A surprising number of people still think it is acceptable to take notes into a broadcast interview. It isn’t, and here’s why.
It immediately removes a great deal of your authority. The audience assumes that, since you have been chosen to represent your company or your organisation, you know everything that is important about how it works and what it does. If you have to read your answers off a bit of paper, you are no longer in a position of authority, you are simply reading out something that has been written for you. (The only exception to this is a company statement in the event of a crisis, when the precise wording of the message to the media may be crucial.)
Written notes in a broadcast interview create other problems too. In a TV interview, concentrating on written notes prevents you establishing a firm eye-line to the interviewer, removing much of the impact and credibility your answers should have.
But, you may ask, surely it’s fine in a radio interview where the audience can’t see you? There are two reasons why it is not a sensible strategy. Firstly, many radio programmes now use a webcam, in which case your reliance on notes will be plain for all to see. Secondly, if you are constantly consulting notes and trying to find the information relevant to your answer, you and the interviewer stop having a natural conversation, with the result that the interview will become boring and lifeless.
The truth is that if you need notes to help you with your answers, you are probably trying to cram too much information into the interview. Keep it simple, brief, and avoid too much detail. If you need a note or two as a last-minute reminder of important figures or a key message, that is fine. Just get rid of the notes before the interview starts.