The fear. I could see it in his eyes — and the camera hadn’t even started rolling yet.
I had seen it so many times, before and since: the kind of fear that makes you tongue-tied, sweaty, and sinks the interview before it’s barely started.
This was in Winnipeg, one of many places I’ve called home over my 25 years in broadcasting. I was due to interview him in just over an hour’s time. When I saw the fear, I knew what I had to do.
With his nerves all shook up, I set out to settle him down.
I walked him around the newsroom, introduced him to my colleagues, let him see they were nice, and wouldn’t bite.
We went for coffee in the cafeteria. We sat down and had a chat. I asked him about his family, his holidays, the weather, until the conversation naturally turned toward the business he had built, and the passion that he had.
That’s when the fear disappeared.
His energy changed. His posture relaxed. His eyes lit up with something else instead.
The words he spoke had at first been choppy, frantic, and fumbling. Now they were calm, clear, and crisp.
He was ready.
We kept chatting through hair and makeup. I guided us toward the set. We sat down without a break in the conversation. I winked at the camera operator, who nodded back.
Without the interview subject noticing, the red light switched on. The tape was rolling.
And you know what he did?
He kept talking — with confidence, with clarity, and with a conviction I knew would resonate with our viewers at home.
And so our pre-recorded interview started. I sat up straight, switched the tone of my voice into ‘on-air’ mode, and asked him the first official question on my list.
I could tell he noticed the change. He knew we were now playing for keeps.
For a second, I worried the fear would return — the sweats, the jitters, the skittishness that sinks so many ships like his.
But there was no fear anymore. No uncertainty in his eyes. Something clicked for him, and he kept talking with the same steadiness and conviction.
The rest of the interview is a blur, but it’s a beautiful blur.
I felt like a proud parent who — after coaxing their kid onto the bicycle they kept falling off of — slips their hands off without their youngster noticing, and watches them ride away all on their own.
After the interview, I saw my interview subject to the door, expecting I would have some explaining to do.
Instead, in the lobby, he turned to me with a smile on his face, and an obvious glow of relief.
“Thank you,” he said.
“What for? You were great.”
“I had been worrying about this interview all week. I was sure I was going to blow it. If you had just popped me in the hot seat and said ‘Go’, I probably would have blown it.”
This story has stuck with me ever since.
Being on-set in a newsroom, to me, that’s home. To most people, though, that’s the epitome of stress.
The person in that ‘hot seat’ could be a fearless first responder. They could be a teacher who’s seen it all, or a community leader who’s done it all.
They could be a senior executive who is used to making decisions that impact thousands of lives, or put millions of dollars on the line.
They could be a CEO who built a business from next-to-nothing, turning it into an empire that’s running 24/7.
To them, those kinds of consequences — that kind of stress — is commonplace.
But once the little red light comes on and the camera starts rolling, that’s when the fear kicks in.
It’s not their fault. In fact, it’s entirely natural. Under the spotlight, the emotional temperature gets closer and closer to the boiling point.
It’s not without consequences, either.
Public humiliation, permanent reputational damage, entire funding rounds that are won or lost — in front of the camera, all this is possible.
Fortunes can be saved or shattered by the wrong choice of words, the wrong body language, the wrong tone of voice.
Inside our minds, we know this. That’s why it’s natural to feel ‘fight or flight’ kick in.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t master it.
How? The same way corporate leaders like my interview subject that day built their businesses.
Through practice, preparation, and a steady supporting hand.