I spent Wednesday morning training. Not in the fitness center I regret to say – I only managed that twice last week – but rather in media training. Or, to be more precise, training to be interviewed on television should the need arise.
I am an enormous enthusiast for training. Granted it’s not a regular occurrence for me to be interviewed by any media let alone television, but this training was as much about answering questions in stressful situations and communicating key messages clearly and succinctly. Moreover I always find that I come away from any training with at least one or two new insights and new skills. And last Wednesday was no exception.
My first learning was preparation. Not necessarily preparing detailed answers to every question I may be asked (although more information is always good) but rather the importance of preparing and knowing the story I wanted to tell before I started an interview. And then sticking to that story as the main narrative, irrespective of what questions came my way.
The second learning was about making and taking time. Any interviewer – and in some cases anyone asking us questions – will look to catch us off guard…to put us under some pressure…to see or hear what slips out.
In my (filmed) practice, I did OK until my interviewer coach started to ask a series of rapid-fire questions, interrupting me each time I started to answer. I thought I coped well at the time…until I saw myself on film. It was immediately obvious how frustrated I looked…and sounded. Not good. Our coach had some great tips. I took copious notes. I even took her excellent advice and tried filming myself later that day (on my camera phone) to see how I looked and sounded second time around.
The last learning was as unexpected as it was helpful. It was all to do with body language. When I was being filmed, I felt relaxed and reasonably confident – I had done training with cameras a couple of times before. ‘You look like you don’t want to be here’, was the observation from the coach on seeing my screen playback. Somehow what I felt – relaxed – translated on screen as disinterest. Conversely, my training colleague – who was wearing a jacket and tie to welcome a guest later that day – admitted to feeling nervous. But he looked and sounded professional and engaged on screen.
I realised there was an expectation in my mind when I watched our practical exercise on screen. I saw an individual talking to camera being interviewed. We see it every day on television. I expected to see a smartly dressed individual who looked engaged. Irrespective of how good (or not) my answers were, the visual impact was immense. My colleagues looked the part for a TV interview. I didn’t.
This had never occurred to me before. My previous media training was voice recorded. Previous filmed training was for internal scenarios.
I was surprised. But then again I like to be surprised in training sessions. ‘Surprising’ suggests an opportunity to learn and improve. It suggests something I hadn’t come across before. The attraction of this ‘body-language’ learning was that it could be as beneficially applicable to any situation where I am on show. And the beauty was how easy it is – in theory – to rectify and apply.
In my face to face meetings on Thursday and Friday I put into practice the ‘alert and engaged’ seating position I was shown in my training. I also brought a jacket and tie into work the next day and hung it – ready for any eventuality – in my office.