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Why pre-recorded interviews are the toughest

When you speak to a print or online reporter – or a broadcast journalist for TV and radio – and the interview is going to published or transmitted later, your words cannot be delivered to the consumer wholesale. With the greatest respect, not everything you say during this exchange will end up being used in the subsequent report or programme because there just isn’t time. It gets edited and reduced to a soundbite, a clip or a quote. But the problem is more than the length of the conversation.

The issue is that reporters have a totally different view of what ‘works’ compared to you were you to be the one choosing the segment. And it’s not just in news; documentary making uses the same system albeit at a slightly higher ratio. From your perspective, the most important factor above all others is identifying the best bit of your interview where you absolutely nailed what it was you planned to say.

However, from the reporter’s position – the content acts as only one of a whole series of criteria they have to consider in order to qualify your ‘clip’ for possible inclusion.

Here are the others…

  • How long did it take you to say it – a typical soundbite is in the region of 15 seconds.
  • Are there artistic issues such as sound quality and changes in the light, if it’s TV?
  • If it’s online, are there any technical glitches on the recording?
  • Does it work grammatically? If we selected a certain clip would the rhythm of the speech sound truncated.
  • What about the complex or institutionalised language? Would the audience understand it?

Now, perhaps, you can begin to see why pre-recorded – or non-live – interviews are fraught with potholes. One of the most important lessons delegates learn during our Media Training sessions is the way to control and combat this most unhelpful of formats. Planning, preparing, rehearsing and finally delivering on camera, to a microphone, on Zoom, face to face – there’s no substitute for techniques that’ll help create a reasonable facsimile between what you say…and what the audience hear.