Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Communicating Properly on a TV News Panel
Yesterday's sentencing verdict in the Dr. Conrad Murray necessitated we arrange a number of TV news interviews and I thought this would be a good opportunity to create a primer for attorneys who are asked to join a TV panel to discuss a news topic.
First step is the most important, ask the producer booking the interview what the topic will be and who will be joining you on the panel. This is crucial because you want to be prepared as much as possible for any question that could come up and be able to anticipate what panel members have to say about it. Google these individuals and understand what they have previously said on the record about the topic. Next, arm yourself with facts and stats about the topic, indisputable facts that can't be contradicted later to buttress your opinion. Once you have studied the topic, your opponents and the facts, schedule a mock interview with someone and practice your talking points. This is important as it will smooth out your delivery when the time comes for you to go on-air.
As you enter the studio for the interview make sure your face is powdered and hair in place- you want to wear non-distracting clothing and have a professional appearance. As you sit in the chair and are miked up you will be fitted with an earpiece that will allow you to hear the producer and what is currently being said on air. Be sure and check in with the producer and warn them about feedback. This is called mix minus and it happens when the satellite signal being received at the station is fed back to the ear with a 2 second delay of the person giving the interview. So basically what you hear is your own voice in your ear 2 seconds delayed from your live comments. Its terribly distracting and happens all the time. If they take you live and you hear it, its a good technique to say "I'm sorry I am having trouble hearing the questions, I hear some feedback in my ear." That should cue the engineer to do whatever it is they have to do to stop the feedback.
During the interview, stare straight at the camera- understanding the audience is only seeing your face in a small box on screen. When there is something you can weigh in on do so- quickly and take as much time as you need to make your point, but make it succinctly. Try not to lose your cool if another panelist tries to horn in. If you hear a misstatement by the anchor or another panelist, politely correct it with fact, not conjecture. Speak clearly and quickly with passion. If you cannot make your point quickly, the host will not ask you to offer opinion.
Finally at the end of your time, thank the host for the opportunity to speak and get ready for more because you will surely be asked back again!