Why Some Golf Holes Are Like TV Interviews
I was golfing in Kimberley, BC last week with some friends and as I stood on the 11th tee box on the Trickle Creek Golf Course, I thought about how a different prospective made such a difference in golf. Hitting from an elevated tee box like the one above seems so much easier than hitting uphill.
Little did I know at the time that I would soon have a discussion with a Twitter friend about a different type of prospective - the one that centres on whether people should stand or sit during television interviews. I think standing is the best way to go, but I got some good reasons why seated interviews can work well too.
Whether TV interviews are shot with the subject standing or sitting, there are a number of small, but important points to consider, if you want to do a successful interview.
Standing Tall During TV Interviews
As I was golfing last week, I used my social media accounts to send some brief information leading to a page on the Media Tips section of my website suggesting people should stand during media interviews, especially television interviews.
Here’s why I like to see people stand, rather than sit. While being seated may seem more comfortable, it's also much more restricting. Standing gives you better presence, it allows you to have better eye contract with the reporter and use your hands properly.
Being seated can also result in a strange camera angle. If you don't believe me, just look at pro athletes being interviewed in their locker rooms after games and practices. They would look much better if they stood to do those interviews.
Standing also keeps all your organs lined up properly and it’s easier to breathe. At times during media interviews you’ll get nervous and you’ll find that leads to it becoming harder to breathe. You want to do everything you can to make breathing easier, not more difficult. Standing will help this.
Here’s another added benefit of standing. There will be reporters, who either knowingly or unknowingly, will get too close to you as they ask questions. It becomes much easier for you to take a step back if you’re standing. If they crowd you again, stop speaking and ask the reporter to respect your comfort zone.
There’s an exception my standing rule and that’s during longer one-on-one interviews. In these interviews it’s common for the person being interviewed to have a lapel microphone on and the reporter to sit a couple of metres away. This provides a more comfortable and relaxed look to the interview and there’s nothing wrong with doing the interview seated, as long as the reporter stays seated as well.
The Other View From a Pro
Not long after I promoted that post on social media, I got a couple of direct messages on Twitter from John Hanson of Edmonton. John has been a television news photographer for CTV Edmonton for over three decades and he goes back to the days when it was called CFRN. I remember John shooting video when I was in the media business many years ago.
John quite correctly pointed out that standing might not always be the best way to do TV interviews. He mentioned situations that occur when there’s a large height difference between reporter and the person being interviewed. A short female reporter may be a foot and a half shorter than a tall male interview subject. If she were to look at the person she’s interviewing while standing, it would make her look like she’s looking up at a downtown skyscraper. Sitting makes a lot more sense because it reduces the height difference.
John also cautioned that nervous interview subjects sometimes don’t stand still. If the person is rocking or shifting on their feet, it looks terrible and drives the camera operator crazy he said. It can actually make a nervous person look even more so.
John has shot a countless number of interviews in sports locker rooms and he called it one of the single worst environments to have a TV interview. He said he always needs a wall or locker close behind the subject, whether the angle is high, low or in between, which is usually an ugly shot. Too often he’s had to take evasive action to avoid some naked player walking through the background of his shot!
John’s rule for doing seated interviews is no office chairs or chairs on wheels. He said people often pivot or adjust themselves, even subconsciously and it looks awful.
These are more aesthetic points for the person shooting it, but it makes sense for the subject to be aware of. Whether sitting or standing he wrote, anchor yourself to the ground and don't wander.
What They Don't Teach You in School
John made a final point, which I also really liked. He said far too often small, but very important points like the ones contained in this blog post, are not taught in communications courses. For some reason what occurs in the real world of journalism isn’t taught, or if it is, it only garners a mention.
People being interviewed have to think far more about what the camera sees. If the interview is being done in your office, as an example, consider putting away personal mementos like family photos. Anything that distracts the viewer’s attention from you and your statements isn’t a good thing. I once saw an interview with a lawyer done in his office and he had some kind of ceremonial African club standing in the corner. I hardly had a clue what he had said a few seconds after the news clip was over because the club had my attention.
A friend of mine, Douglas Woolgar shot television news for CBC in Edmonton for many years around a generation ago and he’s mentioned to me the need for a good camera operator to ensure interview subjects wearing jackets have the shoulders pulled back to make them look better. It’s also been suggested that people should try to sit squarely on the bottom portion of their jacket so it isn’t allowed to move too much before or during the interview.
They don’t teach those things in school.