Talk to Me - A New Way to Look at Media Training
I did an online media training session with a young executive last week who told me she didn't really plan on doing media interviews. Excuse me? You want media training, but don't plan to speak to the media?
She told me that she wanted to improve her communication skills and felt a good way to do it was through media training. I'm glad she got in touch with me, because I really enjoyed working with her and she felt the training accomplished what she wanted.
The session got me thinking about how media training is really communications training and why more clients should look at it that way.
It's Really Communication Training
About an hour after a recent media training session of mine started, a young woman remarked “I may never do a media interview for our company because of people here who are much more senior than me, but I can use these tips every day to speak to our clients.”
My first impression was negative. I was doing a media training session. Aren’t people supposed to take my pearls of wisdom and use them when they do a media interview?
I thought about her comment later in the day and I eventually got a different impression. It was a compliment.
What she was saying was that she could take the training, aimed at getting people prepared to do interviews with reporters, and use it for a different purpose, but still get a benefit out of the training. I have to admit, I felt a little guilty about my negative first impression.
She was correct in her assessment that the same techniques that I was teaching could be used for other forms of communication. When people speak to clients they need to ensure they’re using the correct messaging, the same as they need to do in a media interview. As an example, some people working in government talk to members of the public on a daily basis. What they say and how they say it is as important to them as any media interview.
Know What You're Going to Say
Let’s get into some of the similarities between doing good media interviews and communicating effectively.
One of the first tips I give during media training is that people can be much stronger in media interviews if they know what they’re going to say before they say it. I find people who don’t know what they’re going to say next will fill in the gaps with “ahhhs” and “ummms” because they don’t know where they’re going as they’re speaking. They use fillers to try to cover the gaps in their sentences.
The same rule applies to communication in the workplace. If you know what you’re going to say before you say it, you’ll say it better. If that means pausing slightly before you start speaking to gather your words then do it. There are no gold stars for saying something quickly, but there can be gold stars for saying things well.
Words Have Meaning
During my media training sessions, I teach people how to use sound bites during media interviews. They are critical to the success of most media interviews.
The same applies when somebody is speaking to a client. Think about a waiter in a fashionable restaurant. They’re trained to use the correct words when they approach a customer who may, or may not be finished their meal. They ask something along the lines of “Are you still enjoying your meal”? The diner’s reply triggers the waiters next move – either smiling and walking away, or taking the plate of the customer and asking about coffee and dessert. Take a similar situation in much more of a low end restaurant. The waiter may approach the same patron with the question “Are you done with that”? The question is really the same as “Are you still enjoying your meal”, but the impression left is totally different.
Words have meaning, so raise your words and not your voice.
A Bridge Works Anywhere
During media training sessions I always talk about the importance of using bridges. Bridges normally are a phrase that allows you to talk about what you want to talk about and not necessarily what the reporter may want you to comment on.
Some of my favourite bridges are “What’s important to remember is”, “What we’re focusing on is”, or “That may be your opinion.” Bridges allow you to acknowledge the question, but then take the conversation in the direction you want to go.
Bridges also work great in conversations in the workplace. If you’re a manager and need to speak with somebody about their performance, they may try to defend themselves by saying that somebody else is doing the same thing. That’s when you can use the bridge “What we’re focusing on here is you and your performance, not somebody else.” Then you can bring the discussion back to what you want to focus on.
Body Language Speaks Volumes
Body language is something else that’s critically important, both in front of the camera in a media interview and also when you’re speaking to people at work.
Posture is important, so stand tall and when you’re in a meeting sit tall too. It gives you more presence when you speak. Take a moment to adjust the height of your chair, so it’s reasonable. If you’re one of the tallest people at the meeting then the height of your chair should result in you being one of the tallest at the table. It may sound like a picky point, but it’s difficult to take somebody seriously if their chair is several inches lower than everyone else.
Use your hands as you speak to help convey your message and whatever you do, don’t clasp your hands in front of you below your waist. I call it the “soccer penalty kick position”. I see it happen far too often. Any time you open up the middle part of your body instead of closing it, you’ll look more confident.
Finally, eye contact is important when you speak to anyone. Force yourself to look at people as you speak to them and also as they talk to you. It shows respect for the person you’re talking to and confidence as well.
One of the by-products of media training is communication training. People at my sessions learn how to speak to the news media, but they also learn some great general communication techniques they can use on a daily basis.
The more I think about it, that young woman who said media training will help her talk to the public was way ahead of her time.