How to sit and stand on TV is one of those things that we cover as standard in any broadcast media training. The rules are very simple and widely understood, so I was immediately struck when I saw this interview with Bill Gates on Friday. I happened to have the Sky News Channel on mute in my kitchen and my first thought was ‘goodness that chap looks a mess’ and my second thought was ‘Oh! That is Bill Gates’.
How to sit on TV: Bill Gates could do better
Now it has to be said that Bill Gates is – well – Bill Gates. He has nothing to prove to anybody and the fact that he is looking all crumpled in this interview is unlikely to make anyone think the less of him. However, for the rest of us whose reputation is not solid gold, perhaps it is worth remembering the rules.
5 rules for how to sit on TV
- Sit up straight and avoid leaning over to one side or another. It may feel comfortable but it looks distracting.
- Bottom in Back of Chair (remember this with the acronym BBC), and lean slightly forward. This makes you look engaged and as if you care.
- If you are a man, pull your jacket down at the back and together at the front but don’t button it up. Check your tie is straight.
- Keep your legs together, splayed is not a good look.
- Look at the person asking the questions. (Bill Gates gets this right).
Animation is good and hand movement is an important part of the communication process. It also helps the speaker’s brain! Tell someone who uses a lot of hand movement to sit on their hands and their brain seems to slow down. But, while we never stop people talking with their hands, we do suggest the movement stays well below the shoulder line. Hands popping in and out of shot at shoulder level is distracting. Judge this for yourself on the video. I think Gates’ hand movements (if it were anyone else) would shout ‘eccentric’.
5 rules for how to stand on TV
For completeness let’s cover off the rules for interviews conducted standing up.
- Put your feet hip-width apart to give you stability.
- Keep the bottom half of your body still. No swaying, no bouncing on your toes (a very common issue) and don’t dance – you will step out of the shot. This may all sound obvious but when people are nervous that nervous energy often finds strange escape routes.
- Stand straight.
- If you are a man, check your tie is straight, at the top of the collar and if wearing a jacket do it up (assuming it fits you).
- Use your hands to talk in a natural way but if you are worried about where to put your hands pick a neutral position, clasped in front or behind perhaps, and put them back there if you suddenly find yourself distracted by your own hand movement.
There is a lot to remember in a broadcast interview and while these tips will help you look authoritative they are not nearly as important as what you say. Having a clear rehearsed message is the single most important factor.
If you need help with your on-air performance you could always book another session with us at The Media Coach call +44 (020) 7099 2012.