When Knowing Your Stuff is Not Enough

video_chatting_pc_400_clr_5162New technology has given experts of all kinds many more media opportunities to be seen and heard. They can appear in their own videos, on Skype interviews, podcasts, Internet radio, Web TV as well as do traditional broadcast interviews. 

But professionals have to bring more to the table than simply their wealth of knowledge and experience. To be ready to shine online as media experts, they need polished performance skills. 

For more than a decade, I produced medical news features for television stations and interviewed hundreds of physicians, researchers and scientists. Now and again, I would encounter an expert whose on-camera personality was flat and/or a health professional who could not or would not speak in sound bites. 

Sometimes they were great off-camera, but the minute we began the interview, became stiff and stilted.

This was a missed opportunity on two fronts.  First, because no matter how brilliant the expert is or how stellar their achievements are, they were not putting their best foot forward to communicate effectively.  Second, I would use their interview very sparingly in the story which reduced the publicity value to the expert, their hospital, research center or medical practice, because no amount of fancy writing and video editing could improve their dull presentation.

Print interviews are more forgiving. Yes, you may need to answer more questions in more detail for print than broadcast, but your performance does not matter. People reading a print story don’t care that the expert never made eye contact, mumbled, rambled off topic frequently or spoke in a monotone. None of that is apparent on the printed page. 

Video and audio are different mediums. All that and more will be on display. My PR friends say they generally note the file when one of their experts is “for print only” and won’t pitch them for broadcast interviews. They will pitch their experts who have mastered the art of speaking in sound bites and/or developed on-camera skills through media training.

I am not saying that style should trump substance. Not at all. What I am saying is, you will be a more magnetic media expert and effective communicator when you add a lively presentation style to your substance.

Want to learn to speak in sound bites on your own?

Here’s a basic plan:

  • Decide on 3 main messages you want to convey in an upcoming interview
  • Figure out 3 different ways you can lead into each of these messages. (That’s 9 verbal set-ups, so you won’t sound like you are repeating yourself during an interview).
  • Practice delivering your sound bites every day for about a week before a scheduled interview. 

How can you rehearse yourself?  Get out a timer or use a smart phone , tablet or computer timer app.  Record yourself answering questions or ask a friend to help by asking you questions, as if you were being interviewed.  Practice delivering your message smoothly in answers of 3 different lengths :

  • One minute
  • 30 seconds
  • 10 seconds

Don’t memorize specific answers.  You want to sound conversational and spontaneous. Practice until you are comfortable saying what you want the audience to “get”, directly and easily in short, medium or long sound bites.

About 10 minutes a day should do it.

Thoughts? Leave a comment about ways you “prepare” for interviews.

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Janet Vasil

On-Camera, Speaker & Media Trainer/Coach at Vasil Media Group | Your Media Moment & Beyond
Virtual Communication Specialist Janet Vasil is a former award-winning, EMMY®-nominated TV Journalist who teaches business professionals to communicate with impact on-camera, in media interviews, and as public speakers. Contact at http://bit.ly/Talk2Janet

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