How to prepare for on-camera interviews

Lights. Camera. Action.

5 seconds of fame is an exciting concept to some, but for most, it can be a little nerve-racking.

The idea of having to stand in front of a camera with lights shining on your face and every “um”, “like”, and “ya know” is being recorded can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be.

As a former anchor/reporter, it was a big part of my job to conduct interviews. Occasionally I’d get someone who was very well spoken, composed and poised but almost always it’s because they had experience. However, it was more common to come across someone who was nervous, new to being interviewed on camera and just needed a little more direction.

Like anything, it takes time, patience and practice.

So, for those looking to get a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for your big debut on the little screen here are a few of the basics I think you should know beforehand.

Live vs. Taped

First find out if it’s going to be live or taped so you know what to expect.

A live interview is usually done in one-take. You’ll be on standby and wait for the anchor or reporter to turn to you and ask you a few questions (depending on how long the segment is).

I think it’s always good to go into these live interviews with at least three main talking points you want to touch on. Although the questions may not be exactly about those talking points, you can always direct the conversation to include those objectives.

  1. Live interview out in the field: The reporter or camera person will typically position your body toward the camera but will ask you to look at the interviewer when answering questions. However, if you’re feeling confident and you’re a seasoned interviewee, feel free to balance your glances between the reporter and the camera.
  2. Live interview in studio: The news team will give you direction where to sit/stand and who to look at. Most of the time there will be a camera crew and they will have multiple cameras facing you so they’ll almost always be able to get a good angle of you whether you’re looking at the interviewer or one of the cameras.

Now if it’s a taped interview, you should always aim to look at the reporter and speak in complete sentences. Also try and keep your answers concise because most of the time the reporter will only pick 15 second sound bites.


Be Prepared & Stay Focused

For a moment, forget the idea of being on camera and think about why you’re being interviewed. Whether it’s because you’re promoting an event, getting information out to the public, or addressing an issue – you’re there to give insight and make an impact. Be passionate about your cause and don’t be afraid to show it!

In addition, I’d advise against creating a script because it’s better to be more natural but you should try and think about how the reporter is going to frame the story. What are some potential questions you’ll be asked? And remember if you’re not comfortable answering certain questions, find the best way to say that.

 Also, if you’re feeling the urge to ask for a list of questions beforehand, I’d recommend against it. Unfortunately, the answer is going to be “no.” It’s a common question and the simple reason is because journalists want to get genuine, non-rehearsed answers. Have confidence in yourself and your knowledge.

Make Up & Wardrobe

 It’s a common misconception for people to assume all television stations have a make up artist on hand. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but no one will be doing your make up (unless you’re being interviewed by one of the major network stations – then there’s a good chance they will have someone to do your make up). So, unless CNN or FOX is calling – come with your make up on and ready to go!

That goes the same for wardrobe – come prepared. I always recommend wearing business/business casual attire and make sure to wear appropriate shoes. Come dressed to impress – so no sweatpants, gym clothes, sneakers, flip flops, or anything with obscene words on it. I’d even stay away from light-colored jeans. The only exception is if the segment requires you to wear active clothes or to “look the part”.


 An on-camera interview opportunity is valuable, especially when done right.

When you show up ready and are able to eloquently convey your message with confidence, the outcome can be very rewarding. Your information could save lives, get more people to contribute to a good cause, result in more public interest, generate revenue, teach someone something new, or give others a chance to understand something they never even considered.

Here, at Kolbeco, we work with our clients to prepare them for their on-air appearances and give you the tools to succeed. I aim to use my experience to help others achieve their goals by being a resource for those who desire more on-camera experience while shining in the best light.