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Imagine it’s 4 p.m. on a Thursday. You’re working to wrap up another busy day. Some of your staff have already left, and you’re looking forward to doing the same within the next hour or so.

But then you get a phone call. It’s a principal at your high school, who informs you of a serious incident involving two students on school grounds. A lack of proper supervision allowed the incident to take place.

A couple minutes later, you get another call. It’s a producer at a local TV news station, who tells you there’s a reporter on the way to your district office to conduct an on-camera interview. The station received a tip from a parent about the incident the principal just described to you. You have about 15 minutes to get ready for the interview.

Doing an on-camera interview can cause considerable anxiety for school leaders. You want to make sure you say the right things, communicate accurate information and represent your school district in a positive way. Below are some quick tips that can help you master the art of these interviews:

  • Look at the interviewer, not the camera. Never look into the lens.
  • Smile more than you normally would. Try to calm your nerves and speak at a normal pace.
  • Hold something in your hands. We often suggest holding onto a quarter. It puts your shoulders at ease.
  • If you have a blazer or jacket, wear it.
  • Tell television reporters before they arrive at your school where they can and cannot film. Be specific and be firm about this.
  • If you are outside, stay out of the wind.
  • The big light on top of the camera can be very bright and off-putting. Be prepared to deal with that.
  • Make a special point to be nice to the cameraperson. Unlike reporters, who tend to come and go, camerapersons tend to stay with a station for many years.
  • Use bridges and signposts to get your messages across.

It’s also worth noting that, increasingly, camera operators are being sent out alone with a list of questions, but no reporter. This can work to your advantage, as you can answer the questions that are asked of you and throw in one of your own, by saying something like this:

“You know, here is another question you might consider…and if you were to ask me that I would say…” 

Regardless of the circumstances, being interviewed on camera can be an intimidating and nerve-wracking experience. But once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll become more comfortable with it.