CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – SEPTEMBER 3, 2020
An interview on CNBC or an appearance on Bloomberg TV can boost your company’s reputation or your personal brand—or turn into an embarrassing meltdown. How do you navigate the tricky questions, look good, sound smart, and stay on-message? Here’s Quartz’s guide to mastering the television interview.
Prepare your message. Make sure you deliver it
The interviewer may try to joke and put you at ease—but make no mistake, this isn’t a casual conversation. Think thoroughly about your message and prepare four to five key points that support it. “Each of the media points should be 4-5 sentences long, and must start off with a lead line that grabs the viewer’s attention,” says Joanne Stevens of Stevens Media consulting. She also recommends (pdf) offering to provide videos, photos or charts that can help convey your message better.
As the American Psychological Association notes, the interviewer may not cover the entire subject or give you equal time in a debate. The onus will be on you to raise the points that you want to talk about. Figure out which ones matter most and get them out first, in case you can’t get touch on them all.
Every second counts
Keep your message simple and succinct, and know when to stop. The average length of recorded soundbites is now under 10 seconds; on live interviews the ideal duration is under 30 seconds.
Figure out why anyone should care
The University of Delaware tells its academics to prepare their talking points by anticipating the questions they might be asked. “What is the impact on society? Why should the public care?” That’s true even if you’re not an academic. Frame your talking points in terms that matter to the rest of the world, not just to you.
Say things people will remember
For every point you want to make, have a lively example ready to illustrate it with. Concrete facts are more memorable than general arguments. Hamermesh also suggests using “similes or metaphors that might stick in viewers’ minds.”
Similarly, use short words about concrete things rather than long words about abstract concepts; people remember words that conjure up a visual image. So instead of saying, for example, “This will increase investment in real estate,” say “this will make people spend more money on houses.”
Nothing is “off-the-record”
This might seem obvious—but nothing is “off the record” on TV, especially live TV, where you won’t even be able to retract off-the-cuff remarks or ill-thought-out comments. If you’re doing a recorded interview, ask in advance if they’ll let you retake questions you fluff. But in general, Kansas University’s advice is to stick to what you know and not comment on areas outside your expertise.
Never say “no comment”
It’s the worst answer you can give to a tough question. The audience immediately feels you have something to hide. The US National Communications Association guidelines suggest (pdf) that if you do not want to answer a specific question, it is “best to rephrase your general message or refer to your key message on the topic.” If you don’t know the answer, says the NCA, be honest that you don’t, rather than look evasive.