The best way to learn how to handle media interviews is with a professional coach in a simulated TV studio. This is, unfortunately, much too expensive for many entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and others who need to make a good impression in person or on TV. One media trainer has pointed out that unless you know what you're doing, you may develop bad habits which are hard to break.

You have other options:

1. Join a chapter of Toastmasters, who offer public speaking opportunities which will help you become more confident and lessen the fear of speaking in public. Many also offer microphone techniques and instruction about how to prepare your notes.

2. Take an acting class. You'll learn "stage presence," how to project your voice, and get some feedback about how you sound and move.

3. Buy Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, which contains comprehensive information about preparing for radio, TV and print interviews, speaking to groups or preparing for a panel discussion, how to dress for TV and public appearances, and how to do your own make-up. 

4. Obtain mentoring from a professional speaker and broadcaster. You'll be amazed how much you can learn via e-mail, without paying for one-on-one coaching in person.
Contact Bobbi to inquire about this, stating exactly what you think you need and whether you're preparing for a specific event or just want to be ready for future opportunities to promote yourself. 


The "Sorensen formula" for speechwriting: brevity, clarity, charity and levity. (Ted Sorensen was a speechwriter for John F. Kennedy, and the ghostwriter for Kennedy's autobiographical account of his experiences in the Navy).

Concert pianist Valery Lloyd-Watts has some tips for performers that are equally applicable to speakers:
1. Always plan for three full rehearsals.  2. Practice in two-measure segments. Your mind will remember a great deal of information if you feed it in small chunks.  3. Be fully present, both when practising and performing. Don't allow yourself to distracted by thinking about anything else.

Seven Common Propaganda Devices, from Roy Peter Clark at the Poynter Institute

1. Name Calling. Bad names are the most prolific forms of propaganda, especially when you are trying to diminish an opponent as "liberal" or "most liberal" or "ultra-conservative" or "extremist" or "hypocritical." McCain is "out of touch" because he owns seven homes. Obama is merely a "celebrity" with a "rock star complex," but no real experience.

2. Glittering Generalities. This device requires "virtue words" that describe ideals that no one could argue against, a strategy often referred to as "motherhood and apple pie." Here is Michelle Obama:  "It was the greatest gift a child can receive: never doubting for a single minute that you're loved, and cherished, and have a place in this world. And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go to college. So I know firsthand from their lives –- and mine –- that the American dream endures."

3. The Transfer. Used both for and against causes, this strategy transfers the authority or status of one person or institution onto another. When Obama invokes the names of Abraham Lincoln, or FDR, or JFK, or MLK, he tries to transfer some of their charisma onto him. When Republicans made fun of the Corinthian columns that served as a backdrop for Obama's speech as "too Roman," they tied Obama to imperial ambition.

4. The Testimonial. In politics these are often called "endorsements." These come not just from politicians, but from celebrities –- athletes and entertainers –- who shed their blessings on a candidate or a cause. Oprah Winfrey has testified on behalf of Barack Obama; Joe Lieberman on behalf of John McCain.

5. Plain Folks. Crucial in political propaganda, the supporter of a candidate or a cause must persuade the audience that the chosen one, no matter how wealthy, is a man of the people, or a loving mother, or the kind of person you'd want to share a beer with. Look for homey words like "town," "village," "farm," "diner," "bar," "train," "folks," "coal mine," "kitchen table."

6. Card Stacking. Think of this as a full-court press of persuasion, the kind that the Bush administration undertook in support of the war in Iraq. List the accumulated justifications for war:  weapons of mass destruction, destroying a dictator, regime change, establishing democracy, fighting terrorism, securing the flow of Middle Eastern oil. Those for the war would support such card stacking; those against would argue those justifications fell like a house of cards.

7. The Band Wagon. This is the "everyone is doing it" technique. Look for a candidate staging a speech in a stadium. Look for words like "journey" and "battle" and "movement" and "march" and "mandate for change." Tyrants are especially good at this: Hitler used cinema to capture and romanticize huge rallies in support of the Third Reich.

Vocal coach Elaine Overholt (who has taught many Hollywood stars), suggests that you "ground" yourself before you start to speak or sing. This means standing with equal weight on both feet, and pushing your legs into the floor as you square your shoulders. If you then want to angle your body with one foot in front of the other (a graceful stance for a woman), keep your "grounding" and don't let yourself sway back and forth.

Some warm-up exercises:


Be prepared. Know how to pronounce the name of the person who will interview, how long interviews usually last, and the background color of the set.

Watch and tape interviews with other guests so you will know whether the setting is always the same. It's useful to know if you're going to be sitting on a chair behind a table, perched on a stool, or sitting with your legs in full view. There's nothing more distracting that a woman in a short skirt sitting on a high stool, trying to keep from revealing too much thigh and having difficulty balancing on high heels as she gets on and off the stool.

Try watching the show with the sound off. This will allow you to pay closer attention to the body language of both host and guests, camera angles, etc., without being distracted by the interview.

Wear a color that doesn't clash with the set. Consider black if you're very heavy and want to disguise it, but a better choice, if possible, is dark navy, which is just a bit less harsh. Regardless, have a soft and flattering color close to your face.

Don't apologize or devalue what you're there to sell. Too many writers begin an interview by saying, "I'm not really a writer," or "I didn't expect this book to sell that well."

Listen to the interviewer's question. If your answer will be too complex or uncomfortable for you to answer, pull one of the statements you've prepared in advance. But otherwise, answer the question, don't change the subject.

Keep your replies the right length. It's awkward when someone answers almost every question with a simple "Yes" or "No," or just a short phrase. But don't ramble on for paragraphs, either. Try to keep answers in the middle range.

Leave your water bottle at home! Opera singers, who know a great deal about caring for the voice, say that sipping water while you're singing or speaking is bad for your vocal cords.  Instead, take a couple of swallows of tepid water (never ice water!) before you go on.

An entire chapter of Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity is devoted to how to handle media interviews of all types. Learn how to handle your own make-up, which colors are most flattering for various skin and hair colors, how to deal with confrontational interviews or those held over the phone, and what to do if the media comes to you.

(when you're the interviewer)

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