Despite the differences among interview trainers, all seem to stress certain basic points to their clients. Those points include:
• Be prepared so that you’re totally in command of your topic.
“You must have a thorough command of your key message points,” Joel Roberts stresses. “Although you’re there to impart certain central ideas, it should not be at the expense of clumsily going wherever you’re going no matter what they say. It’s really a dance, but the reward for people who can learn can be enormous.” So trainers teach clients to master their subjects, to know exactly what they want to say and precisely how they want to say it.
• Be spontaneous, which can be difficult.
Audiences can sense canned responses, and they hate them. Ironically, making your answers sound unplanned takes training, work, and lots of practice. If you know your information cold and have thoroughly rehearsed, your responses will appear to be more natural and spontaneous. Both audiences and the media will find you more likable and believable.
• Be human.
“Your power as a communicator is a balance between your humanity and expertise,” Roberts explains. “Authors are often so focused on their subjects that they come off as dry, detached, and academic, which turns everyone off! We bring them into their humanity, into their hearts. We get them to loosen up, tell personal stories, express their feelings, paint vivid pictures, smile and laugh.” Since you’re an expert, also be human—someone the audience will identify with and like.
Roberts concentrated on humanity when he coached doctors who were charged with heralding the breakthrough of a new cancer-fighting drug. Instead of just describing the technical aspects of the drug in lay terms, he encouraged the doctors to relate what it feels like “to give hope to patients in the same sentence that I give the diagnosis.”
• Eliminate jargon.
Authorities who have great expertise often make poor guests because their responses are laced with terminology that the general public doesn’t understand. Their language makes their answers unnecessarily complex and loses their audiences. Media trainers show their clients how to translate that terminology into terms that audiences comprehend.
• Be alert for opportunities to share your message.
Don’t force your message, but jump on openings when they arise. Author and trainer Barbara De Angelis advises, “Learn the art of the graceful segue” and smoothly transition into your main points. If you’re patient, your opportunity will probably come because most media people usually want to make you look good.
• Respect the direction and needs of each individual show you’re on.
All shows have different cultures. Try to work within the context of the shows you’re on, even when they’re not your style.
• Match the energy of the show.
If it’s fast and up-tempo, dance to that beat. Don’t try to waltz to the cha-cha. Remember, you’re the guest on the show and the subject of the interview. So be flexible and accommodating.