As a White House Correspondent under the Obama Administration I can guarantee the camera never blinks, especially for the President of the United States. After years before the camera I’ve had my fair share of on-air gaffs. No one is perfect, but we can eliminate most obstacles that trip us up.
As a media expert I naturally analyze interviews of those caught in the television camera’s cross-hairs. I alternately wince or applaud the “victim’s” performance. The point is, even the best may stumble during media interviews, speeches or presentations. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Most mistakes are avoidable.
You don’t have to be President to become an expert communicator. It all starts with credibility. First, establish and maintain eye contact–always look at the reporter/audience member asking the question. Be thoughtful in your response. Make an attempt to deliberately slow down your speaking speed and please, watch your attitude. Be clear–and concise when delivering a message. Don’t ramble right out of the sound bite/response. Learn to be comfortable with silence after giving an answer.
Here are tips we teach MBA students at The Wharton School:
- Never Speak Off-the-Cuff. Preparation is critical for success.
- Practice. Then practice some more, even out-loud.
- Be Conversational. No one likes a stiff, know-it-all. Loosen up.
- And if appropriate smile
- Speak Clearly, Concisely and with Authority. It’s your reputation; use it wisely.
- Offer Compelling Content. Use facts, figures and comparatives to reinforce what you say.
- It’s Okay to Get Personal. Tell a story to illustrate your message.
- Know the Facts.
- Dress Appropriately.
- Watch Your Body Language. Don’t send mixed messages by nodding in agreement when your disagreeing verbally.
- Be Calm, Confident and In-Charge. You’re the expert.
It’s important to remember whether President of the United States or a CEO, a media interview, board presentation or speech is an opportunity to showcase your character, integrity and brand.
Susanne LaFrankie, M.A.