There are millions of people watching. Don’t screw this up.
With set lights and a broadcast camera pointed at your face, your heart rate racing, and the reputation of your organisation in your hands; it can be hard to keep your calm. Hell, sometimes it’s even hard enough to remember what question you were asked, or the point you were trying to make. Why is this so hard? Media appearances matter because they represent such a huge opportunity (for you, your cause, and your organisation).
This is a make it or break it moment. So let’s get it right.
You’re about to talk to a reporter, in person, on the phone or maybe even on camera. Perhaps you need to explain what it is your company does, what it is you believe, or talk your way out of a hole. Tension mounts.
Am I meant to look at the camera? What do I do with my hands? I’m sorry, what was the question again?What if I forget what I want to say? And how should I say it? And what if I say the wrong thing and screw it up? It’s a pervasive fear, and that fear causes some people to mumble, stammer, repeat themselves, blabber on… In truth, this doesn’t happen much, most interviewers are pretty good at making you feel comfortable (even though not all are your side); but the fear can become a problem.
So let’s stop worrying about stuffing it up, and start focusing on making the biggest impact you can.
The trick is to get into your normal (persuasive, articulate, interesting, witty) talking style, while not in your normal talking environment. And that takes practice.
Practice will tell you what to say, how and when to say it. How to make sense, simplify things, when to tell stories and use powerful metaphors. Make what you say sticky, so it’s memorable and people agree with you. And practice will let you know when a particular question is leading you down the garden path, and how to get off it.
Practice not just with a camera, with your whole body – to find ways to move and speak that are different, new, and slightly weird. They will allow you to become better at talking in weird situations, because fewer and fewer situations will seem all that weird when you’ve been there and done that.
Practice, practice, practice. Oh, and did we mention practice. We’ll set up a rig that will mimic ones you’re likely to encounter, and drill you. Our job is to alternate between being helpful and being deeply unpleasant, so when you find yourself in that situation you’ll find yourself thinking “this isn’t all that bad!”
Have a clear objective. Know what you’re there for. Know the point you want to leave your audience with. Learn how to make what you say stick.
Practice answering (or avoiding answering) questions. If you’re in a recorded situation, you’ll need to to start sentences that include the wording of the question. Even though this is not the way you talk in ordinary conversation, it’s important not to be edited into something that might misrepresent you. If you’re going to get into trouble, at least get into the kind of trouble that you were looking for.
On live TV, practice interjecting and saying smart, snappy, intelligent things. Learn to master dialectic and how to argue well. Everybody loves a fight – so spar with your opponent. A quick tongued person with a sense of humour who maintains their composure will always win. Argue with people who don’t agree with you, build rapport whilst holding your ground. You’ll need to be conversationally swift and maintain your composure. Can you crack jokes about what you care about most?
You’d better learn.
For each of these we have exercises that develop your ability to answer (or dodge) questions cleverly, to understand what you’re there for, to play with how to speak, how to disagree, what to say, and what not to say – all while letting your personality shine. It’s a lot to focus on, and you’ll need experience, with and without a camera. That’s what we give you.
For the list lovers
- Objective setting: know why you’re there, and answer the question of how will you know if it was a success?
- Belly breathing: to feel calm and order your thoughts
- Knowing your format:
- Radio, TV, print or other?
- Short/long form (documentary or news segment)
- Interview, fly-on-the-wall, or to-camera
- Is there an on-screen presenter or not? Repeating the question.
- Tone: will it be friendly or hostile (is the interviewer going full Gestapo or your new friend?)
- Get to the point: Speak in sound-bites and you won’t be misquoted or leave room for misinterpretation
- Make your point, tell a story:
- Pace and pause – letting people think for themselves
- Modulation – telling a story with your tone
- Inflection – making statements sound like statements, not questions?
- Enunciation – speaking clearly makes what you say sound clever
- Preparation, both mental and practical
- Know your data, statistics, facts
- Practice how you’ll say what you’re going to say
- How to expect and prepare for the unexpected
- Learn how to manage your composure
- Technical stuff:
- Framing (are your hands in shot? What about your feet?)
- Single or multiple camera?
- Edited or vision mixed live?
- Lighting will change where you stand and how you sit)
- Microphone etiquette: How loud to speak, don’t breathe on it and don’t touch it!
- Phone interviews (how to stand and how to look, even when people can’t see you!)
- Rules and ethics of journalism
- How to say what you mean
People who are in contact with the media, or have an upcoming media appearance; whether that be; a television, radio, newspaper or magazine interview; a promotional video; or are at risk of being door-stopped or called, late-notice, to answer some difficult questions. Often chief exec’s, board members, or senior staff who may or may not have had media training before.
What are the options?
Training for a single participant to prepare for a single appearance. We’ll set up a rig, equip you with the skills, and run you through the experience, playing the reporter, interviewer or director, and preparing you to make the best impact.
Then we’ll go home, switch on the telly or open the paper with bated breath.
We will allow for a session or two where you invite others in to watch and learn how to do what we do, so that they may learn how to test and challenge someone (so next time, you can practice without us).
Who runs this?
This programme is run by Harry. He worked as an actor for 5 years in Bollywood. During this time he presented to-camera, acted, and featured in a 4-year documentary project called ‘Beyond Bollywood’, was interviewed for the New York Times, the Sunday Telegraph, and appeared in three other documentary projects.
Since starting his second life as a trainer and provocative speech and confidence coach, he has been sought for quote and comment by the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and has conducted radio interviews on BBC Radio 2, and television interviews on Sky News and BBC Global with Jon Sopel. All (or most) of these can be found with a big of google magic.