My media training offering covers a number of elements, including developing your message and broadcast training. One thing that comes up often is: if you’re being interviewed on screen or on audio, how quickly should you introduce your prepared messages?
The answer is “flaming quickly”. The reason isn’t that you want to sound like a politician ignoring the question, that’s always a bad thing. The reason is that attention spans tend to fall off a cliff immediately you start to speak. Don’t take my word for it: the chart on this link from Statistics Britain suggests that you have just over eight seconds to hold people’s attention. Four of those may be taken up as the interviewer introduces you.
This doesn’t mean people will be switching off, just that they’re likely to be less engaged after a short period of time. So what do you do?
Broadcast your message
The first thing to do, always, is to acknowledge the question. Nobody likes to hear someone ignoring the point completely, as I established in this entry. But you don’t have to answer it immediately.
Consider this. You’re asked a question that’s nothing to do with your central message. You can answer it, or you could start with:
- That’s an important point and I’ll address it. First, it’s important to understand…
- I’ll get to that point but I need to make a few things clear…
- That’s really important but before I answer, your viewers need to know where I’m coming from.
Obviously you need to remember to come back to the question otherwise you will sound arrogant. And remember a journalist will see through any flannel quite quickly so your messages will need to be thought through, unlike (to be non-partisan) pretty much either side of the Europe debate currently happening in the UK.
Answer the question but don’t be afraid to get the message out there – your knowledge and authority is why they’re talking to you in the first place, don’t be afraid to use it!
Do you need help with your media messaging or delivery? I’ve been a journalist since the 1980s and can help. Email me by clicking here or call me on +44 7973 278780 and we’ll talk.