Media Training: Our Take...

When Long is Too Long

6th July 2018

Most TV news interviews last 2 or 3 minutes. Sometimes, though, the slot you’re given can be up to 10 minutes. And for any interviewee, that throws up a couple of extra challenges.

The first is about the length of your answers, the second about your demeanour. And while Ben Wallace, the Security Minister, was doing an interview following the second poisoning case in Wiltshire, we saw both of those challenges in plain sight.

In a long interview, the temptation is to give, well, long answers. But this makes you far less engaging. Mr Wallace’s answers were regularly over a minute long, which is a lot longer than we recommend. One answer was a whopping 2 minutes and 14 seconds. Being aware of the duration of your answers is an important skill to learn.

And any longer interview also tests your mental endurance. Journalists know that mistakes are likely to occur towards the end of interviews, when their guest is worn down. They are also likely to get more tetchy and impatient, which can also lead to a slip-up or two.

And Mr Wallace was again a good demonstration of this. Not only was he physically showing signs of strain, but his manner became more passive-aggressive, and at one point he asked the interviewers Kate Garroway and Susanna Reid, “have you read the report?”, which is a sure sign of starting to lose the single most important aspect of any interview you do – control.  

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