Do You Stand for a Phone Interview With a Reporter?

Do you stand for a phone interview is a serious question. An in-person media interview with a reporter is less likely these days than the return of the manual typewriter.

So how do you make the best impression when you can’t see the whites of a reporter’s eyes?

Preparing for the Phone Interview

In an earlier post, we discussed developing your key messages and you’ve practiced them until they roll off your tongue smoothly, right?

But in a phone interview you don’t see the reporter’s physical cues as you would during an in-person meeting. So you’ve got to find other ways to set the stage for the conversation.

Search the web to find a photo of the reporter. Visualize that person sitting across from you and act as if you’re having a face-to-face conversation while you’re on the phone.

Read the last few articles he’s written, so you can begin the conversation by saying something like, “I enjoyed your story in the Times last week. I’ve been following you and admire the sense you bring to your articles.” Acknowledge your appreciation for being included in the story.

During the Phone Conversation

So back to the question, should you stand when you’re on the phone with a reporter?  The answer is “yes.” Standing, along with gesturing, is a good idea because your voice will project more authority and key words will have more emphasis as we naturally and spontaneously tend to gesture on the words that carry the meaning. You can also take deep breaths and be free to move around to calm your nerves.

Here are several other tips to improve your phone interview:

  • Stay focused. Don’t multi-task during the interview, however long or boring it may seem.
  • Think. Be deliberate. Take your time in answering a question. Pausing between answers may feel like an eternity when in reality it’s only a second or two when you can gather your thoughts.
  • Always use a landline. A cell phone can drop calls and it’s often difficult to hear.
  • Do not use a speakerphone. We forget when we’re on the phone that the other party can hear what’s going on in the background.
  • Use gestures. Highlight message points with hand movements and facial expressions you would normally use to enhance your ideas. Your energy will cut across the phone lines.
  • Assume your interview is being recorded.  Everything is on the record and you’re “on the air” from the moment you answer the phone to the time you hang up.

Check for Understanding

If you were across a desk facing a reporter, you could read her facial cues and body language to see if she was “getting it.” On the phone, when you’ve finished discussing one of your key messages, you could pause and say, “Is there anything I’ve said so far that needs more clarity?”

Or, “Am I going too fast?” Just be careful to ask in a polite and friendly manner so the reporter doesn’t assume you think he’s stupid.

Using Skype

Prior to the interview, ask the reporter if he would like to conduct the interview on Skype, the free Internet calling service. Of course, you will both need the Skype software on your computer and a video camera.

More reporters are using Skype for interviews. They like to see the person on the other end of the call, too. They’re looking for “tells.” That’s a poker term for physical reactions that provide clues about an opponent’s hand.

So if you’re using Skype, be careful with your “tells.” Your physical tics could give away more information to the reporter than the words you use.

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