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Follow the Five Bs to manage media interview stress

February 14, 2017

ISOC training journalists and coaches share some insider tricks that help interviewees manage stress and appear confident on camera.

Five media interview stress management techniques

Media interviews can be a stressful experience even for experienced spokespeople. The stakes are high with reputations and sometimes careers at stake, and an intense sense of scrutiny as the cameras roll. From time to time in ISOC media training sessions, coaches and training journalists share their tips for how to keep anxiety under control and appear confident, even in the moist challenging interviews. The following five points came up during one recent feedback coaching session with airline executives.

Breathe. Do something to get the blood flowing between 30 and 60 minutes before the interview. You don’t have to go to the gym: a brisk walk around the building or up and down stairs is better than nothing: anything that gets the heart pumping. Exercise helps reset cycles of worry in the mind and gives a physiological boost to mood. It’s a useful trick because it works – and especially because you do it upfront, so it’s nothing extra to do during the interview.

Believe. If you are scared of failing or making a fool of yourself on camera, remember that almost always the journalist and the viewers are on your side, willing you to succeed. The journalist might not want you to win the argument, but certainly does want you to be interesting and passionate and engaged. So do the viewers. This is what you want also. Believe in this shared positive agenda and harness it for confidence.

Blinkers. There is more going on during an interview than the mind can possibly process. The intellectual challenge of processing questions, messages and proof points on the fly requires 100% of our capacity – which is why performance suffers when interviewees are distracted by unusual things happening in the interview environment. Robotic cameras move themselves around the studio, microphones drop down on boom-poles, crew walk around unexpectedly out of shot. To shut this all out, think like a champion racehorse wearing blinkers so that it can only see straight ahead. Clear your visual field.

Bite. For many people, nervous tension tends to build up in stiff jaw muscles, which is unpleasant and also has the effect of constraining vocal enunciation and projection. One ISOC training journalist shared her own tip for this – before the interview, find a private place and bite down hard on something thick, like a towel or a folded wad of paper. The tension seems to dissipate.

Blot. Adrenalin causes sweating, and a damp or shiny face is unflattering. Not only that, being self-conscious about being shiny can make us shinier still. Bring with you to the interview a discreet pack of cosmetic blotting paper and use it to dab your cheeks, nose and forehead immediately before the interview. It’s remarkably effective for both men and women, and you will look much better on camera.

This article draws on the ISOC knowledge base for Media Training

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