Media training tips from someone who’s been there at least once.

August 9, 2012

Earlier this week, I got a call from an executive news producer at CTV. He was looking to create a segment dealing with the impact that hosting the Olympic Games may have on the city of London. Turns out a friend of mine, Eric Boulden, president at Jump Branding & Design suggested to that the EP give me a call.

I took the call and answered some of the questions the EP had for me. I didn’t know what the end goal was but I must have done a good enough job, because he proceeded to ask me if I would be prepared to go on air at 6 o’clock news, to be interviewed on the subject. It was nearly 4:00 already. Working from home, I hadn’t even showered that morning and had allowed myself to go a number of days without bothering to shave. My life flashed in front of my eyes, but somehow, I overcame the terror and heard myself say: “Sure. I’ll do it”.

The next two hours were a bit of a blur. A mix of grooming and playing “dress up” (matching shirt, tie and suit) while “cramming” on everything London, Olympics, History and Place Branding, like I had a big test coming. 

Turns out these two hours were fruitful. I had lots of really smart points to make and managed to get them all in a pretty good structure and order. I was pretty pleased with myself and confident in going though with this. It was only going to be a 3-4 minute segment anyway.

There is just one thing I didn’t consider however. I was not going to be in control of those few minutes, or, for that matter, of the questions the host and anchor person, Brad Giffen, was going to be asking. So, my carefully crafted points and arguments, those I thought would make me sound so smart, were in fact, answers to questions that may never even be asked, and indeed I never really got to make my points. It was not a waste of time by any means. It was essential preparation, and despite all this, I think everything went pretty well.

I don’t have a good sense of how I came across, or if the points and arguments I got to make were exactly on target with the topic CTV wanted to cover. But I drew some key lessons from the experience that I would like to impart should you find yourself in the same situation:

  1. Remember that the host controls the agenda and the pace of the interview.
    It is his or her job to move things along, which means, he/she will interject with questions or comments of their own often while you are in the middle of making your point, which may send you off-track.
  2. Get your key points across early.
    If there is something you need to get across, don’t wait until the right question or set up. It may never come. Instead, find a way to work it into your answer even if it means getting slightly off topic.
  3. Be flexible and fluid.
    Don’t over prepare with closely scripted narrative points. You will trip yourself up if you try to remember just the right turn of phrase.
  4. Simple answers are better.
    Don’t have multiple part responses where your answer is dependant on a particular set up. All that will happen is you will only have a chance to set it up but never to deliver the “red meat”.
  5. Be prepared.
    Hard to do on barely 2-hours notice. Do as much research as time allows, but go in confident that you know your stuff and rely on your general knowledge of your industry or topic.

I hope this will help you, should you find yourself in this life or death situation.








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