Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Media training? Nah, I'll just wing it."

As most PR people, most broadcast journalists, and all our students in Creative Communications know, it takes hard work to look natural in front of a camera (for most people, at least).

On camera, every little tic appears exaggerated. Every hesitation or stumble seems amplified. A frustrated or embarrassed facial expression can overtake any message you're imparting verbally.

And yet... PR people debate with their clients and executives every day, in offices around the world, about the need to practice before going on camera for a media interview. Executives tend to be confident people; but even the greatest of confidence isn't a substitute for some basic techniques that can help you come across well on camera.

"I'll just go on and be myself."

Here is an example of a fellow who may well have felt he could just go on camera, be himself, and win over FOX News viewers. I'd be willing to bet that Jon Christensen, founder of, uses services like Skype to have videoconference-style conversations online all the time -- and figured that doing an on-camera interview would feel much the same. (His interview begins around the 0:48 mark.)

If that was the case, I'd also be willing to bet he feels differently now.

Practice makes... better

Being on camera can be terrifying the first time. Even if you feel confident, and you know your material like the back of your hand, something can happen when that light goes on that can strike you dumb on the spot.

Professional media training, delivered by a media relations expert, can help. It helps you understand the media's needs so you can better-prepare your messages, making them more likely to be used; it can also help you get more comfortable -- and be more effective -- delivering those messages on camera.

But even if there isn't time to bring in expert training, practice makes better. Have a colleague do mock interviews with you, so you can practice your responses. If you can, use a video camera or even the webcam built into your computer to look at your own body language, so you can identify anything you need to change before you -- and, potentially, millions of others -- see it on the news.

Thanks Dustin for the tip!


  1. This guy obviously didn't have to go through Live Hit Derby! :P

    Though I'm not a big fan of that particular video game, I do think that some of the assumptions they're making towards it are not very accurate. It's a shame that Christensen wasn't able to defend the game properly.

  2. This is submitted by Amanda's Mom: Speaking in public terrifies me, never mind on camera! I always wondered how those on-camera reporters were able to speak without making it obvious that they were reading from a tele-prompter. Now, after hearing how the class had to quickly peruse a news story and then go "live" on camera without a teleprompter or notes, well, let's just say that I have a whole new respect for the people I see reporting live on tv from wherever.

  3. yeah there has been so much hype with this game!! i have the one before this (i think) and played it a few times... the violence packed in the game is unreal!
    i thought once crossed my mind that military intelligance can tap into your xbox or ps3 (via online connection) and monitor how gamers play through the scenarios in the game. those who could finish the level with ease could be given a role with the real military, probably in a stategic role since most of these war scenarios are pretty real - now that's scary!


    this tip would've come handy during our live hits in j :)

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  5. Eman, it sounds like you're working on a screenplay!

    Most people find that on-camera work doesn't lend itself to "beginner's luck" - it takes practice. This is just another reason you guys are smart to be in CreComm, making your beginners' mistakes in the safe environment of the classroom -- with instructors like Steve and Forde to help you -- rather than on-air!

    PS My blog is honoured to have received a comment from Amanda's Mom! :o)