Tag Archives: presenting

Working with video and celebrities

I interviewed Olympian athlete Sally Gunnell a fortnight ago for Xero, the accounting company – it’s a corporate gig so there’s no surprise in being uncredited and out of vision. Here’s one of the resulting videos:

All good stuff. So I thought it might be worth sharing some insights on working a) on video and b) with celebrities

  1. Even if you’re not going to be in shot, try to look presentable. If it’s not formal there may be no reason for a man to wear a tie, but nobody’s going to be offended by a jacket and shirt.
  2. Prepare a bit and try to find a conversational ice breaker. My brother in law Steve happens to be over in Rio now setting cameras up for the Olympics so in this instance that was easy – as you’ll gather from the pic I’m not all that athletic (been to the gym twice this week already I promise) but it gave us a little common ground.
  3. Treat the camera and audio team well. Xero were fine hosts and constantly made sure Sally and I were offered coffee, water, whatever we wanted. Not all hosts are as accommodating so it’s down to the presenter to keep everyone happy. They’ll notice – and they may be asked sometime whether they can recommend a presenter/interviewer.
  4. Related point: listen to the camera crew. I did a video a while ago in which the (non-celebrity) interviewee was forever telling them how to set up shots and what we should be doing. He won’t be getting interviewed again. Presenters/interviewers are doubly vulnerable to being dropped – let everyone else do their job and work with it.
  5. Ensure in advance that you know what the client wants from the video, and also that the celebrity guest has been briefed.
  6. Before the interview ask the interviewee to pause briefly before every answer. The client may want their quotes isolated so you don’t want your voice speaking over theirs.
  7. Pick the right guest. Sally was flexible, pleasant, well-briefed, focused and utterly professional when it came to the tiny amount of retakes required. She actually suggested a round-up summary for a blog at the end, which added to the overall offering.

Overall a thoroughly pleasant experience and I hope people find the videos useful.

The perfect soundbite and why you need one

I’ve never liked the term “soundbite”. They can look artificial and frankly calculated, and as a method it can be out of date. Think about Tony Blair and his “Education, education, education” or “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. With hindsight, did that let someone into power without the substance and judgment he needed?

Let’s not be party political. Remember “You turn if you want to: the lady’s not for turning” from Margaret Thatcher. These are all getting pretty old, though. The popularity of Bernie Sanders in the US and indeed Jeremy Corbyn in the UK led me to suspect the age of the soundbite was coming to an end.

Enter Hillary’s soundbite

I should have looked more closely at what was going on. “Jez we can” might not have come from Corbyn himself but it proved a very effective campaigning slogan indeed, and may do so again during the summer. However, the best example I’ve seen was yesterday’s pronouncement by US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

She said, in one of her best speeches: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons”. This is clearly a reference to Donald Trump, who has tried to accuse her of living in fantasy land.

The reasons this one’s so brilliant, though, start with the ability to fact check it. The underlying assumptions are twofold. First, any US president has to be trusted with nuclear weapons (that’s beyond dispute). Second, Donald Trump is a man you can bait with a Tweet.

Her reading of Trump – and I really don’t want to get party political here but to focus on the personal – was brilliant, because the first thing he did was to attack her. On Twitter. Here’s a Guardian summary. Others see his social media as inspired, like this New York Times piece; if you want to make him look petty, though, it’s easy, as the Independent found when he first entered the contest.

So it’s easy to substantiate, or at least to argue the point. Trump can’t refute the suggestion by saying he’s a lovely calming influence on social media.

It’s also a soundbite that gives out a sense of balance, in that it juxtaposes one premise with another. On the one hand, there’s the idea of nuclear weapons. On the other, there’s the notion of allowing Twitter members to annoy or provoke.

This sort of tactic can actually make a soundbite work even when there’s no link between the two. The fact that it sounds balanced gives it an air of authority (in this instance I suspect the link is genuine enough). It’s satisfying and therefore it’s memorable.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s 78 characters long including spaces? That’s handy for Twitter. Add a hashtag or attribution and it probably still fits. Nobody’s going to tell me this is coincidence.

Do it yourself

Lessons from this sort of soundbite are many and can apply to any sort of business, not just politics. First, they still work, whether during an interview or during a presentation. Second, if you can embed some sort of verifiable fact in them and make them sound elegant, they’ll be memorable. Third, keep them short enough for Twitter and other people will amplify the message for you.

Image: Flickr: Mike Mozart

Do you need help with your interview preparation? I can help – fill in the form below and we’ll talk.

Learnings from New York

So I was in New York this week, as you’ll have gathered from the picture above. That’s Central Park and it could be the Trump Tower in the background.

I was chairing a round table discussion for Professional Outsourcing Magazine, which I edit. We run these in London frequently, an invited group of experts come to hear a speaker over dinner. It went well but there were a number of learnings about working in America for the first time – I thought they may help if you’re presenting over there for the first time:

  • It’s well understood that in spite of the language commonality and shared ancestry, modern America isn’t simply a bigger version of modern UK. So when the main speaker, based in New York, said “let’s make this interactive”, they really went for it. In the UK I find getting people to participate is a slow start, then they go for it – it wasn’t like that over there.
  • The drop-out rate for evening events appears to be the same in the US as it is for the UK – we’d planned accordingly and still had a full house.
  • If you’re planning an event over a meal, it’s important to find out what time the local participants will expect to eat. In the UK we’re fine with a 6.00pm-and-onwards arrival, drinks, sitting down to the speaker at 6.30, Q and A at 7.15 and the first course arriving towards 8. Our feedback from our American planner was that we couldn’t possibly hold off until 8 to start the food, people would be hungry.
  • For this reason as well as many others, having someone local working with you is essential. Read up all you want, only someone steeped in the culture will know about all of the smaller points.

Oddly it was the second-last point that took me by surprise, which is crazy when you consider that I know perfectly well that (for example) Spanish people will expect to eat at around 9pm. Why should someone on another continent keep similar hours to ours?

It went well – as you’ll gather we had someone local which I believe is essential. Our next stop (other than the regular London events) will be Chicago – and I’m not taking it for granted that they will have the same expectations as their New York counterparts.

Do you need a facilitator for a round table event? I can help, drop me a mail by clicking here and we’ll talk.