Media training is one of my favorite things to do because I see how much more clearly and confidently my clients are when after even just one hour of work together. It’s also very gratifying to help people overcome fears about public speaking or speaking on camera and to know that this will open up many possibilities for them.
Being great in an interview begins with knowing your messages inside and out. This does not mean you should have word-for-word answers prepared. It does, however, mean that you know the content you want to share and that you have answers ready for the questions people will ask you the most and answers for those “tough” questions you may be asked in an interview.
While there is much more to media training and more preparation of messaging to do before an interview, I believe that if we de-mystify the process a bit you’ll see that media interviews can be fun. The media training process will help you become a better communicator and more poised and confident in any interview situation, including new business meetings and speaking engagements.
First, let’s start with some basic rules:
THERE IS NO “OFF THE RECORD”:
There is no “off the record,” no matter what. Even if you feel very comfortable with an interviewer, don’t say anything to a member of the media you wouldn’t want to end up in print or on air. Even the most well-intentioned reporter could forget that something you said was not meant to be shared. It’s good to practice restraint with what you say to almost anyone in business situations, with social media and blogs being so powerful and far-reaching.
DON’T SAY “NO COMMENT”:
If you don’t want to answer a question, provide a reason or answer it in a vague manner. For example, if a reporter asks how much revenue your company generated last year and you don’t want to answer you could say, “As a privately held company we don’t reveal financial information.”
GENERAL INTERVIEW TIPS:
1. Know your key messages inside and out. (If you need help developing them first, consult a PR pro or seek advice.)
2. Be clear and concise.
3. Use a conversational tone.
4. Don’t try to use bigger words than you’re used to using because you will not come across naturally.
5. Allow your sense of humor and wit to come through.
6. Remember that you’re sharing information that can help a lot of people, so share your excitement.
7. Vary your intonation so you don’t sound monotone.
8. Use descriptions and word pictures to help illustrate abstract thoughts.
9. Avoid saying, “That’s a great question,” or “What you need to know about me is…” These are time wasters: just get to the point.
10. Know the true meaning of every word you say. For example, one of the most common mistakes in language I hear is people using the phrase, “In lieu of,” when they mean “in light of”. “In lieu of” means “instead of”. “In light of” means “because of some knowledge we now have.”
11. Remember that your words may be used out of context so be clear about what you’re saying and don’t say anything you would not want to be repeated out of context.
12. Avoid using obscenities or any comment that can sound prejudicial or racial, even if the reporter is doing so.
13. Avoid making blanket statements about an industry or a group of people. This is a quick way to alienate a lot of people.
14. Try not to let your voice trail off at the end of a sentence as many people do because it will be difficult for the audience to hear you.
15. Don’t tell the host you’re nervous. It doesn’t help anything and it will just reinforce that you’re “feeling nervous.”
16. If an interviewer attacks you, smile and state a point that clarifies your position. If you’re on a phone interview, smile as you clarify your position. This will come through in your voice and make you sound confident.
17. If an interviewer continues to attack you, you can say, “I understand your position,” and then restate yours or say, “There are many different views on this subject and I believe… or research has found…”
PREPARE YOUR BODY:
Breathe: Breathe in for five counts; hold for five counts; breathe out for five counts. Do this a few times to release tension in your body and your diaphragm. Your voice will sound stronger and less shaky after doing this.
Stretch: Before the interview, take a minute or two to stretch your body. Raising and lowering your shoulders several times and doing a few shoulder rolls will help you look relaxed. (When people are nervous, their shoulders sometimes rise up a bit. Be aware of your posture.)
Vocal Exercises: Before interviews you can sing vocal scales, hum or just belt out your favorite tune to warm up your vocal chords.
Tongue Twisters: Your face and tongue contain muscles that need to be warmed up before an interview, so do your favorite tongue twisters from childhood or make up some of your own.
• Communicate and clarify. When delivering your message, really communicate your message; don’t just state it. Clarify your points and position with examples, metaphors and memorable quotes.
• Love and listen. Come from a place of love for what you are doing and for the people you are working with—the interviewer, the crew, the audience. Listen carefully to the question the interviewer is asking.
• Enthusiasm and enunciation. Speak with enthusiasm and enunciate (no mumbling allowed).
• Appreciation. Express your appreciation for the interviewer, the opportunity to be interviewed and the audience.
• Respect. Behave respectfully with everyone, from the person who answers the phone at the media outlet to the receptionist, to the cameraman. You want these people to want you to come back.
There is much more to media training and it helps to have a professional coach you through it, but these tips should help you see that it’s all about preparation and practice!
Lisa Elia, Media Trainer and CEO of Expert Media Training