than being distracted by what you are wearing.  Some clothing is distracting or causes problems for cameras or light balancing. For example: Avoid striped or herringbone clothing; all-black or all-white clothing; bold patterns; garish ties; short skirts which ride up when you sit down; lapel pins; name badges, dangly jewellery; polarising glasses; and hats.
  • Most radio interviews are either taped in a pre-recorded interview or aired live over the University’s ISDN line or a telephone landline. For technical reasons, the interviewer's voice may seem distant at times. Resist the impulse to speak loudly in response. If you are uncomfortable with the volume or connection, say so.
  • If the interview is live, ask what the first question will be - interviewers are usually not keen to tell you what they are going to ask because the interview will lack spontaneity and they cannot guarantee that they will stick to those questions. But most will tell you their first question so you can marshal your thoughts.
  • Live interview means live - so if you hit the microphone, cough, move about in a squeaky chair, drum your fingers on the table, rustle papers, or breathe heavily into the microphone it will detract from what you are saying.
  • Ensure that before a live interview the interviewer knows how to introduce you to avoid being put off stride if they get it wrong.
  • Look at the interviewer if possible and, for a ‘down the line’ interview when you are in a remote studio, look straight at the camera and nod, smile or engage as you would with the interviewer if you could see them.
  • To avoid stage fright:
      1. Before the interview, read over your material in advance.
      2. Take a deep breath, laugh or yawn to relieve tension.
      3. Remind yourself that you were asked to be interviewed because you're knowledgeable on the subject. You're the expert.
      4. You are not talking to an audience of your peers; you are talking to people with no or little knowledge of your specialist subject.
  • Be sure to make your key points early on. If being interviewed on radio, by all means take some notes with you but keep them bullet-point brief and use as an 'aide-mémoire' rather than read from them. Never use notes in a television interview.
  • Speak slowly and clearly and try to make each answer self-contained. Aim to answer each question in 30 seconds or less (two-three sentences).
  • Don't confuse the listener with too many side issues or long, complicated stories. Keep your message simple. If the listeners lose track of what you are saying, they will lose interest.
  • Speak confidently and use your voice, gestures, facial expression and body language to add vitality – though be careful not to overdo it. Smile when appropriate, even on radio. Research has shown smiles can be ‘heard’: (Drahota, A., Costall, A., & Reddy, V. (2008) Hearing smiles in the voice. Speech Communication, 50 (4), 278-287.)
  • Stay where you are when the interview is over until the producer tells you the interview is over. You don’t want to be filmed leaping to your feet, or heard on radio to be knocking over a chair, for example.