If you are a faculty, staff member, or registered student and would like some media training, please contact us at: info.communications [at] mcgill.ca.
Preparing for an interview
- Identify one to three key messages that you want the audience to remember.
- Sometimes journalists ask difficult questions. Anticipate one or two of these and have your answers ready.
- For phone interviews, it may be useful to have organized notes with you, especially if you are citing facts, statistics, or background information.
- Keep abreast of current events that relate to the subject of the interview.
- Practice getting your ideas across in short, evocative sentences. Find an anecdote or a simple analogy to illustrate what you mean (e.g. the pulsar we discovered spins 500 times faster than the blades of a kitchen blender).
- Stick to your main messages and avoid tangents.
- Keep your answers brief. Think of sound bites.
- Remember that you will be speaking to a general audience. Speak in lay language and avoid academic and industry jargon as much as possible.
- Use transition sentences or “bridges” to bring the conversation back to your key messages (e.g. what’s most important is…).
- Remember, nothing is off the record. Assume that everything you say could be quoted.
- Politely correct the record if the journalist has wrong information.
- If you do not know something, say so in a friendly way (e.g. that is beyond the scope of our research, but what I can tell you is…).
Things to avoid
- Do not fill in dead airtime or pauses between questions with nervous chatter or information that does not relate to your key messages.
- Avoid saying no comment. A useful phrase is “what I can tell you is…”
- Avoid becoming defensive or angry. Respond to aggression on the part of the interviewer with concern and address any concerns positively.
- For TV interviews, it is best to wear comfortable clothing. Bright, solid shades look best on camera. Avoid busy patterns, overpowering accessories, ties, scarves, and jewellery. If you are in the same room as the reporter, look at the reporter, not the camera, and keep your eyes fixed on one place. If you are in a remote studio away from the host, look at the camera, not at the screen next to you where you can see the host.
- For radio interviews, find a quiet place and try to use a landline connection if possible. Stand up, breathe deeply, smile and enunciate as you speak – these techniques will help you sound upbeat, calm and composed. Use the appropriate tone of voice and emotion that will support your answer and use colourful analogies.
- Media work on very tight deadlines. Try to get back to them as quickly as possible.
- If you are not available for the requested time, tell them when you will be free. They may be able to adjust.
- Often a single journalist will produce web, TV, print, or radio pieces, so they may want to film you.