How to give a media interview like Mariska Hargitay

September 21, 2013

By: Sylvie
Last week, Metis Co-Founder Courtney Hurst and I had the opportunity to accompany one of our non-profit clients, Joyful Heart Foundation, to the filming of an upcoming episode of Katie, on which JHF Founder Mariska Hargitay was the special guest. Not only was it an amazing opportunity to see what goes on during a taping and to see the foundation get broad exposure, but it was a reminder of the value of a personable, charismatic and passionate spokesperson.
You may be thinking that of course, Mariska Hargitay, an award-winning actress, would be a natural in front of the camera, and there's no way you can ever be on the same level as her. But that's where you're wrong. The most important part of giving an interview—whether it's filmed or not, whether you're a trained actress or not— is to be real. Mariska nails this, and you can too. You actually have an advantage over many trained actors, who can grow reliant on scripts and might come across as too rehearsed. The key here is to prepare as an actor would with his script, but to not memorize it. Know and stick to your messages, but don't recite statements like a parrot.
Another component of realness is emotions. In Mariska's case, speaking about the Joyful Heart Foundation's endeavors to end domestic violence and sexual assault is an obviously emotional experience. In giving interviews about emotional topics, it is okay to express emotions – anger, disappointment, frustration, excitement, pride or others. You are a human being who has emotions, and you are expected to at times show that emotion, just as Mariska did, not only verbally as she spoke about the need to have conversations about sexual assault, but also through her body language, when she put her arm around an assault survivor, offering silent support as the survivor told her personal, traumatic story. As long as it is the right setting to show them, emotions can help you be more personable and help you connect with your audience.
But it is still important to keep your emotions in check, when necessary. This can be a challenge when you are passionate about what you are talking about and want to pass that passion on to your audience. You'll know it's time to tone things down when you hear yourself speaking over your interviewer or fellow panelists, when your words come out in a rush or when you realize you haven't taken a breath in the last 10 minutes. While Mariska is clearly passionate about ending sexual assault, she maintained composure and held a two-way conversation with Katie Couric, rather than let her emotions and passion steamroll the conversation and interviewer. Show your passions, but don't let them get the best of you.
For more examples of how to be a great spokesperson, catch Mariska Hargitay discussing the Joyful Heart Foundation and the No More campaign on Katie on Monday, September 23.

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