The A-Z of Media Training

A is for Ambition

It can be easier to talk about your work when you’ve got outcomes,  fully formed analysis and results. It’s true that starting points – though vital to you – can leave the audience underwhelmed. Similarily aspirations may be a bit woolly. But an ambition -matched with the follow through of what your work could achieve – can really hit home.  Exploration can be exciting. And it’s not about over-promising, instead it’s opening up a sense of the potential. 

B is for Briskness

We’re talking a trot here; a canter in a conversation is just too fast …and a gallop? Nothing will sink in. But a sense of purpose, the drive to shortcut to the important stuff and an urgency in tone can all make the audience sit up and take notice. Remember variety is engaging, so walk through unfamiliar concepts and be careful not to speed over what’s  familiar to you but is likely to be new to the viewer or listener.

C is for Collateral Damage

A term to drop in the file marked “sanitising language” and then leave it there. People use bland language to cover up the messy, the nasty and the worrying. The audience immediately are sceptical of any spokesperson who peppers their sentences with such phrases and the interviewer feels entitled to dig deeper and challenge the guest on what they really mean. “Efficiency savings” should be filed too.

D is for Deadpan
An over-mobile face can lead you into trouble. What you think is simply an animated expression can morph into revealing too much of what you’re thinking or feeling.The grimace that signals “ that went badly” the smile at something contentious: “ oh here we go – I was nervous that might pop up”  are just two unnecessary and unhelpful give aways. Instead focus on energy and animation coming through your voice. Aim for stillness in how you look.
E is for Edge

A word that’s close to our hearts of course, and an ingredient  that every good on air conversation contains. It’s the things that sharpen a guest’s contribution, that cuts through all the stuff  people might  be doing to reach the audience. It can be in the way you talk – that concern you bring to a troubling subject for example. In terms of content – that specific and telling example or a stonking stat are both ways to sharpen the conversational flow.

F is for Fine tuning

Overlong preparation can be counter productive but some advance thinking and talking is essential. By saying that illustration aloud you’ll be able to gauge if you need to cut back on the background and get to the really revealing details quicker. It’s not about scripting but it is about testing important elements out conversationally. Share your ideas with a non – specialist in your field; a good indicator of how your words will land with a mainstream audience.

G is for Gratitude 

Getting an interview request is a form of affirmation- journalists are interested in what you are doing or saying. But don’t let a warm glow cloud your judgement. As producers while we’re trying to get you signed up to the process we can be sweetness and light, but we could be jotting down at the same time the sort of challenging areas the presenter might lob at you when the camera is rolling. Accept that interviews can be robust but draw strength from effective preparation.

H is for Heritage 

A word that has associations of Tudor piles and gothic churches for many – but not for some scientists. It can mean to researchers the background and history of investigations in a particular field. And there lies the problem. A mass media audience does not have time in the flow of an interview to work out what you mean. So healthcheck your terms – is there ambiguity? If so, explain it – or find another way of describing what matters.

I is for Indent

There is no “right” length to an interview answer but it might be  helpful to visualise your wording as if it was laid out on a page. A paragraph should embody a single thought so a few sentences is a pretty good baseline for an answer that allows you to get in to a bit of substance but is also digestible for the presenter and audience. Expand on some responses; be sharper with others. Variety is good. A para that last a whole page is never good –  so edit yourself or you will be interrupted.

J is for Jokes
Some of our delegates are worried they won’t be sparky enough and look to comedy as a way of brightening up their delivery. it is a dangerous path. Some jokes will simply fall flat. At other times it might make you appear flippant on a subject which some people might be taking very seriously. Then there’s the hazard of pre – records where subsequent editing might remove the necessary context to the one liner. Leave the funnies to stand up pros – you will be sparky enough if you’ve worked on compelling content.
K is for Knighthood 
So it’s Professor Dame ( insert surname) right? A tad complicated but producers are bright enough to cope with protocol and you should always be introduced in the way you wish. Audiences like to hear from people who’ve earned their spurs and achieved their doctorate or have gained seniority as a Director of a project, become a CEO or have been appointed Head Of Operations. It’s especially important in a challenging situation – it shows the organisation is taking the issue seriously and is fielding a senior spokesperson.
L is for Lighting
The glare of studio spots can be unforgiving,  especially in HD when blemishes and wrinkles look so much clearer. They can also generate heat fostering that unnecessary blush. So always take the advice of the professionals and accept make up if offered. When you are undertaking the interview in what we call “quality” then you’ll not really have any say on the lighting. Skype is a different matter. It’s your responsibility to look good. So avoid film noir shadows  by getting plenty of natural light in to the room. 
M is for Meeting
It’s one of those words which is wholly and unredeemably dull. I would add to the list policy and review. They all smack of stodgy process and procedure and also, to be frank with you, they don’t really tell the audience  much either. If the core of what you want to say is centred around any of this tiresome trio then alarm bells should ring. Think more about the outcomes of the meeting or the purpose of the review. And talk about ministers or councils rather than policy makers. 

We’ll update this each week until we get to Z…