It's my story: helping care-experienced young people give effective media interviews

Some techniques for getting the best out of interviews

Trainer notes

There are a variety of techniques people can use to polish up their performance in interviews, but it is better to keep the advice you give to young people as simple as possible. Focus on the main issues during a training session, such as sticking to the agenda. However, you may need to be aware of some of these additional issues, so you can pick up on particular points that arise during interview practice, or in order to answer questions. 

This section includes:

General hints and tips for giving interviews

This general list recaps some points already covered as well as offering some new information.

Help young people recognise that it is natural to feel nervous before an interview. (There are stories about famous presenters and newsreaders who have been spotted trembling in the lift before going on air!) See Nerves are normal in the next section.

Body language

We convey a great deal about ourselves from our body language. An anxiously tapping foot or arms hugged tightly across our chest give off signals to the viewer – and may also affect our voice, even if the audience cannot see us.

Getting too relaxed and leaning back too much in the chair may convey to the audience that we are a little bit arrogant or nonchalant about the subject. Leaning forward too far can appear anxious or too intense.

Subtle changes in body language can be used to convey different moods and changes in the argument. For example, if you lean forward at a particular point this can signal that you are really engaging with the conversation about this topic – or can help to make other people feel included in the point you are making. However, these techniques are probably best taught by someone who is experienced in training people in interview techniques. In basic training it is better to encourage young people to aim for a still upright - but not stiff posture - during an interview.

Tone of voice

If somebody makes a brilliant or passionate point but does it in a flat, uninteresting voice, the impact of what they say may be lost.

Some people find it easy to use their voices and to recognise ways that other people do this. However, not everyone can do this naturally, so if you find this hard to do, it is best not to go into too much detail about this issue. Simply encourage young people to recognise that their voices can help them make their arguments effectively.

An interesting voice has variations in:

Slowing down the pace can help to emphasise a key point. And is appropriate if we are talking about something very sad or serious. Speeding up the pace can make us appear focused and business-like. It can also make us seem happier and more bouncy.

For example, if you are changing the subject with the ABC technique it can be useful to speed up the pace slightly to appear efficient and purposeful as you Acknowledge and Bridge, and then slow the pace down slightly as you take Control and start to make your point. (This works best if done naturally – it is best not to teach someone to do this. Just make them aware that this option is available.)

Changing pitch and projection can also help us make a point. Speaking slightly more loudly and deeply can lend emphasis to a particular point you want to stress. Speaking more gently and softly can make us appear kind and sympathetic.

Alma has a rich, soft voice which is good for radio and television, and she uses changes in pitch and pace to emphasise her points. She also has a friendly expression that encourages the viewer to warm to her point of view. (From media training with Voices from Care Cymru, commissioned by SCIE)

What is most important is to encourage young people to aim for some variation in the way they speak. You can demonstrate this by talking to young people in a monotone (everything at the same pitch and pace and keeping your voice as expressionless as possible). Then demonstrate the contrast by using variations in speed, volume and how serious or light your tone is.

Demonstrating this also provides an opportunity to show that ‘tub-thumpers’ do not make good interviewees. (‘Tub-thumpers’ are people who speak very loudly and forcefully and may bang the table to emphasise their point.) While being passionate about your subject is great, a tub-thumper comes across as arrogant, opinionated and not prepared to listen to other people’s points of view.

Preparing for a television interview

Television often feels more daunting than radio – people feel ‘exposed’ by knowing that the audience can see them. There are also some technical aspects of television which can make interviewees feel intimidated as they are unfamiliar, so it is best to explain these to young people in advance.

These notes provide more detailed information to enable you to expand on the points covered in Slide 17.

Slide 17: sample text

Hints for giving TV interviews

  • Wear clothes that won’t distract the audience – you want them to listen to you, not try and read the slogan on your top
  • If they offer you make-up, wear it
  • Expect to have a lapel microphone tucked into your clothes with the transmitter in your back pocket
  • Sit with your feet on the ground
  • Sit upright with your hands resting on your lap 
  • Look directly into the interviewer’s eyes – not at the camera
  • After the interview wait until you are told to move