Practice Makes Perfect: Conduct a Mock Interview

By November 9, 2020blog

We all know that practice makes perfect. So why not practice your interview skills before CNN calls?

After all, you’re super prepared: you’ve done your hair, your makeup is superb (or at least ensured that you don’t have spinach in your teeth) and you’ve spent hours writing and committing to memory your talking points. You are a recognized expert on your topic—so what could go wrong?

Therein lies the problem. You don’t know what could go wrong. Just like a sports team, without practice, you lack the ability to identify shortcomings and other areas that require attention.

The following exercise will allow you to practice your broadcast interview skills before you need to use them.

Prepping for Your Mock Interview

To get the most out of the exercise, you will need a friend, partner, or colleague willing to play the role of reporter/interviewer.

You will also need something to record yourself. You can use any of the following:

  • Webcam capable of recording to a computer (with a playback function)
  • Smartphone or tablet set to selfie video mode
  • Laptop with built-in camera video mode (available on most PCs and Macs)
  • Camcorder that has an option for reviewing video clips.

Framing the Shot

To practice an interview conducted via a video conferencing platform, you can set it up so you appear in gallery view or active speaker view. In TV news parlance, the gallery view with you and the interviewer would be a “double box.” You can record on a platform like Zoom using that format so you will be able to see both boxes, or you can change the settings to allow for just you to be recorded.

When it comes to an in-person interview, you have two options for framing: you can set up the camera so that only you are being recorded, or you can have the camera capture a two- shot with both you and your interviewer in frame.

For most broadcast interviews in person, be aware that the camera typically will be over the shoulder of the interviewer and pointed only at you.

Interview Scenario

For your interview topic, if you haven’t already been approached by the media on something specific, think of something with which you are associated that might garner news coverage. It could be work related, such as a product launch or an award. Or it could be related to something you are involved with outside of work, such as a charity or a sport.

Write down a list of questions a reporter might ask about your chosen subject and give it to your “interviewer.”

Instruct your interviewer to add his or her own questions as well and not to just throw softballs. This is just practice, so why not? You need preparation for handling hostile questions, too.

Record the Interview

Hit the record button, and once you’re both settled, start the mock interview. Try to keep your answers to 10-seconds or so, which is a sweet spot for broadcast interviews and sound bites.

Once you feel like you have enough to review, stop recording.

Review the Interview

As you are watching your interview, take note of the following:

  • Were you able to keep your answers concise? Use a stopwatch to time your answers. How close were you to 10 seconds?
  • Did you fidget or gesture so much that it was distracting on camera? If so, think of how you might mitigate the effects next time. If your hands were fluttering around the frame, consider keeping them clasped in your lap during an actual interview.
  • How successful were you in conveying your key messages? Were you able to say them in a clear and compelling manner?
  • Did you ever appear flustered? If so, take note of what threw you off. Knowing what might trip you up will help you to stay on track if that situation arises during a real interview.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Practice should not be a one and done proposition, even if you nailed it the first time. Make the effort to practice on multiple occasions. If things didn’t go so well the first time, consciously note what needs to be improved and how, and make a concerted effort to address those deficiencies in future practice sessions. If things did go well, that’s great. But now throw yourself some curveballs to see how you react. Maybe you’ll do great, maybe not. Without practice, you’ll never know, and you don’t want to find out your weaknesses when you’re in front of the camera for the whole world (or at least your part of it) to see.

Learn More: On-Camera Coach

If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.