Why you must hit the ground running in media interviews

Hit the ground running

A good lesson in life is: “Pace yourself”.

In other words, whatever you happen to be doing – DIY, the London Marathon, taking out a complaint against your neighbour over Leylandii trees – it’s generally best not to start off with all guns blazing or to launch yourself into it like a hare out of the trap.

That way, disaster beckons.

The shelves you’re putting up will end up looking crooked. You’ll be dead on your feet before you’ve left Greenwich. The local council will think they have a loony on their hands when your complaint drops on their desk.

As so often is the case, when you deal with journalists the normal rules of life often do not apply. In fact, the rules reverse themselves.

This is particularly the case when being interviewed on a television or radio news programme.

Unlike your DIY project, where you might have the whole weekend, or the London Marathon which spans 26 miles, a typical broadcast news interview lasts no longer than three or four minutes.

A lot of people make the mistake, in preparing for an interview, of thinking they can introduce their key messages at their own chosen points during an interview so that they are neatly spaced out and end on a grand crescendo where they hit the main point they want to make with a resounding fanfare.

The problem is, it’s not the interviewee who is asking the questions. It’s the interviewer and they might not ask you questions that naturally invite the points you want to make.

Also, why keep the audience waiting to hear the guts of what you want to say?

Furthermore, it’s the interviewer or the production team who will decide the duration of your interview. They might have told you it will be four minutes long, but if you’re a bit boring and not getting around to your main points, they might cut you off earlier, before you make them.

So, the key technique is to hit your key messages in your very first answer.

OK, you don’t want to come across as though you are manic, starting the interview in a breathless attempt to pack everything you want to say, in all its detail, into the first answer of the interview, leaving the viewers or listeners reeling with too much information.

In your first answer simply give a very brief summary of the two or three key points that are central to the case you wish to make – and it should be brief, not long and rambling.

This way, from the very start your audience is left in no doubt as to your position, whatever is the subject of the interview. You don’t leave them guessing or waiting in suspense.

You might be thinking that this technique does not allow you enough time to convey your points as fully as you would wish. Tough. That’s something you have to accept in a news interview.

However, there’s no harm in repeating yourself. Having stated your main points in the first answer, you can always revisit them later on, possibly amplifying them.

In that first answer, though, let’s have all the chapter headings upfront. You can then dip further into the book itself, depending on how much time you have.

photo credit: shaggy359 via photopin cc

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