Tips for Live TV Interviews

NBCU Academy 101

CNBC Senior Media and Entertainment Reporter Julia Boorstin breaks down best practices for interviewing VIPs during live TV interviews. She shares how she prepares for interviews and presses CEOs to get real answers.

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I can be most confident and best think on my feet when I’m the most prepared. I love walking into an interview knowing that I can put down my notes and just be in the moment. Once it starts, I tune out all distractions and just laser focus in on two things — what the interview subject is saying and the time cues from the control room. In that five or 10 minutes, nothing else exists.

Tips for live interviews

1. Do your homework.  

Study up on the topic and know any recent developments. Be familiar with details – numbers, statistics, or technical terms – to include in your questioning. Research what the person has said in the past and what other people have said about them. 

2. Be ready to ask follow-up questions to get better answers.  

By doing your homework beforehand, you can really focus on listening to what the interviewee says. You can go back to certain points to ask clarifying questions so that the audience can understand. It also enables you to press the person by rewording or repeating your question when they’re not giving a real answer. 

3. Be flexible and change your plans.  

Live TV interviews have a limited amount of time. Make sure you’re the one in command of the interview and don’t hesitate to drive it from one point to the other, changing subjects as needed. 

Go into an interview with specific questions that need to get answered. You can start with the most timely or important ones first.

Listen closely to responses, and be prepared if need be to change plans, drop your questions and really dive into what the person just said, or sometimes more importantly, what they didn’t say.