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High Profile Magazine

10 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Sound Stupid During Media Interviews

Actress Tallulah Bankead said working on television was “like being shout out of a cannon. They cram you all up with rehearsals, then someone lights a fuse and BANG, there you are in someone’s living room.” When your time to shoot out of the cannon comes, take the time to prepare your key messages so you get the results you want, i.e., more clients and more sales.

Often when untrained people get media opportunities, they don’t think ahead about what they are going to say to inspire their audiences to engage with them. Instead, they focus on the glory that they think they’ll receive. Sadly, the glory doesn’t come without that intense, intentional preparation.

No matter the platform, summit or event interviewers are often focused on presenting an entertaining programme, not on promoting you, your programmes, or your products.

Honing your conversational skills to include key ideas that also subtly promote your offer will keep interest focused on you and the points you want to convey – and save your reputation. Here's how.

1. When asked a question that doesn’t relate to your topic...

Sharing information that you know is interesting with the audience makes the interview move swiftly while making the interviewer appear as if they’re doing an excellent job. For example, say something like “What most people want to know is...” or “What people tend to ask me about is...”.

2. When asked a question for which you don’t have a clear answer...

Stay within your area of expertise and reinforce the impression that you are knowledgeable about your field. You might say, “I don’t know about that, but what I do know is... which I discuss in...”.

One participant in my sound bite course who is being considered for a large, nationwide government project, just told me this saved her skin. She said, “I was on a Google Hangouts interview and I was nervous and a little choppy at the beginning. One of the questions I didn’t have the answer to, but I remembered to quickly go on to the phrase you taught us, ‘What I can tell you is...’ so that there was no break in the flow.

3. When asked a question that is too general...

Ask yourself a specific question and then answer it. You might say, “I sometimes wonder how I could have written/said...” and then launch into a story, anecdote, or epiphany.

4. When asked a question that could provoke controversy...

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Words are loaded pistols.” You can use their explosive power in your favour by learning how to soften your introduction before delivering controversial ideas.

Former President Clinton uses this technique when talking about sensitive issues such as abortion. It's a way of acknowledging a difficult issue while respecting your critics’ ideas.

Also, by mentioning an opposing view, you automatically diffuse it. Examples, “People who disagree with me might say...” or “What I’m about to say may make a number of people angry...but I believe...for these reasons...”. As a Gaelic proverb states, “If you want an audience, start a fight.”

5. When asked a question you don’t want to delve into deeply...

State facts, statistics, or quote an expert or journal which has information relevant to your point. Surrounding yourself with other experts whose statistics or studies agree with your perspective creates a fortress of facts that support your views.

For my client, Dr. Lionel Bissoon, considered the foremost expert in Mesotherapy in America, this fact proved useful as a sound bite in his media interviews.

What made this statistic more powerful is that we connected it with the solution, Mesotherapy (which Dr. Bissoon is credited for bringing from France to the U.S.): 150 million (90%) U.S. women have cellulite, and there is only one known cure: Mesotherapy. It is the only known medical treatment for cellulite with definitive lasting effects.

Remember, you are in charge of how you are presented to the public. Even when caught off guard, take a deep breath, reflect, and then say something memorable.

6. When asked an embarrassing or inappropriate question...

Reframe the question with, “What I felt was...”, and then focus attention on a broader social issue or expand it to encompass what many people may feel.

One of my clients who had been raped by a prominent sports attorney and who wanted to bring attention to the fact that many other women in business have also been raped in similar circumstances, was asked by an interviewer: “Did you feel dirty, unlovable, ashamed?”

Instead of answering, “Yes”, she responded, “Many women, whether they’ve been raped or not, have been made to feel that way about their bodies or sexuality at some point in their lives. That's why I've chosen to speak out on this sensitive issue now. To give a voice to all of us, even those who have no voice.”

7. When asked a question that is too personal...

Use humour to lighten the mood, or change the nature of the question gracefully by saying something like, “What I’d really like to say is...”, or “I’d like to keep that part of my life private, but would like to share this...” and then offer up something else intimate.

8. When an interview is lagging...

Ask to read a passage from your book or describe your service with a tightly condensed and powerful phrase. You will have already chosen a paragraph or two that is particularly exemplary in advance, so don’t feel shy about offering. Most interviewers are so busy they may not have been able to even peruse your book or your information. You are the person most familiar with your book, personality, or business, so use that!

When she was being interviewed for her book, Some Of Me, Isabella Rosellini delighted her audience by picking an imaginative and lively section which she read with feeling.

9. When you’re pressed on a sensitive point...

When Terry Gross pressed Chuck D, leader of the rap group Public Enemy, about one of the members of his group making anti-Semitic remarks, he answered vaguely several times and then said bluntly, “Let’s move on”, which made him appear rude.

Instead, he might have said, “I’ve really said all I can about this. Can we go on to the next question?” or, “I’ve really answered this to the best of my knowledge with the information I have available.”

Another way to handle persistent questions on a sensitive topic is to give a series of very short responses or answer with information that is so charming the interviewer won’t notice you’ve deviated from their request. The interviewer will then feel as if their questions have been answered satisfactorily without being embarrassed by not being able to elicit a direct response from you.

10. When you haven’t been asked something you want to cover...
Offer to share something the interviewer hasn’t thought of. Often, they will greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness. Use a teaser tidbit. “I could tell you about... if you’d like!”

It may surprise you, but people rarely remember what an interviewer asks. What they remember are your answers. And when they no longer remember your answers, they remember the feeling your interview gave them.

It's up to you to leave them with the feeling you want them to have, no matter what the topic, tone, or personality of the interview. Oscar Wilde said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”

Let your last words be this small act. You never know who you will reach with your kindness.

Now, about you and your offering... Would you like to give media interviews without selling your soul? Here are some free sound bite formulas that work every time. You'll also get strategies to turn every media appearance into an opportunity to gracefully drive business and sales while being a great guest.

Prefer to work with me 1:1? Book a free discovery call