Blog

31
May

Keeping Warmed Up for Interviews

We’re a fan of finding ways to keep warmed up for that sudden media interview. These tips will help:

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Be a little more forensic in your watching and listening. What answers from the guest generated follow up questions? What was it about the original answer that encouraged the interviewer to home in? If it was a helpful follow up it might be something you can build into shaping your own content

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Think of the good stuff you or your organisation is doing. Then think how you could explain that in a maximum of three sentences. You might at first feel you can’t squeeze all you want to say in.  Look critically then at the words – how much is on background or about the problem you’re successfully solving? Rework it to be less about where you started and more about where you ended up.

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Shortcutting through your material is part of the answer. For example there may be a number of problems you had to address in the project. Rather than list them all prepare to  mention the most critical issue as a brief example. Similarly if success leads to  a range of benefits, focus on thinking how you could talk about the one that is most important. This process of selection will really pay off when you are on air.

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If you’re preparing to shape your content in that 2 or 3 minute interview as we have suggested over the last couple of weeks,  you can initially think, and jot down your planning. But that  is only the first stage. if you replicate your written words on air it can often sound wrong. We  abbreviate in our writing something that we would explain in greater length to that imaginary friend. So talk this stuff – to a mirror or to someone you can share with. Alternatively use your mobile or a dictaphone.

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Talking as part of your planning will only be effective if it’s
different from the talking you might use in a meeting or in a technical presentation.Remember, be conversational. That does nor mean you’re unfocused – more that you choose to elaborate on the most important terms or issues using language a mainstream audience will understand.

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In the lead up to an interview you need to focus on constructive preparation, but sometimes your mind can be clouded by anxiety. One thing that can daunt the interviewee is to think about the numbers watching or listening. It’s helpful instead to visualise how you can connect with your interviewer. IF you plan how you can bring your subject to life to that individual you are more likely to focus on the quality of the conversation rather than the volume of numbers.

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Anticipating the kinds of challenges that might crop up in your upcoming interview are relatively easy to predict. What sort of agendas are running which might impact on your work? For example, If your project offers many benefits but is also expensive to deliver then, in the age of austerity, you might expect to be quizzed about value for money. Don’t worry about more challenging questioning; you know your subject – but always use specifics rather than generalities to show what a difference this project will make.

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Take a moment to look at your subject from a different perspective. When we’ve been working on a project  for a long time, or are completely immersed in an exciting new development, it’s easy to forget how little the mainstream audience will know or understand about what you’re doing. Guests who assume too much knowledge can leave people perplexed and they’re the viewers who will switch off. Check your  assumptions and be prepared to use terms like “it’s important to remember….” or ” Kyoto – such a landmark in committing nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”- then you’ll keep your audience with you.

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The pressure of limited time on air  is a worry for many  guests. We talked about short cutting to the important stuff in a previous tip – and that can divert some spokespeople into trying to sum up their subject. The problem? Summarising can be very abstract.  Similarly, helicopter views on a topic can be pretty generalised. The audience warm more to tangibles – something concrete they can relate to or visualise. Use specifics to illustrate – and be prepared to explore a telling point, rather than rush through a whole list of examples.

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Let’s move to the day of your interview. This is not the moment to don the media equivalent of the Sunday Best. Studios are often small and can be overheated so wear something that is comfortable as well as smart. You want clothes that are not going to add to the pressure. Remember detailed patterns or stripes can strobe on TV and avoid accessories that could distract from what you’re saying.

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It’s time. The interview is about to happen. Remember you have been invited because you know stuff. Enjoy bringing that knowledge or those insights to the conversation. The spokesperson who underperforms is the one who tells us what we already know. Instead share with us something that moves our understanding on.

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