Tag Archives: interview preparation

Broadcast interview tips: Get your message in early

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.

Press interviews: think before you speak

When I’m media training, one of the things people try to eliminate during their interview practice is hesitation. They don’t like it, they’re terrified of silence.

I’m not certain it’s so damaging. I remember from a quarter of a century ago in my first journalism job, the then managing director of a networking company called 3Com would always start an answer to a question with a long silence. Once when I was on the phone to him I thought we’d lost the connection. I said: “Are you still there?” He said, “Yes, that’s the noise I make when I’m thinking.”

Don’t say any old thing

The opposite reaction is to blurt out any old thing. I’ve suffered from this.

Years ago I attended the launch of one of the first phones to sync with Microsoft Outlook. This was, I promise, a big wow at the time. At that point, I’d just started using Apple products and Microsoft Office for the Mac didn’t have Outlook, it had something called Entourage instead.

So I asked the CEO of this phone company, “When will the phone support Microsoft Entourage on the Mac?” He answered immediately: “I believe that’s coming in February.” This was about three months away.

This was a CEO of a phone company. I assumed he knew what he was talking about. So I was surprised when, the following day, I had a sheepish call from the PR people involved. They had no idea why he’d given that answer, they said; since Outlook had 95% of the company’s target market and the coding for the Mac was completely different they had no intention at all of connecting to Entourage. It didn’t make commercial sense.

Luckily this was pre-widespread-Internet, so I hadn’t written a story, Tweeted, Facebooked or anything else you might be able to do by now. The error was caught, the nonsensical story contained.

So why did he answer with – frankly – this complete rubbish? I can think of two reasons. First, he had an adrenaline hit and went into “just say something” mode, he had to fill the silence. The 3Com boss I mentioned wasn’t afraid to give himself time to consider.

Second, he wasn’t confident enough to say he didn’t know, or to refer me back to his tech department or his PR people.

It could have been pretty damaging. So, do you or your clients ever feel pressured to say something to the press – and offer an answer that may be ill-thought-out or plain wrong?

Do you need help preparing for media interviews? I can help – click here to email me or fill in the form below and we’ll talk.